Assange, Manning Had Reason to Believe Leaks Would Damage US, Prosecutors Say

April 16, 2019 Updated: April 16, 2019

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and former U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning had reason to believe that leaking U.S. military reports “would cause injury” to the country, federal prosecutors alleged in a newly unsealed court filing on April 15.

In the affidavit submitted to federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, prosecutors said U.S. military reports from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq included information about the “identity and significance of local supporters of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan.”

When U.S. forces raided the compound in Pakistan where Osama bin Laden was hiding out, for example, they found a letter that showed the al-Qaeda leader was interested in copies of Pentagon documents published on WikiLeaks, the prosecutors said.

According to prosecutors, leaked reports on the Afghan war included information on militants’ improvised explosive device designs and attacks, including details of U.S. and coalition countermeasures against such home-made explosive devices and their limitations.

Indictment

The prosecution’s affidavit is dated Dec. 21, 2017, but was made public on April 15. It follows the unsealing last week of a U.S. indictment charging Assange with conspiring with Manning to gain access to a government computer as part of one of the largest compromises of classified information in U.S. history.

Manning provided Assange with nearly 750,000 classified or sensitive military and diplomatic documents, which Assange then published on WikiLeaks, the online disclosure platform he founded in 2006.

Barry Pollack, a lawyer for Assange in Washington, said: “Encouraging sources to provide information, and using methods to protect their identity, are common practices by all journalists. There is no new information in the affidavit that was unavailable to the Department of Justice when it decided in the Obama administration that pursuing criminal charges against Mr. Assange would be contrary to the First Amendment.”

Arrest

British police arrested Assange at Washington’s request after Ecuador revoked his seven-year asylum on April 11. He was carried out of the Ecuadorean Embassy in London and is being held in prison while he faces extradition to the United States.

The U.S. indictment, originally issued in secret by an Alexandria, Virginia-based grand jury in March 2018, said Assange in March 2010 engaged in a conspiracy to help Manning crack a password for a classified U.S. government network. The indictment didn’t allege Assange succeeded in cracking the password.

In the unsealed affidavit, prosecutors said Manning also had access to other U.S. government databases, including one relating to the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and a State Department database containing military cables.

Manning was sentenced in 2013 to 35 years in military prison for leaking classified data, but had 28 years of his sentence commuted by President Barack Obama.

Manning was then arrested in March and remains in custody for refusing to testify to a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks.

Assange is expected to appear via video link for his next court appearance on May 2. The charge against him carries the maximum sentence of five years.

Epoch Times reporters Petr Svab and Janita Kan contributed to this report.

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