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WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Hit with New Indictment That Alleges Much Broader Conspiracy

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 01: Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange leaves Southwark Crown Court in a security van after being sentenced on May 1, 2019 in London, England. Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange, 47, was sentenced to 50 weeks in prison for breaching his bail conditions when he took refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over sexual assault allegations, charges he denies. The UK will now decide whether to extradite him to US to face conspiracy charges after his whistle-blowing website Wikileaks published classified US documents.

A federal grand jury on Wednesday returned yet a third charging document against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The new document, a second superseding indictment, “broaden[s] the scope of the conspiracy surrounding alleged computer intrusions with which Assange was previously charged,” the U.S. Department of Justice said.

The documents allege that “Assange communicated directly with a leader of the hacking group LulzSec (who by then was cooperating with the FBI), and provided a list of targets for LulzSec to hack,” per a DOJ press release.  “With respect to one target, Assange asked the LulzSec leader to look for (and provide to WikiLeaks) mail and documents, databases and pdfs.  In another communication, Assange told the LulzSec leader that the most impactful release of hacked materials would be from the CIA, NSA, or the New York Times.”

Furthermore, per the release, “WikiLeaks obtained and published emails from a data breach committed against an American intelligence consulting company by an ‘Anonymous’ and LulzSec-affiliated hacker.  According to that hacker, Assange indirectly asked him to spam that victim company again.”

The document realleges that Assange and Army Intelligence Analyst Chelsea Manning hacked into a military computer.

Assange was initially charged with conspiracy to commit computer intrusion in a seven-page indictment dated March 6, 2018.

In a 37-page superseding indictment dated May 23, 2019, Assange was charged with eighteen counts, including conspiracy to obtain, receive, and disclose national defense information; unauthorized obtaining of national defense information; attempted unauthorized obtaining of national defense information; unauthorized obtaining and receiving of national defense information; unauthorized disclosure of national defense information; and conspiracy to commit computer intrusion.

The second superseding indictment filed Wednesday is 49 pages long.  It also contains eighteen counts, but the charges themselves are slightly different orders:  conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defense information; conspiracy to commit computer intrusions; unauthorized obtaining of national defense information; attempted unauthorized obtaining of national defense information; unauthorized obtaining and receiving of national defense information; unauthorized disclosure of national defense information; and unauthorized obtaining of national defense information.

Assange played a role “in one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States,” the DOJ said. “Assange and others at WikiLeaks recruited and agreed with hackers to commit computer intrusions to benefit WikiLeaks.”

Assange is in the U.K.  The U.S. government has asked that he be extradited here to face the charges.

READ the charging document below.

Julian Assange indictment by Law&Crime on Scribd

Editor’s note:  this piece, which began as a breaking news report, has been updated.

[photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images]

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Aaron Keller holds a juris doctor degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law and a broadcast journalism degree from Syracuse University.  He is the anchor and executive producer of Law&Crime Daily on the Law&Crime Network.  The broadcast is a recap of the day's most compelling trials and court proceedings.  He also serves as an editor for the Law&Crime website. DISCLAIMER:  This website is for general informational purposes only.  You should not rely on it for legal advice.  Reading this site or interacting with the author via this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.  This website is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney.  Speak to a competent lawyer in your jurisdiction for legal advice and representation relevant to your situation.