Feds Building Conspiracy Case Against Assange
Charges would sidestep First Amendment issues
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 16, 2010 4:27 AM CST
Updated Dec 16, 2010 5:45 AM CST
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange reacts behind the heavily tinted window of a police van as he arrives at Wandsworth Prison in London earlier this week.   (AP Photo/Akira Suemori)

(Newser) – Federal prosecutors searching for criminal charges to lodge against Julian Assange are trying to build a conspiracy case against him. Officials are seeking to determine whether the WikiLeaks founder encouraged accused leaker Bradley Manning to provide the site with classified files, the New York Times reports. Prosecutors are examining chat logs in which Manning claimed to have directly communicated with Assange.

The Justice Department is attracted to the idea of charging Assange as a co-conspirator because it would allow them to make an example of him while avoiding the constitutional issues that would arise if they try to prosecute him under the Espionage Act, say insiders. WikiLeaks, meanwhile, has changed its submissions page to portray itself as more of a news organization and avoid mention of soliciting contributions. The phrase "submitting confidential material to WikiLeaks is safe, easy and protected by law" has been dropped.