WikiLeaks boss Julian Assange has been indicted by the United States government on 18 counts stemming from accusations that he published classified intelligence, the Department of Justice announced on Thursday.
The additional charges in the superseding indictment returned by a federal grand jury on Thursday stem from accusations of a 2010 disclosure of classified intelligence material that was provided to Assange by Chelsea Manning (who was known as Bradley Manning at the time).
The indictment “alleges that Assange was complicit with Chelsea Manning, a former intelligence analyst in the U.S. Army, in unlawfully obtaining and disclosing classified documents related to the national defense,” and that “many of these documents were classified at the Secret level, meaning that their unauthorized disclosure could cause serious damage to United States national security,” the Department of Justice said.
The new charges might suggest that the government is planning to play hardball with Assange after originally indicting him in March with the comparatively minor offense of “conspiracy to commit computer intrusion” relating to the same incident.
None of the new charges relate to Assange’s publication of a trove of hacked documents from the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chief John Podesta in October 2016. The emails were provided to him by agents of the Russian government with the purpose of helping Donald Trump win the presidential election.
Assange went to great lengths to conceal Russian involvement in the intervening years, including an interview with Sean Hannity in which he fueled speculation that the emails had been provided by Seth Rich, a former DNC staffer, who was murdered in a still-unsolved case a short time later.
In addition to his legal troubles in the United States, prosecutors in Sweden announced earlier this month that they would reopen a rape investigation into Assange brought by two women who accused him back in 2010 while he was visiting the country.
“I have today taken the decision to reopen the preliminary investigation,” Eva-Marie Persson, Sweden’s deputy director of public prosecutions, told reporters. “I take the view that there exists the possibility to take the case forward.” Assange has denied the charges and consistently maintained his innocence.
Facing extradition to multiple countries, Assange spent the last seven years holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, which finally booted him in April 2019. He was immediately taken into British custody upon his release.