Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is now facing 17 new criminal charges, according to a superseding indictment released today. The U.S. Justice Department charged Assange with crimes under the Espionage Act, based on claims Assange worked with former intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning "in unlawfully obtaining and disclosing classified documents related to the national defense."
The new charges are in addition to a previously changed count of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, and you can read the full indictment right here:
Acts of Espionage
The Espionage Act, prohibits conspiring to receive, obtaining, and disclosing national defense information, but has never been successfully prosecuted against a third-party recipient of government documents. The Justice Department claims Assange played a more active role in obtaining leaked information. "Assange personally and publicly promoted WikiLeaks to encourage those with access to protected information," according to the indictment, "including classified information, to provide it to WikiLeaks for public disclosure." And Manning responded to Wikileaks's requests:
Manning downloaded four nearly complete databases from departments and agencies of the United States. These databases contained 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. The United States had classified many of these records up to the SECRET level pursuant to Executive Order No. 13526 or its predecessor orders. Manning nevertheless provided the documents to WikiLeaks, so that WikiLeaks could publicly disclose them on its website.
The indictment also claims Assange actively encouraged Manning to locate and provide more confidential information and worked with Manning to crack a password to gain access to Department of Defense computers. "The portion of the password hash Manning gave to Assange to crack was stored as a 'hash value' in a computer file that was accessible only by users with administrative-level privileges," The indictment reads. "Manning did not have administrative-level privileges, and used special software, namely a Linux operating system, to access the computer file and obtain the portion of the password provided to Assange."
Ironically, these additional charges may make American efforts to extradite Assange from the United Kingdom (where he is currently being jailed on a failure to appear conviction) even more difficult. Under the U.S.-U.K. Extradition Treaty, an individual may not be extradited for a "political offense." While political offenses are not strictly defined, experts believe it includes offenses against the state like espionage, sedition, or treason."
Here is the current indictment: