The President of Ecuador may have accused Julian Assange of “spying” on rather dubious evidence, but a grand jury in the United States may be on firmer footing. A federal judge has unsealed the original criminal complaint against the Wikileaks founder, originally filed two years ago. It includes transcripts of online chats between Assange and Chelsea (then Bradley) Manning. And the charges make it sound as if the two of them were certainly conspiring to do something… but what?
A federal judge on Monday ordered the release of previously sealed documents filed in the case against Julian Assange, offering up new details about the U.S. government’s allegations against the WikiLeaks founder.
The original affidavit and criminal complaint were made public in a Virginia federal court for the first time since they were filed in 2017, and they include chat logs between Assange and former U.S. intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.
Assange was arrested last week in London at the request of U.S. authorities, after the Ecuadorian government decided to stop allowing Assange to remain in their U.K. embassy. The Justice Department later unsealed its indictment against the WikiLeaks founder.
They’re citing a number of logs of online chats between Manning and “the individual” cited in the criminal complaint. While Assange isn’t named in the transcripts, they point to a number of statements aligning that individual with various events Assange attended and references to his activities at Wikileaks. Also, Manning later went on to say that it took him several months to figure out that he was actually communicating with Assange, but he eventually did.
So what was Assange talking about with Manning? Some of it is just what you would expect, but the portion standing out for the prosecution is an instance where Mr. Wikileaks was offering advice on how to crack a password that would give Manning access to a Defense Department network containing classified information. If true, that sounds like grounds for a conspiracy charge.
The unanswered question is whether or not Manning eventually was able to break into the system and if he extracted any classified documents. If that’s the case, the conspiracy charge is taken to a new level. It’s probably a fair bet that these are the questions prosecutors wanted Manning to answer before the grand jury last month, resulting in his current confinement in jail after he refused.
Assuming we manage to extradite Assange from London (still a major assumption since the Swedes are asking for him on sexual assault charges as well), it’s going to be a barnburner of a trial. Everyone on the left claiming that Assange is a journalist will call this a witch hunt and a threat to the First Amendment. Critics of President Trump will be lined up to see if Assange has any dirt on the alleged Russian collusion story. And the woke protests in support of both Assange and Manning will fill cable news stories for months or years to come.
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