Julian Assange Accused of Recruiting Hackers in New Indictment

Julian Assange gestures as he arrives at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London. (Victoria Jones/PA via AP)

(CN) — A new Justice Department indictment filed Wednesday claims WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange tried to recruit hackers at conferences in Europe and Asia to give him classified information and military secrets.

The DOJ charged Assange last year with 18 counts of obtaining and disclosing national secrets for his alleged complicity in former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning’s leak of classified U.S. military documents.

He was accused of soliciting classified information, aiding and abetting Manning’s efforts to leak the documents and publishing un-redacted files that revealed alleged human intelligence sources in war zones under the Espionage Act.

Assange is currently in a U.K. prison awaiting extradition to the U.S., after his arrest in 2019 following an eviction from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London where he had been holed up on a claim of diplomatic asylum since 2012.

The latest indictment does not add any new charges to the 18 counts, the DOJ says, adding, “It does, however, broaden the scope of the conspiracy surrounding alleged computer intrusions with which Assange was previously charged.”

The new indictment claims Assange spoke at hacking conferences in Malaysia and the Netherlands in 2009, where he allegedly sought to solicit hackers to steal information and send it to the “Most Wanted Leaks” list posted on the WikiLeaks site.

“I was a famous teenage hacker in Australia, and I’ve been reading emails since I was 17,” the charging document says, allegedly telling potential hacker recruits that they would have no legal liability for sending him classified information unless they were an active member of the U.S. military.

He also allegedly urged hackers at a 2010 conference in New York to leak military secrets, and also in 2010, gained unauthorized access to an unidentified NATO country’s computer system.

The government claims he made contact in 2012 with the head of the hacking group LulzSec, by then cooperating with the FBI, and allegedly gave them a list of targets to hack.

Assange faces a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison for conspiracy to commit computer intrusion and 10 years maximum for each of the other counts.

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