Assange Indictment in Federal Court in Northern Virginia
Julian Assange's indictment was unsealed in federal court in Northern Virginia this week. The court is the Eastern District of Virginia in Alexandria, VA. This court has handled many terrorism cases and cases involving spies and classified information in the past.
There are a number of interesting - and potentially troubling - legal issues in Assange's case. We will be exploring these one at a time in upcoming blog posts.
For now, this post concerns the indictment itself. You can read the indictment here:
The indictment is very short - six pages total. It charges Assange with only one crime: conspiracy to commit a computer crime, in violation of the conspiracy statute (18 U.S.C. 371) and the federal Computer Crimes statute (18 U.S.C. 1030) , which is an anti-hacking statute.
In describing the scope of the offense, the indictment also references two other federal statutes which make improperly obtaining government records and classified information illegal: 18 U.S.C. 631 - Theft of Public Money, Property or Records and 18 U.S.C. 793 - Gathering, Transmitting or Losing Defense Information.
In very basic terms, the indictment alleges Assange agreed to help former Army intelligence officer Bradley, (now Chelsea) Manning to crack a computer password that would give Manning access to a classified DOD database. From the few details provided, it appears that the pair may not have succeeded in cracking the password.
The indictment describes the databases that Manning did download as containing information about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, detainee assessment briefs concerning prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, and State Department cables.
The events in the indictment took place in 2010 and 2011.