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U.S. Charges Assange With Conspiracy for 2010 Government Computer Hack

Julian Assange on the balcony of the Ecuadorean embassy in London, May 2017 (Peter Nicholls / Reuters)

Update 9:31a.m.Hours after he was arrested at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, U.S. authorities announced they have charged Julian Assange with one count of conspiracy to hack a government computer. The charge stems from Assange’s role in hacking a confidential computer in 2010 in an effort to release classified documents.

Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder who has made enemies of governments around the world by releasing confidential, and often embarrassing, intelligence documents to the public, was arrested Thursday at the Ecuadorian embassy in London by the British police.

The British metropolitan police explained in a statement released Thursday that Assange was arrested partly in connection with an extradition warrant filed by the U.S., which suggests he may be sent to the U.S. to stand trial.

The Department of Justice has charged Assange in connection with his publication of thousands of classified government documents, a fact they accidentally revealed in an unrelated court filing in February.

Assange was expelled from the Ecuadorian embassy, where he has lived for seven years, after “his repeated violations to international conventions and daily-life protocols” led Ecuadorian president Lenin Moreno to rescind his country’s protection.

Wikileaks announced last Friday that Ecuador “already has an agreement with the UK for his arrest.”

A video of Assange’s arrest shows him being carried down the steps of the embassy while shouting “the U.K. must resist.”

President Moreno, citing a recent Wikileaks expose on the Vatican, explained in a video statement that Assange was being expelled from the embassy for failing to uphold his pledge to stop meddling in the affairs of foreign nations. Assange first moved into the embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he was facing sexual assault charges.

Wikileaks rose to prominence in 2010 by releasing a cache of classified U.S. intelligence documents and diplomatic cables pertaining to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Chelsea Manning, a transgender woman formerly known as Bradley, was arrested for leaking those documents and was sentenced to 35 years in prison but was released after serving just seven.

Assange, 47, is also suspected of aiding Russia in their efforts to disrupt the 2016 election by publishing confidential and damaging Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign documents. He has explicitly stated his desire to damage Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign but has long denied receiving the hacked documents from Russian agents, as American intelligence agencies allege.

 

 

 

 

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