In an indictment announced Wednesday, the U.S. Justice Department accused WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange of seeking to recruit hackers at conferences in Europe and Asia and working with hacking organizations such as Anonymous in order to obtain classified information.
While this indictment does not contain new charges beyond the 18 counts the DOJ unsealed last year, prosecutors say it highlights Assange’s attempt to acquire and publish classified materials.
In addition to allegedly partnering with Anonymous, Assange stands accused of conspiring with the hacking group LulzSec (known for the 2011 Sony Pictures hack and for taking credit for bringing the CIA website offline in 2011) and of working with a 17-year-old hacker who gave him stolen information from a bank. The WikiLeaks founder allegedly directed the teenager to steal even more material, such as audio recordings of top government officials.
The indictment says Assange told would-be recruits that they would face no legal liability for stealing classified information and giving it to WikiLeaks unless they were a member of the U.S. military “because ‘TOP SECRET’ meant nothing as a matter of law.”
At an event in Malaysia called the “Hack in the Box Security Conference,” Assange told an audience, “I was a famous teenage hacker in Australia, and I’ve been reading generals’ emails since I was 17.”
Assange’s lawyer, Barry Pollack, countered in a statement that “the government’s relentless pursuit of Julian Assange poses a grave threat to journalists everywhere and to the public’s right to know.”
While today’s superseding indictment is yet another chapter in the U.S. Government’s effort to persuade the public that its pursuit of Julian Assange is based on something other than his publication of newsworthy truthful information, the indictment continues to charge him with violating the Espionage Act based on WikiLeaks publications exposing war crimes committed by the U.S. Government.
Assange, an Australian by birth, is the subject of an extradition struggle over whether he should be sent to the United States. He’s currently being held at Belmarsh Prison in the U.K. after being arrested last year on charges of skipping bail. British authorities apprehended Assange after Ecuador terminated its asylum for assange, kicking him out of the London embassy he called home for seven years — ostensibly over his erratic behavior and for violating the terms of his asylum.
The WikiLeaks founder was already charged with conspiring with former U.S. Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning (who claims to be a woman and goes by the name of Chelsea Manning) to crack a password to a government computer in one of the largest compromises of classified information in American history.
Federal prosecutors say Assange’s publication of hundreds of thousands of classified documents endangered national security. The documents included diplomatic cables and military files on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Assange defends his actions by claiming he was acting as a journalist and is thus protected under the First Amendment, while his lawyers argue that the U.S. espionage charges are politically motivated.
He gained a newfound notoriety and support from America’s political right due to WikiLeaks’ role in publishing e-mails from the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 election — e-mails that showed, among other major revelations, that the DNC was openly working with Hillary Clinton’s campaign to the detriment of primary opponent Bernie Sanders.
Although the probe into Russian collusion by Special Counsel Robert Mueller led to a guilty verdict for Trump ally Roger Stone on charges of lying about his efforts to gain information about the DNC e-mails, Assange himself was never charged in the investigation.
If found guilty under the DOJ’s charges, Assange could face a prison sentence of more than 170 years.
In February, Assange’s lawyer claimed President Trump wants to “make an example” of his client because he refused to tell the president his source for the DNC leaks, for which he was allegedly offered a preemptive pardon.
President Trump has kept his distance on the matter, saying at the time of Assange’s arrest that “I know nothing about WikiLeaks. It’s really not my thing.”
Evidence indicates that the source of whom Assange spoke may have been DNC staffer Seth Rich, who was murdered in what authorities say was robbery, though nothing was missing from his person. Mueller’s team, however, characterized the Seth Rich theory as a disinformation campaign “designed to obscure the source of the materials that WikiLeaks was releasing.”
Luis Miguel is a marketer and writer whose journalistic endeavors shed light on the Deep State, the immigration crisis, and the enemies of freedom. Follow his exploits on Facebook, Twitter, Bitchute, and at luisantoniomiguel.com.