Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder, to face hacking-related charges in the U.S.

April 11, 2019

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested Thursday on a request from the U.S. Department of Justice, which immediately charged him with hacking-related charges.

The arrest occurred in the United Kingdom after he was evicted from the Ecuadorian Embassy. He could be extradited to the United States, the Justice Department said in a statement.

Mr. Assange appeared in court Thursday before a British judge at the Westminster Magistrates’ Court.

The judge called Mr. Assange, a “narcissist who could not get beyond his own selfish interest” and set an extradition hearing for May 2, CNN reported.

The statement said Mr. Assange was arrested on a warrant for jumping bail.

In the U.S., he will face one count of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion by breaking a password into a classified government computer.

If convicted, he will face up to five years in prison.

Prosecutors say Mr. Assange conspired with former intelligence officer Chelsea Manning to crack government passwords on Department of Defense computers.

Manning, who had access to those computers, downloaded a trove of classified documents related to U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq. She downloaded four databases containing nearly 500,000 confidential reports of military activity, 800 Guantanamo Bay detainee briefs and 250,000 U.S. Department of State cables, according to the seven-page indictment.

Manning and Mr. Assange allegedly engaged in repeated discussions regarding the classified records, and Mr. Assange encouraged Manning’s actions, prosecutors say. At one point Mr. Assange worried he would “run dry,” according to court records.

“During the conspiracy, Manning and Assange engaged in real-time discussions regarding Manning’s transmission of classified records to Assange,” the Justice Department said in a statement. “The discussions also reflect Assange actively encouraging Manning to provide more information. During an exchange, Manning told Assange that ‘after this upload, that’s all I really have got left.’ To which Assange replied, ‘curious eyes never run dry in my experience.’ ”

In a Tweet Thursday, WikiLeaks said “powerful actors” were working to “dehumanise, delegitimize and imprison” Mr. Assange.

The U.S. charges against Mr. Assange had been widely expected since the fall. In November, a court filing in the Eastern District of Virginia inadvertently revealed the Justice Department was seeking to criminally charge Mr. Assange.

In July 2016, WikiLeaks published roughly 20,000 emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee and the campaign of presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, although it does not appear that any of the charges relate to the release of those emails.

Jennifer Robinson, an attorney for Mr. Assange, said on Twitter that her client was arrested on an extradition request from the United States and for breaching bail conditions in the United Kingdom. He violated his bail by holing up in the Ecuadorian Embassy after he was wanted for questioning in Sweden for a sexual assault case.

Another attorney, Barry J. Pollack, called Mr. Assange’s arrest “bitterly disappointing” and the U.S. charges “unprecedented.

“It is bitterly disappointing that a country would allow someone to whom it has extended citizenship and asylum to be arrested in its embassy. First and foremost, we hope that the UK will now give Mr. Assange access to proper health care, which he has been denied for seven years,” he said in a statement.

“Once his health care needs have been addressed, the UK courts will need to resolve what appears to be an unprecedented effort by the United States seeking to extradite a foreign journalist to face criminal charges for publishing truthful information,” the statement continued.

Mr. Assange had been holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012, but that country’s government withdrew its asylum and invited the police into the embassy to make the arrest.

Ecuador President Lenin Moreno said in a tweet Thursday that the country stopped shielding Mr. Assange because of “his repeated violations to international conventions and daily-life protocols.”