USA charges WikiLeaks founder with publishing classified info

The charges were approved by a grand jury and drastically increase the legal fight that lies ahead for Assange.

The US Justice Department has charged WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange with receiving and publishing classified information, including the names of confidential sources for American armed forces.

The charges are contained in an 18-count indictment announced on Thursday.

But prosecutors on Thursday pushed back Assange's defense, saying that he aided and abetted the theft of classified documents and ignored warnings that publishing the information would jeopardize sources.

The new charges relate to WikiLeaks' publishing of material obtained by Chelsea Manning, who gave the Assange reams of internal military and State Department documents.

Starting in late 2009, Assange is alleged to have solicited United States classified information, a call to which Manning is said to have responded. It says his actions "risked serious harm" to the United States.

Department officials believe Assange strayed far outside First Amendment protections. It has not and never has been the department's policy to target them for reporting.

The indictment specifically addresses Assange's exchanges with Manning, alleging that "after agreeing to receiving classified documents from Manning and aiding, abetting, and causing Manning to provide classified documents", Assange then published those documents on WikiLeaks - an act they say put confidential sources used by the USA government overseas in potential danger.

Assange is now fighting extradition to the United States, after Ecuador in April revoked his seven-year asylum in the country's London embassy.

Prosecutors go on to cite tweets from WikiLeaks as evidence of the the alleged conspiracy's objective to "subvert lawful restrictions on classified information and publicly disseminate it".

In one such message, Manning allegedly tells Assange "i told you before, government/organizations cant control information... the harder they try, the more violently the information wants to get out". But Julian Assange is no journalist".

  • Jon Douglas