Julian Assange Arrested
The Justice Department announced a criminal charge Thursday against WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange, accusing him of conspiring with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to hack into a classified U.S. government computer. “The charge relates to Assange’s alleged role in one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States,” the Justice Department said in a press release.
The announcement followed an extradition request by the U.S. for Assange, 47, who on Thursday morning was arrested and removed from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he has lived for nearly seven years. A British judge said Thursday that the U.S. must share its case justifying Assange’s extradition by June 12, multiple outlets reported. If convicted, Assange could face five years in prison, though his actual sentence would likely fall below the legal maximum.
CNN reported, however, that Justice Department officials expect to bring additional charges against Assange. “This is a dark day for journalism,” a representative for Assange said outside British court. “We don’t want this to go forward. This has to be averted.” “It’s called conspiracy. It’s conspiracy to commit journalism,” the representative continued, adding: “There is no assurance that there will not be additional charges when he is on U.S. soil.”
The Justice Department has long struggled with how to proceed against Mr. Assange, given the parallels between Mr. Assange’s antisecrecy work and that of the press, which is generally protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In the indictment, prosecutors appear to have narrowly tailored the case against Mr. Assange to his alleged effort to crack a password stored in a Defense Department file that Ms. Manning provided to him. The conspiracy charge carries a maximum prison sentence of five years. A grand jury in Virginia is still investigating Mr. Assange, and he could be charged with additional crimes.
Asked about his previous comments praising WikiLeaks on Thursday, President Trump said, “I know nothing about WikiLeaks” and that “I don’t really have an opinion” about the matter. He said he was aware Mr. Assange had been arrested but that his fate would be a determination made “mostly by the attorney general.”