Why the US is charging Julian Assange of Wikileaks
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The US charges against Julian Assange

By Justin Rohrlich

Federal prosecutors say Julian Assange should be sent to the US to answer charges of working with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in 2010 to steal and publish military and diplomatic secrets online.

The charges are not connected to allegations that Assange worked with Russian agents to disseminate hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 presidential campaign that were damaging to Hillary Clinton and helpful to then-candidate Donald Trump.

The Wikileaks founder was arrested by British police in London this morning after being evicted from the Ecuadorian embassy, where he was granted refuge for nearly seven years. A bearded Assange was taken into custody in connection with a US extradition request; a grand jury indictment was later unsealed charging Assange with one count of conspiracy to break into computers to obtain classified information that “could be used to the injury of the United States and the advantage of any foreign nation.”

Assange was also wanted by UK authorities for skipping a 2012 court date related to a Swedish sexual-assault case that has since been dropped. He was found guilty on the UK charge earlier today and faces a sentence in that matter of up to one year.

Jennifer Robinson, Assange’s London-based lawyer, was not immediately available for comment.

What Assange is being charged with

The US indictment, which was returned by a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia on March 8 and kept under seal until today, said that between January and May of 2010, Manning downloaded four “nearly complete” official US databases containing “approximately 90,000 Afghanistan war-related significant activity reports, 400,000 Iraq war-related significant activities reports, 800 Guantanamo Bay detainee assessment briefs, and 250,000 U.S. Department of State cables.”

During that period, Assange allegedly “agreed to assist Manning in cracking a password stored on United States Department of Defense computers,” which allowed her to log on under a different username, making it harder for investigators to track. Assange later released this information via the Wikileaks website.

The two communicated via Jabber, an encrypted online chat service, the indictment says. If Assange is convicted on the US charges, he will face up to five years in prison.

Manning, who served seven years for leaking classified information to Assange, is again in federal custody for refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating Wikileaks.

Read the full text of the indictment here: