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Assange Hit with New 18-Count Indictment

The US authorities have slapped Julian Assange with a new 18-count indictment on charges relating to illegally obtaining, retaining and disclosing classified information via WikiLeaks.

The indictment supersedes an earlier charge of hacking the Pentagon, and has drawn criticism from advocates of press freedom.

It could also make the UK Home Secretary’s decision to extradite the Wikileaks co-founder more difficult, given that the revelations published by the whistle-blowing site were ostensibly done so in the public interest — something that Assange’s lawyers argue should be covered by the First Amendment anyway.

The charges relate to hundreds of thousands of secret diplomatic cables and other documents related to US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

They allege that the 47-year-old conspired with whistleblower Chelsea Manning, a former army intelligence analyst, to obtain and then publish the documents, harming national security.

Crucially, the published trove contained unredacted names of US informants in Iraq and Afghanistan, and US State Department ‘diplomats’ globally, potentially putting them at risk, the DoJ claimed.

It listed 90,000 Afghanistan war-related “significant activity” reports, 400,000 Iraq war-related reports, 800 Guantanamo Bay detainee assessment briefs, and 250,000 US Department of State cables.

The indictment also contains the original charge, that Assange agreed to crack a password hash stored on US Department of Defense computers connected to the Secret Internet Protocol Network (SIPRNet).

If found guilty, Assange faces 10 years behind bars for each count, amounting to a total of 175 years.

Last month, Assange was arrested at the Ecuadorian embassy in London after the Metropolitan Police were invited in following the Ecuadorian government’s termination of asylum. He had been holed up there since 2012 after breaching the terms of his bail.

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