Justice Department charges WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange with conspiracy to hack a government computer

  • British authorities arrested the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Thursday after the US made an extradition request.
  • Assange has been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, according to an unsealed indictment from the Justice Department.
  • The charge relates to Assange’s alleged role in the leak of thousands of pages of classified US government documents and videos connected to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
  • Assange is accused of helping the former US army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning hack a password on a classified Pentagon computer, which she used to download classified material that she sent to WikiLeaks.
  • Assange faces up to five years in prison if he’s found guilty.
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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been indicted on one count of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, according to an unsealed indictment from the Justice Department.

The indictment alleges that Assange helped the former US army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning hack a password on a classified Pentagon computer.

A grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia approved the indictment last March.

In a statement Thursday, the Justice Department said the charge against Assange is connected to his alleged role in the 2010 release of thousands of pages of classified US government documents and videos related to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Justice Department characterised the leak as “one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States.”

“Manning, who had access to the computers in connection with her duties as an intelligence analyst, was using the computers to download classified records to transmit to WikiLeaks,” the statement added.

“Cracking the password would have allowed Manning to log on to the computers under a username that did not belong to her. Such a deceptive measure would have made it more difficult for investigators to determine the source of the illegal disclosures.”

Assange was arrested in London on Thursday after nearly a decade of asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy and it’s unclear if he will be extradited to the US.

Until Thursday, the WikiLeaks founder had not left the Ecuadorian Embassy since 2012.

WikiLeaks has been at the center of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference, and Assange is an extremely divisive figure in the US.

Assange’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment from INSIDER.

Read the full indictment here.

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