LONDON — Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, who had been pent up in the Ecudorian Embassy in London, was finally evicted. British authorities were permitted to enter the embassy and arrested him under the U.S./U.K. Extradition Treaty. And today, the Justice Department unsealed a grand jury indictment against Assange for conspiring to crack a password on SIPRNet, the U.S. Department of Defense’s secret computer network used to transfer encrypted communications and classified information.
But for now, speculators have been wrong about Assange. Over the past several months, news media speculated that a grand jury secretly indicted Assange for interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. However, this indictment reveals that Assange was charged by the grand jury on March 6, 2018. Therefore, Assange could very easily have been indicted under seal in another U.S. Court on charges relating more specifically to intereference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Only time will tell.
Today, however, the Justice Department unsealed a grand jury indictment against Assange accusing him of conspiring with Cheslsea Manning crack into SIPRNet back in March 2010.
In turn, Manning used her access to download several databases containing classified information about the Agfghanistan and Iraq wars and Guantanmo Bay. Then, she gave those documents to WikiLeaks. The indictment alleges Assange knew the documents he received were classified. And a key is that Assange was not authorized to receive U.S. classified information but had used WikiLeaks to solicit for it.
After Assange published those documents on WikiLeaks, Manning gave Assange a password to crack that was stored as a hash value in a computer file accessible only to administrative-level privileges on the network. Manning did not have those privileges. So, she used Linux to access the hash value and provided it to Assange.
Assange and Manning communicated through Jabber chat service to collaborate about the classified records and entered into an agreement to crack the password. Then, Assange took steps to conceal that it wasManning who disclosed the classified records to WikiLeaks. Assange deleted usernames from the disclosed information and deleted their chat logs on Jabber.
On March 10, 2010, Assange asked Manning for more information the password. Assange indicated that he had been trying to crack the password and had “no luck so far.”
Later, Manning used the Department of Defense’s computers to download over 250,000 State Department cables. And transmitted them via dropbox to WikiLeaks. Then Assange published the cables.
The indictment falls short of saying whether Assange was actually successful in cracking the hash value. Regardless, the crime of conspiracy doesn’t require to prove that the conspirators succeeded with their crime. That there was an agreement to try and crack the hash value and tried to crack it is good enough to prove conspiracy.
The indictment indicates: “Julian Paul Assange was the founder and leader of the WikiLeaks website. The WikiLeaks website publicly solicited submissions of classified, censored, and other restricted information.” And that he was not authorized to receive classified information of the U.S.