Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, was arrested today in connection with a federal charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion for agreeing to break a password to a classified U.S. government computer.
Assange was arrested at the Ecuadorean embassy in London where he had been living under asylum for seven years. Ecuador announced it was withdrawing his asylum for “repeatedly violating international conventions and protocol.”
Ecuador’s president, Lenin Moreno , said in a video posted on Twitter:
Today I announce that the discourteous and aggressive behavior of Mr. Julian Assange, the hostile and threatening declarations of its allied organization, against Ecuador, and especially the transgression of international treaties, have led the situation to a point where the asylum of Mr. Assange is unsustainable and no longer viable.
The charge announced by the Justice Department relates to his role in the 2010 release of classified government documents.
The indictment alleges that in March 2010, Assange engaged in a conspiracy with Chelsea Manning, a former intelligence analyst in the U.S. Army, to assist Manning in cracking a password stored on U.S. Department of Defense computers connected to the Secret Internet Protocol Network (SIPRNet), a U.S. government network used for classified documents and communications.
Manning, who had access to the computers in connection with her duties as an intelligence analyst, was using the computers to download classified records to transmit to WikiLeaks. Cracking the password would have allowed Manning to log on to the computers under a username that did not belong to her. Such a deceptive measure would have made it more difficult for investigators to determine the source of the illegal disclosures.
During the conspiracy, Manning and Assange engaged in real-time discussions regarding Manning’s transmission of classified records to Assange. The discussions also reflect Assange actively encouraging Manning to provide more information. During an exchange, Manning told Assange that “after this upload, that’s all I really have got left,” to which Assange replied, “curious eyes never run dry in my experience.”
Assange is charged with conspiracy to commit computer intrusion and is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. He faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison if convicted.
The extradition will be handled by the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs.