Julian Assange arrest: What charge is Assange facing in the U.S.?

The U.S. Justice Department has announced a single-count indictment charging WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange with participating in the hacking of classified material from the State Department and the Department of Defense.

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Assange was taken into custody Thursday in London by British authorities on an extradition warrant on behalf of the United States.

Assange, 47, who has lived in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for the past seven years, was dragged from the building by authorities as he yelled toward a crowd gathered outside of the building.

"We can confirm that Julian Assange was arrested in relation to a provisional extradition request from the United States of America," the UK Home Office said in a statement. "He is accused in the United States of America of computer-related offences."

According to the Justice Department, Assange was taken into custody to face charges of publishing 250,000 classified U.S. government documents concerning the U.S.-Iraq War that were handed over to him by Chelsea Manning.

Manning, at the time, was a U.S. Army intelligence analyst.

Authorities said Assange "agreed to assist Manning in cracking a password stored on United State Department of Defense computers connected to the Secret Internet Protocol Network, a United States government network used for classified documents and communications."

The documents from that leak were published by WikiLeaks in 2010. Manning served seven years of a 35-year term for stealing the documents before having the sentenced commuted by President Barack Obama. Manning is currently in prison again for refusing to testify about WikiLeaks before a grand jury.

Assange and WikiLeaks made news during the 2016 presidential campaign when emails that had been hacked from John Podesta, Hillary Clinton's national campaign chairman were published on WikiLeaks in October of 2016, weeks prior to the election.

Twelve Russian intelligence officers were indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller with carrying out the Podesta hack and giving those files to WikiLeaks.

Assange was not indicted along with those twelve Russians.

What did the indictment charge?

The indictment alleges that in March 2010:

  • Assange engaged in a conspiracy with Manning to assist Manning in cracking a password stored on U.S. Department of Defense computers connected to the Secret Internet Protocol Network (SIPRNet), a U.S. government network used for classified documents and communications.
  • Manning, who had access to the computers in connection with her duties as an intelligence analyst, was using the computers to download classified records to transmit to WikiLeaks.
  • Cracking the password would have allowed Manning to log on to the computers under a username that did not belong to her. Such a deceptive measure would have made it more difficult for investigators to determine the source of the illegal disclosures.
  • During the conspiracy, Manning and Assange engaged in real-time discussions regarding Manning's transmission of classified records to Assange.
  • The discussions also reflect Assange actively encouraging Manning to provide more information. During an exchange, Manning told Assange that "after this upload, that's all I really have got left." To which Assange replied, "curious eyes never run dry in my experience."
  • Assange is charged with conspiracy to commit computer intrusion and is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. He faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison if convicted.

What charges have been filed already concerning WikiLeaks practices?

So far, the US government has charged Manning and former CIA employee Joshua Schulte with leaking classified information to WikiLeaks.

Schulte was charged in June of 2018 in a 13-count indictment "in connection with his alleged theft of classified national defense information from the Central Intelligence Agency ("CIA") and the transmission of that material to an organization that purports to publicly disseminate classified, sensitive, and confidential information ("Organization-1")."

Organization-1 is WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks published the material from Schulte on May 7, 2017.

Where does WikiLeaks appear in Roger Stone’s indictment?

In the Justice Department’s indictment of Roger Stone, Wikileaks is mentioned more than 100 times.

From the indictment: "On multiple occasions, Stone told senior Trump Campaign officials about materials possessed by Organization 1 and the timing of future releases.”

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