Following an earlier report that the US Justice Department was looking to prosecute WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, the Washington Post has now reported that Assange may have been charged under seal in a revelation that appears to have stemmed from a mistake in a court filing.
The circumstances by which this information was disclosed, if indeed true, involved a filing in an unrelated case by a lawyer also assigned to the WikiLeaks case. Per the Post, the August filing related to a case involving national security and sex trafficking in the Eastern District of Virginia. The name Assange appeared at least twice in the filing:
Assistant US Attorney Kellen S. Dwyer, urging a judge to keep the matter sealed, wrote that “due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged.” Later, Dwyer wrote the charges would “need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested.”
Sources familiar with the matter told the Post that Dwyer’s disclosure was “was true, but unintentional.” Joshua Stueve, a spokesman for the US attorney’s office in the Eastern District of Virginia, told the Post the filing was “made in error” and that it was “not the intended name for this filing.”
The revelation was surfaced Thursday on Twitter by Seamus Hughes, the deputy director of the program on extremism at George Washington University, who posted a screengrab of the filing and tweeted that the Eastern District of Virginia “appears to have [A]ssange on the mind when filing motions to seal and used his name.”
You guys should read EDVA court filings more, cheaper than a Journal subscription pic.twitter.com/YULeeQphmd
— Seamus Hughes (@SeamusHughes) November 16, 2018
The Wall Street Journal reported earlier Thursday that the Justice Department was looking to prosecute Assange and was “increasingly optimistic it will be able to get him into a US courtroom,” citing sources in Washington familiar with the matter. But that’s easier said than done, as it would require his arrest and extradition.
Assange has been living in Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012, and the Journal reported its sources wouldn’t reveal whether talks with the UK or Ecuador were in progress.