U.S. Charges Julian Assange with Helping Chelsea Manning Hack Classified Information After His Asylum Ends
Apr. 11–Julian Assange’s seven years of asylum ended dramatically Thursday with the scraggly-bearded WikiLeaks founder being taken from the Ecuadoran embassy in London in handcuffs and hustled into a police van.
Assange, 47, was charged Thursday with conspiracy to commit computer intrusion for helping former U.S. Army soldier and whistleblower Chelsea Manning hack into the computers of the defense department in 2010, federal authorities said.
The indictment was filed in March 2018 and was unsealed just hours after Assange was arrested on an extradition warrant at the embassy in London.
The single-count charge — conspiracy to commit computer intrusion for agreeing to break a password to a classified U.S. government computer — carries a sentence of up to five years in prison and relates to Assange’s role in “one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.
Manning, formerly known as Bradley Manning, was an intelligence analyst for the Army and had a “top secret” security clearance. She was convicted for violating the Espionage Act and served seven years in prison after she leaked thousands of classified documents revealing U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. WikiLeaks published the majority of those documents on its website in 2010 and 2011.
The latest indictment accuses Assange of encouraging and assisting Manning, 31, to crack a password stored on U.S. Department of Defense computers. The pair used Jabber, an online chat service, to communicate and share classified documents, authorities said.
In one of the exchanges shared Thursday by the government, Manning reportedly told Assange in March 2010 that “after this upload, that’s all I really have got left.” Assange replied, “curious eyes never run dry in my experience,” according to the indictment.
Assange, an Australian national, took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in 2012 as he faced a rape charge in Sweden, an allegation he has denied.
He was a key subject in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. WikiLeaks obtained and published thousands of emails stolen from Hillary Clinton and other Democratic figures just weeks before the presidential election.
Barry Pollack, an attorney for Assange in the U.S., said in a statement that Ecuador’s action Thursday was “bitterly disappointing” and urged the U.K. to give Assange “proper health care.”
“Once his health care needs have been addressed, the U.K. courts will need to resolve what appears to be an unprecedented effort by the United States seeking to extradite a foreign journalist to face criminal charges for publishing truthful information,” Pollack wrote.
The American Civil Liberties Union also expressed concerns with the arrest.
“Any prosecution by the United States of Mr. Assange for WikiLeaks’ publishing operations would be unprecedented and unconstitutional, and would open the door to criminal investigations of other news organizations,” said Ben Wizner, one of the organization’s directors.
“Moreover, prosecuting a foreign publisher for violating U.S. secrecy laws would set an especially dangerous precedent for U.S. journalists, who routinely violate foreign secrecy laws to deliver information vital to the public’s interest.” ___
This article is written by Nelson Oliveira from New York Daily News and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.