An apparent error in a separate criminal complaint filed by attorneys with the Department of Justice (DOJ) reveals WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange has been formally charged by the U.S.
According to a three-page motion filed in August, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kellen Dwyer wrote to the court requesting to seal an unrelated case of a man charged with underage sex crimes, “due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged.”
“The complaint, supporting affidavit, and arrest warrant, as well as this motion and
the proposed order, would need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested in connection with the charges in the criminal complaint and can therefore no longer evade or avoid arrest and extradition in this matter,” Dwyer continued in his court motion.
No details surrounding the charges prepared against Mr. Assange are known, although the WikiLeaks founder came under pressure during the 2016 presidential campaign for publishing internal DNC emails which U.S. intelligence believes was stolen by Russian hackers.
The New York Times also reported late Friday former CIA Director Mike Pompeo and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions launched an investigation of Assange which lead to charges being filed in August.
Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating alleged Russian interference, charged 12 GRU officers in July with the hacking which “contained thinly veiled references to WikiLeaks,” according to the Times.
U.S. law enforcement has also long sought Assange for prosecution over his role in the publication of the secret documents obtained from former Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning and former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
As early as November 2010, U.S. officials publicly admitted to an ongoing investigation of WikiLeaks and Assange; in April 2017, the DOJ confirmed efforts to prepare an indictment were underway.
Legal experts have speculated Assange and his colleagues at the investigative journalistic group could potentially face counts of espionage, theft of U.S. government property, general conspiracy and violations of both the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
Facing charges in Sweden over allegations he assaulted two women, Assange applied for and was granted asylum in Ecuador’s London embassy.
Although he has remained in the Ecuadorian embassy since 2012, Assange has faced increasing pressure from Quito to leave embassy grounds.
While Assange’s lawyer said Friday his client will not voluntarily go, federal charges may force the U.K. to extradite Assange to the U.S.
[Washington Post] [AP] [Reuters] [Photo courtesy AP/F. Augstein via Deutsche Welle]