LONDON — The Justice Department revealed Thursday that it has charged Julian Assange with computer hacking hours after the fugitive founder of WikiLeaks was arrested in London on behalf of a U.S. request to extradite him.
Assange, the publisher of state secrets that embarrassed governments around the world, was wanted in Britain for skipping bail in 2012, when he was under investigation in Sweden on charges of sexual assault and rape. He spent almost seven years living in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to avoid extradition to the U.S.
Prosecutors say the password was being sought by Chelsea Manning, a former Army intelligence officer who provided Assange with a trove of secret government documents that WikiLeaks published in 2010 — “one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States,” according to the indictment.
Assange, 47, has said that the United States is trying to infringe on his journalistic freedoms. The indictment accused him of going beyond the role of a traditional journalist when he helped Manning crack the password that gave her access to hundreds of thousands of classified files.