WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is facing a new indictment in the United States for hiring hackers at conferences held in the Netherlands and Malaysia in 2009. They were hired to obtain classified information for publication based on a list posted on his anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks titled ‘Most Wanted Leaks’. The indictment was returned on Wednesday by a federal grand jury against Assange that accused him of working with hacking groups to target and publish sensitive information.
The indictment stated, “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.”
This indictment does not add charges to the 18-count indictment of May 2019; however, it “broadens the scope of the conspiracy surrounding alleged computer intrusions with which Assange was previously charged”. The prosecutors said it underscores Assange’s efforts to procure and release classified information, and are allegations that form the basis of criminal charges that he is already facing.
Assange’s lawyer Barry Pullock stated, “The government’s relentless pursuit of Julian Assange poses a grave threat to journalists everywhere and to the public’s right to know.”
“While today’s superseding indictment is yet another chapter in the U.S. government’s efforts to persuade the public that its pursuit of Julian Assange is based on something other than his publication of newsworthy truthful information, the indictment continues to charge him with violating the Espionage Act based on WikiLeaks publications exposing war crimes committed by the U.S. Government,” he added.
The indictment also accused Assange of conspiring with the leaders of other hacking groups such as LulzSec and asked them to provide him with documents and databases. The prosecutors said that Assange also published on WikiLeaks emails from a data breach of an American intelligence community consulting company by a hacker affiliated with LulzSec and Anonymous, another hacking group.
The superseding indictment accused Assange of working with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to obtain and publicly release hundreds of thousands of pages of classified information, including the names of U.S. operatives. He was charged for damaging the national security and publishing diplomatic cables and military files on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that allegedly harmed the U.S. and its allies and aided its adversaries.
According to the new indictment, he told his to-be recruited members that unless they were a member of the U.S. military, they have no legal liability for their actions. At a conference in Malaysia, he told the audience, “I was a famous teenage hacker in Australia, and I’ve been reading generals’ emails since I was 17.”
Julian said that he was acting as a journalist entitled to First Amendment protection. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides the rights for free speech and expression. His lawyers have argued that the U.S. government’s charges of espionage and computer misuse were politically motivated and an abuse of power.