The Department of Justice, (DOJ) announced a second superseding indictment in the case against WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange, alleging that he intentionally worked with hackers affiliated with groups “LulzSec” and “Anonymous” to target and publish sensitive documents.
The new indictment, handed down by a secret federal grand jury in Alexandria, Va., did not add any charges to the existing 18 charges brought against Assange last year, but alleged that Assange and WikiLeaks actively recruited hackers to provide WikiLeaks with documents.
Assange is alleged to have provided the leader of the hacking group “LulzSec” and FBI informant Sabu or Hector Monsegur with a list of groups to target in 2012, in order to obtain information to post to the WikiLeaks platform, and that such information was revealed in chat logs.
However, in a video posted by anti-Wikileaks journalist Emma Best, the founder of DDoSecrets, a WikiLeaks-like leaking site shows Assange was only merely in the room while the true culprit – a former WikiLeaks employee Sigurdur “Siggi” Thordarson – talked in IRC with Sabu. Thordarson was also a turned FBI informant at the time, as Rolling Stone previously reported.
It’s not known if there were other exchanges not recorded on video, but as Yahoo News wrote at the time, the leaked chat logs may be apart of the DOJ’s case against Assange. Today, the DOJ revealed that those chat logs were apart of the historic case.
The new indictment alleges that in one instance, Assange gave the LulzSec leader specific documents and PDFs to target and sent to WikiLeaks, and WikiLeaks eventually published information obtained from an American intelligence company Stratfor by a hacker associated with LulzSec and with hacktivist collective Anonymous, Jeremy Hammond.
Although there is no solid proof provided in the chat logs. As Yahoo News reported, it does not include any direct communication from the WikiLeaks founder, but only a supposed alias, named Leon Davidson.
“To obtain information to release on the WikiLeaks website, Assange recruited sources and predicted the success of WikiLeaks in part upon the recruitment of sources to illegally circumvent legal safeguards on information, including classification restrictions and computer and network restrictions,” the indictment reads, noting this was done with the intent to publish the information online.
In another section of the indictment, Assange is further alleged to have sought to recruit hackers at conferences in Europe and Asia to provide his anti-secrecy website with classified information, including military secrets. The allegations in the new indictment stem on conferences in 2009 in the Netherlands and Malaysia, which prosecutors say Assange and a WikiLeaks associate sought to recruit hackers who could locate classified information, including material on a “Most Wanted Leaks” list posted on WikiLeaks’, CBS News reported.
Finally, the indictment also alleges that, in 2010, Assange gained unauthorized access to a government computer system of a NATO country.
The 18 charges unveiled last year alleged that Assange worked with former Army Intelligence Analyst Chelsea Manning in 2010 to obtain and disclose sensitive “national defense information” through conspiring to crack a password tied to a Department of Defense computer.
WikiLeaks has published thousands of pages of material obtained from Manning, including details around Guantanamo Bay detainees and combat guidelines concerning the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan known as the war diaries.
If convicted, Assange faces a maximum of 10 years in prison for each of the existing 18 charges brought against him except for alleged conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, which contains language from the Espionage Act. Assange faces a total of 175 years in jail if extradited to the U.S. with a total of 18 charges.
WIKILEAKS RESPONDS TO ESPIONAGE ACT INDICTMENT AGAINST ASSANGE: UNPRECEDENTED ATTACK ON FREE PRESS pic.twitter.com/F0iUyr0R7F
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) May 24, 2019
Assange is currently detained in the United Kingdom in Belmarsh prison after he was evicted and arrested from the Ecuadorian Embassy, where he took refuge for several years. The U.S. has requested Assange’s extradition, in which a hearing is planned for September.
Earlier in the year, a magistrate court judge Judge Vanessa Baraitser decided that Assange must remain isolated in a glass box at the back of the courtroom during his extradition hearings. Julian Assange’s lawyer also claimed in court at his extradition hearing that the U.S. wanted to murder the WikiLeaks founder and make it look like an accident as TMU reported.
U.S. lawyers have falsely claimed that Assange’s publishing of the Iraq and Afghanistan war diaries endangered lives, a claim that is debunked by the Pentagon’s own admission that there is no evidence that any of WikiLeaks’ actions have caused even a single death,as Glenn Greenwald previously reported for Salon during the court trial of whistleblower Chelsea Manning.
In fact, it was Assange who went to “extreme measures” redacting names and information. According to multi-award winning Australian journalist Mark Davis, it was the Guardian journalists who appeared to care little about redacting names, as a Consortium News video explains. Davis had documented the entire process of the release of the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs in a film called Inside Wikileaks, which showed the former Wikileaks editor-in-chief working alongside journalists from the New York Times, the Guardian, and Der Spiegel.
Assange even attempted to contact the U.S. State Department and then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warning about the leak of un-redacted documents on other websites, Assange’s lawyers have said.
Assange’s lawyers have argued in court that their client would be a “suicide risk” if extradited to the United States. Other court statements were heard according to 9News.
Manning was freed from prison in March after being jailed since May 2019 for refusing to appear before the grand jury involved in the indictment against Assange. Both Manning and Hammond refused to testify against Julian Assange, this leaves two culprits who could potentially testify against Assange, Monsegur, and Thordarson. Although, this is pure speculation, and the Justice Department could have another witness that will testify against Assange.
A federal judge ruled that Manning’s testimony was unnecessary, however, ordered her to pay a fine of $256,000. The ruling came a single day after reports emerged that Manning had attempted suicide while in custody as TMU previously reported.
If Assange is extradited, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer has continuously said Assange could be exposed to “a real risk of serious violations of his human rights, including his freedom of expression, his right to a fair trial, and the prohibition of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
Melzer has also stated that Assange has deliberately been exposed “for a period of several years, to progressively severe forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the cumulative effects of which can only be described as psychological torture.”