The founder of the WikiLeaks website, Julian Assange, has been indicted by the Justice Department on charges that he conspired with hacker groups to gain access to classified information.
Last year, the DoJ unveiled 18 charges against Assange, but the indictment was returned on Wednesday.
Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London from 2012 to 2019 until he was expelled. He has since been indicted and is awaiting extradition to the U.S.
Whistleblower or spy? Assange claims he’s just a journalist trying to keep the people informed of what their governments are doing. The reality is that Assange published hundreds of thousands of classified documents on the Iran and Afghanistan wars — information that cost several people their lives, according to some in the CIA.
The Justice Department has already charged him with conspiring with former U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in one of the largest compromises of classified information in U.S. history by working together to crack a password to a government computer.
Assange maintains he was acting as a journalist entitled to First Amendment protection. His lawyers have argued the U.S. charges of espionage and computer misuse were politically motivated and an abuse of power.
Assange generated substantial attention during the 2016 presidential election, and in investigations that followed, after WikiLeaks published stolen Democratic emails that U.S. authorities say were hacked by Russian military intelligence officials. An investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller revealed how Trump campaign associates eagerly anticipated the email disclosures. One Trump ally, Roger Stone, was found guilty last year of lying about his efforts to gain inside information about the emails. Assange, however, was never charged in Mueller’s Russia investigation.
It’s immaterial whether Assange’s revelations “embarrassed” some politician or general. The only question that should be asked is did the release of the WikiLeaks documents put American lives at risk? U.S. intelligence agencies are convinced that American soldiers were made significantly more vulnerable as a result of the publishing of “after-action” reports and intelligence assessments of the enemy.
There is some new information in the indictments.
The allegations in the new indictment center on conferences, in locations including the Netherlands and Malaysia in 2009, at which prosecutors say he and a WikiLeaks associate sought to recruit hackers who could locate classified information, including material on a “Most Wanted Leaks” list posted on WikiLeaks’ website.
According to the new indictment, he told would-be recruits that unless they were a member of the U.S. military, they faced no legal liability for stealing classified information and giving it to WikiLeaks “because `TOP SECRET’ meant nothing as a matter of law.”
At one conference in Malaysia, called the “Hack in the Box Security Conference,” Assange told the audience, “I was a famous teenage hacker in Australia, and I’ve been reading generals’ emails since I was 17.”
Whether Assange is a Russian stooge or not is open to debate. His ties to Russian intelligence and organized crime are well documented but that doesn’t mean he was carrying water for Putin. More likely, he was a tool used by the Russian GRU to embarrass Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. He almost certainly wasn’t a paid Russian agent.
Assange didn’t care where he got his classified information or who gave it to him. He is totally amoral — a cynic who may or may not be a rapist, but certainly does not respect women. He belongs in jail for violating the privacy of thousands of people and endangering many more.