WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested earlier today and is facing a US conspiracy charge to hack military computers after Ecuador’s government ended his seven years of self-imposed exile.
In an indictment revealed this morning, U.S. authorities alleged that Assange conspired with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to steal and publish large amounts of classified documents. Prosecutors said Assange at one point tried to help Manning crack a password to access military computers where the secret information was stored.
Over the course of four months, back in 2010, Manning downloaded hundreds of thousands of secret reports on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as State Department cables and information about detainees held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Manning then turned the records over to WikiLeaks, which passed them to journalists and published them on the internet.
Prosecutors say it was one of the most extensive leaks of classified secrets in U.S. history.
Barry Pollack, a U.S. lawyer for Assange, criticized the arrest saying Assange would need medical treatment that had been denied to him for seven years.
The U.S. charges center on his interactions with Manning. Prosecutors said Assange encouraged her to leak classified secrets to the anti-secrecy group, and tried to help her crack a password to Defense Department computers that stored classified secrets. That would have allowed Manning to log on to the computer network with someone else’s username.
Wikileaks claims that “Powerful actors, including CIA, are engaged in a sophisticated effort to dehumanize, delegitimize and imprison him.”