Julian Assange has been formally charged by U.S. prosecutors for a single count of “conspiracy to commit computer intrusion for agreeing to break a password to a classified U.S. government computer,” the Justice Department announced Thursday morning.
Assange was dragged from the Ecuadorian embassy in London earlier on Thursday after spending seven years there. He now faces possible extradition to the U.S.
The charges, which were inadvertently made public in November 2018 during a filing error, were filed in the Eastern District of Virginia federal court. Assange is charged with conspiring with Chelsea Manning to crack the password of a U.S. Department of Defence computer that prosecutors say was connected to the government’s classified documents system known as Secret Internet Protocol Network (SIPRNet).
Manning, a former U.S. Army private, used her connection to SIPRNet to download classified documents to share with WikiLeaks, according to the Justice Department. Prosecutors say “Assange engaged in real-time discussions regarding Manning’s transmission of classified records to Assange,” adding that the discussions “reflect Assange actively encouraging Manning to provide more information.”
Manning ultimately provided hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. government documents, including diplomatic cables, to Wikileaks in 2010. She spent seven years in a military prison before President Barack Obama granted her clemency in early 2017.
Aside from the cables, Wikileaks also published a 39-minute video from 2007 showing two U.S. Apache helicopters opening fire on a group of men. Seven people, including two journalists for Reuters, were killed in the video and American forces can be heard laughing on their headsets. The video, which WikiLeaks titled “Collateral Murder,” was leaked by Manning.
Manning was arrested for refusing to testify to a grand jury about the case. She was first placed in solitary confinement but has reportedly been released to a regular prison cell.
Jennifer Robinson, Assange’s lawyer, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
This story is developing…