WikiLeaks founder Julian P. Assange appeared disheveled as he was carried out by authorities from the Ecuadorian Embassy in the United Kingdom Thursday, where he has been living nearly seven years in asylum from authorities for exposing classified information on his WikiLeaks website.
According to the Eastern District of Virginia, he was arrested under a U.S. and United Kingdom, “Extradition Treaty, in connection with a federal charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion for agreeing to break a password to a classified U.S. government computer.”
Assange faces five years in prison for his role in obtaining and disseminating classified information from then Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning, who is now known as Chelsea Manning.
“Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties,” according to the Eastern District of Virginia press release. “A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.”
Assange’s lawyer told ABC news “we cannot lose sight, the Australian government cannot lose sight of the principals involved in this case. He’s an Australian citizen, who is a publisher, whose being sought for prosecution in the United States – an Australian ally – whose being sought for prosecution in the United States for publishing truthful information.”
Hours later he was arrested.
Remarkable timing. pic.twitter.com/g4UjAa1vuU
— Roscoe Whalan (@RoscoeWhalan) April 11, 2019
— Jen Robinson (@suigenerisjen) April 11, 2019
According to court documents unsealed Thursday “the charge relates to Assange’s alleged role in one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States.”
The indictment alleges that in March 2010, Assange “engaged in a conspiracy with Chelsea Manning, a former intelligence analyst in the U.S. Army, to assist Manning in cracking a password stored on U.S. Department of Defense computers connected to the Secret Internet Protocol Network (SIPRNet), a U.S. government network used for classified documents and communications.”
Manning had gender reassignment surgery after his arrest. He changed his name to Chelsea.
In 2017, then President Barack Obama overruled his Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and commuted the sentence of Manning. Manning had stolen and then disseminated more than 750,000 pages of classified documents and videos to WikiLeaks.
The indictment said Manning had access to the computers through her work as an intelligence analyst.
“She used the computers to download classified records and then she transmitted them to WikiLeaks,” the press release from the Eastern District of Virginia states. “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.”
Manning and Assange had engaged in real-time discussions regarding Manning’s transmission of classified records to Assange, added the press release.
“The discussions also reflect Assange actively encouraging Manning to provide more information,” it said.
At the time Manning told Assange that “after this upload, that’s all I really have got left.”
According to the indictment, Assange replied, “curious eyes never run dry in my experience.”
Assange is being charged with conspiracy to commit computer intrusion and is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.