WikiLeaks Founder Charged in Superseding Indictment

Julian P. Assange. (Cancillería del Ecuador)

Julian P. Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, was charged by a federal grand jury with a superseding indictment today charging him with offenses that relate to his alleged role in one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States.

The new indictment broadens the scope of the conspiracy charges in the 18-counts returned against Assange in May 2019 surrounding alleged computer hacking with which Assange was previously charged. The indictment charges that Assange and others at WikiLeaks recruited and colluded with hackers to intrude computers to benefit WikiLeaks.

The Justice Department listed a long history of Assange’s hacking activities. In 2009, Assange told a conference of hackers that WikiLeaks had obtained nonpublic documents from the Congressional Research Service. He described how he had exploited a vulnerability in a computer system of the United States Congress, and told his audience that they, too, “would find if you were actually looking.”

In 2010, Assange hacked a computer system of a NATO country and in 2012, he communicated directly with a leader of the hacking group LulzSec and provided a list of targets for them to hack, telling them that the most impactful release of hacked materials would be from the CIA, NSA, or The New York Times.

WikiLeaks also leaked material from an American intelligence consulting company by an “Anonymous”- and LulzSec-affiliated hacker.

In addition, the indictment alleges that Assange conspired with Army Intelligence Analyst Chelsea Manning to crack a password to a classified U.S. Department of Defense computer.

If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison on each count, except for conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, for which he faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Assange is currently detained in the United Kingdom on an extradition request from the United States, which is being handled by the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs and U.K. authorities, including the Home Office and the Crown Prosecution Service for England and Wales.