In 2019, Julian Assange was evicted and arrested from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, United Kingdom.
The US Department of Justice’s (DoJ) list of accusations against Julian Assange doesn’t seem like ending anytime soon. Reportedly, Assange is charged with a second superseding indictment where he’s accused of recruiting and conspiring with hackers to carry out cybercrimes on his behalf.
In its latest press release, the DoJ revealed that the new indictment doesn’t add additional counts to the previous 18-count superseding indictment filed against the WikiLeaks founder in May 2019 under the Espionage Act.
However, it broadens the “scope of the conspiracy surrounding alleged computer intrusions with which Assange was previously charged,” the DoJ noted.
The new allegations are related to conferences Assange attended at different locations including Malaysia and the Netherlands between 2009 and 2012.
Prosecutors allege that Assange and a WikiLeaks associate contacted LulzSec and Anonymous hackers for locating classified data, obtaining government secrets, and tracing material for WikiLeaks’ “Most Wanted Leaks” list.
Moreover, Assange obtained unauthorized access to a government-owned computer system of a NATO member country in 2010 and conspiring with LulzSec leader in 2012 for providing confidential documents and databases, the Justice Department claimed.
Furthermore, Assange published emails from a US-based intelligence community consulting firm’s data breach provided by a hacker affiliated with Anonymous and LulzSec. The hacker claims that Assange indirectly requested him to “spam that victim company again.”
Additionally, Assange asked LulzSec leader to provide materials related to the NSA, CIA, or the New York Times as these were the most “impactful” releases.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Assange is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. 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, the DoJ said in a statement.
Previously, the DoJ had charged Assange with conspiring with Chelsea Manning, an Army intelligence analyst, to crack the password hash for a military computer to steal classified data, which was published on the WikiLeaks portal.
The DoJ claims that Assange has been involved in one of the US history’s largest compromises of classified data and has damaged national security severely by posting sensitive documents including military files on Afghanistan and Iraq wars and diplomatic cables on his site, which aided the US’s adversaries.
Assange claims that being a journalist he was just doing his job as he’s entitled to under First Amendment. His attorneys argue that the charges of Espionage and computer misuse against their client are politically motivated.
According to Barry Pollack, Assange’s lawyer,
“The government’s relentless pursuit of Julian Assange poses a grave threat to journalists everywhere and to the public’s right to know.”
Many noted journalists have criticized the prosecution of Julian Assange as well. The 48-year old Assange was arrested in 2019 following his eviction from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, but at the moment there is no clarity over whether he will be extradited to the US or not.