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DOJ: Assange Was on an International Hacking Mission

New indictment says WikiLeaks founder tried to recruit hackers in Europe, Asia
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 25, 2020 7:07 AM CDT

(Newser) – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange sought to recruit hackers at conferences in Europe and Asia who could provide his anti-secrecy website with classified info, and conspired with members of hacking groups, per a new Justice Department indictment Wednesday. The superseding indictment doesn't contain additional charges beyond the 18 counts the Justice Department unsealed last year, per the AP. But prosecutors say it underscores Assange's efforts to procure and release classified information, allegations that form the basis of criminal charges he already faces. The indictment accuses Assange of conspiring with members of hacking groups LulzSec and Anonymous. He also worked with a 17-year-old hacker who gave him info stolen from a bank and directed the teen to steal additional material, including audio recordings of high-ranking government officials, prosecutors say.

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The new indictment's allegations center on conferences in locations such as the Netherlands and Malaysia in 2009, at which prosecutors say Assange and a WikiLeaks associate sought to recruit hackers who could locate classified info. Per the indictment, he told would-be recruits that unless they were a member of the US military, they faced no legal liability for stealing classified info and giving it to WikiLeaks "because 'TOP SECRET' meant nothing as a matter of law." At one Malaysian conference, Assange reportedly told the audience, "I was a famous teenage hacker in Australia, and I've been reading generals' emails since I was 17." Assange's lawyer said in a statement that "the government's relentless pursuit of Julian Assange poses a grave threat to journalists everywhere and to the public's right to know." The DOJ has already charged him with conspiring with former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to crack a password to a government computer.

(Read more Julian Assange stories.)

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