The U.S. government charged Wikileaks founder Julian Assange with conspiracy to commit computer hacking on a classified computer relating to his role in helping Chelsea Manning steal tens of thousands of diplomatic cables in 2010.
“The charge relates to Assange’s alleged role in one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States,” the Justice Department wrote. The charges come hours after Assange was arrested by British authorities on a U.S. extradition request in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
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Assange has lived inside the embassy for seven years after being granted political asylum by Ecuador.
The DOJ outlined Assange’s role in assisting Manning in stealing documents and classified information from government computers in 2010, which he subsequently released to several news organizations in 2010. The releases caused diplomatic shockwaves throughout the world and revealed the innermost workings of the U.S. Department of State.
“Let’s be clear. This disclosure is not just an attack on America — it’s an attack on the international community,” former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at the time, adding, “There is nothing laudable about endangering innocent people, and there is nothing brave about sabotaging the peaceful relations between nations.”
DOJ is alleging that “Assange engaged in a conspiracy with Chelsea Manning, a former intelligence analyst in the U.S. Army, 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.”
The indictment shows that Assange actively encouraged Manning to continue searching for classified information noting one chat exchange in which Manning told Assange, “After this upload, that’s all I really have got left,” to which Assange replied, “Curious eyes never run dry in my experience.” (RELATED: ‘American Traitor’ Chelsea Manning Loses Harvard Fellowship)
Manning was sentenced to 35 years in military prison in 2013, though was released by former President Barack Obama in the waning days of his presidency.