WikiLeaks founder Assange faces new accusations of trying to recruit hackers at conferences

WASHINGTON – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange tried to recruit hackers to conferences in Europe and Asia that could provide classified information to his anti-secret website, and conspired with members of hacking organizations, according to a new Justice Department indictment announced on Wednesday.

The replacement indictment contains no additional charges beyond the 18 charges that the Justice Department uncovered last year. But prosecutors say it underlines Assange’s efforts to obtain and disclose classified information, allegations that form the basis of the criminal charges he already faces.

Beyond recruiting hackers at conferences, the indictment accuses Assange of conspiring with members of hacker groups known as LulzSec and Anonymous. He also worked with a 17-year-old hacker who gave him stolen information from a bank and ordered the teen to steal additional material, including audio recordings of high-ranking government officials, prosecutors say.

Assange’s lawyer, Barry Pollack, said in a statement that “the government’s relentless search for Julian Assange represents a serious threat to journalists everywhere and to the public’s right to know.”

“While today’s replacement indictment is yet another chapter in the US government’s effort to persuade the public that its search for Julian Assange is based on more than just its publication of truthful newsworthy information” He added, “the prosecution continues to accuse him of raping him.” the WikiLeaks Post-Based Espionage Act Exposing War Crimes Committed by the United States Government. “

Assange was arrested last year after being evicted from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he had sought refuge to avoid being sent to Sweden on charges of rape and sexual assault, and is at the center of an extradition fight over whether he should be sent. to the United States.

The Justice Department has already accused him of conspiring with former United States Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in one of the largest classified information engagements in United States history by working together to crack a password on a government computer.

Prosecutors say the WikiLeaks founder damaged national security by publishing hundreds of thousands of classified documents, including diplomatic cables and military files on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which harmed the United States and its allies and aided their adversaries.

Assange maintains that he was acting as a journalist entitled to First Amendment protection. Her attorneys have argued that the charges of espionage and computer misuse in the United States were politically motivated and an abuse of power.

Assange generated considerable attention during the 2016 presidential election, and in the investigations that followed, after WikiLeaks published stolen Democratic emails that US authorities say were hacked by Russian military intelligence officials. An investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller revealed how Trump campaign associates eagerly anticipated email disclosures. A Trump ally, Roger Stone, was found guilty last year of lying about his efforts to obtain insider information on emails. Assange, however, was never charged in Mueller’s investigation in Russia.

The accusations at the new conference prosecution center, in places like the Netherlands and Malaysia in 2009, in which prosecutors say he and a WikiLeaks associate sought to recruit hackers who could locate classified information, including material on a list of “Most Wanted Leaks” posted on the WikiLeaks website.

According to the new indictment, he told potential recruits that, unless they were members of the US Army. In the US, they had no legal responsibility for stealing classified information and turning it over to WikiLeaks “because ‘TOP SECRET’ did not mean anything legally.”

At a conference in Malaysia, called the “Hack in the Box Security Conference,” Assange told the audience, “I was a famous teenage hacker in Australia, and I’ve been reading emails from generals since I was 17 years old.”