Posted: May 23, 2019
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WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Is Facing 17 More Criminal Charges In The United States

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department on Thursday announced that Julian Assange faces 17 new criminal charges in the US for his role in an alleged conspiracy with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to solicit and publish classified government information.

A federal grand jury in Virginia returned a new indictment that adds 17 charges to the single count that Assange was charged with in March 2018. The original indictment was sealed until Assange was arrested at the Ecuadorian embassy in London on April 11.

The new charges include allegations that he violated the law not only by soliciting and receiving national security information, but also by publishing what John Demers, the head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, described to reporters on Thursday as a “narrow subset” of documents that identified the names of individuals who were working with the US government, including sources in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Demers rebuffed arguments raised since Assange’s arrest that the WikiLeaks founder was being targeted for work as a journalist — Demers said this information put the sources at risk, and that no “responsible” journalist would publish it.

“The department takes seriously the role of journalists in our democracy and we thank you for it. It has not and never has been the department’s policy to target them for reporting. But Julian Assange is no journalist,” Demers said.

Assange is not facing any charges to date related to information that WikiLeaks published in 2016 that was stolen from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The Justice Department is pursuing criminal charges against Russian nationals accused of carrying out those hacks and turning over the information to WikiLeaks.

Assange has been in London since his arrest. He’s serving a 50-week sentence after a judge in the UK found him guilty of violating his bail conditions while he faced allegations of sexual assault in Sweden. The United States has requested Assange be extradited to the United States, and Assange has vowed to fight that. Extradition fights can last months or years.

Following Assange’s arrest, the US government had 60 days to submit the final extradition package to UK authorities. Once that’s submitted, the Justice Department cannot add additional charges.

Assange was originally charged with conspiring to commit computer intrusion, by allegedly working with Manning to obtain and publish classified military documents. The original indictment described alleged efforts by Assange to help Manning crack a password to access US Department of Defense computers; it wasn't clear if they were successful. The new version of the indictment charges Assange with aiding and abetting Manning in obtaining national security information from the Defense Department, unlawfully receiving this information, and publishing it.

One sign that the Justice Department was considering additional charges against Assange was the fact that Manning was subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury in Virginia, and she confirmed that prosecutors wanted to ask her about her role in leaking documents to WikiLeaks in 2010. A miltiary court found Manning guilty in 2013 of violating the Espionage Act, among other crimes, and she was sentenced to 35 years in prison. Former president Barack Obama commuted her sentence in January 2017.

Manning has refused to testify, and a judge has ordered her jailed until she complies, or until the term of the grand jury expires. She was briefly released when the original grand jury she was subpoenaed to appear before expired, and then re-jailed on May 16 when she again refused to comply with a subpoena. Manning told the judge at the time she would “rather starve to death” than testify.

Asked on Thursday if Manning had changed her mind and cooperated with prosecutors, a Justice Department official said that she remained in jail — implying that she continued to refuse to testify.

This story is breaking and will be updated.

via BuzzFeed News

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