On Wednesday, the Justice Department revealed that Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, is charged with recruiting and conspiring with hackers from groups such as LulzSec and Anonymous.
Working with hackers
Assange has 18 previous indictments filed against him under the Espionage Act from last year and the new charges add nothing new to his case. They do, however, expand on the cases that are already filed against the founder and the conspiracies surrounding his alleged connections with computer hackers.
According to Axios, Assange is currently being held inside a UK prison and is waiting for possible extradition to the United States while a hearing for September is pending. It is also noted that the suspect is in ill condition.
The claims against Assange state that in 2010, he was able to access a NATO country's government computer system illegally. In 2012, Assange allegedly directly communicated with a LulzSec leader who, at the time, was working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Allegedly, Assange gave LulzSec a list of targets that he wanted LulzSec to hack, one of which the WikiLeaks founder emphasized he wanted access to mail, documents, databases, and pdfs and then provided to his website.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) claims that in another exchange with the LulzSec leader, Assange said that the most crucial pieces of information he could acquire come from the CIA, NSA, or the news outlet, the New York Times.
According to the press release, WikiLeaks was able to collect and publish emails from a data breach of an undisclosed American Intelligence consulting company which he asked an Anonymous and LulzSec-affiliated hacker to crack. The hacker revealed Assange asked him indirectly to target the company again afterwards.
Along with the recruitment of the hackers, the charges against Assange include working with members of the hacking groups. Fox News reported that one such event is when he conspired with a 17-year-old hacker to gather stolen information from a bank and other confidential materials from high-ranking government officials.
A threat to free speech
Barry Pollack, Assange's lawyer, wrote in a statement that the actions of the government against his client are a threat to all journalists around the world and undermines the right of the people to know.
Pollack adds that the superseding indictment acts as proof that the US government's efforts against Assange are trying to frame his client of anything other than publishing newsworthy and accurate information. The lawyer also said the claims of Assange breaking the Espionage Act stem from the American government's attempts to ignore its exposed war crimes.
The United States government has charged Assange with risking national security by working to gather and procure and disclose classified information from intelligence agencies, as reported by the Time.
Officials have accused the WikiLeaks founder of conspiring with Chelsea Manning, an Army Intelligence Analyst, to gain access to a classified United States Department of Defense computer.
Assange is also thought to have worked with Manning to steal military reports and State Department cables.