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DOJ accuses WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange of recruiting hackers

It's not adding charges, but it is adding new allegations.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
June 24, 2020
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LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 01: Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange leaves Southwark Crown Court in a security van after being sentenced on May 1, 2019 in London, England. Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange, 47, was sentenced to 50 weeks in prison for breaching his bail conditions when he took refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over sexual assault allegations, charges he denies. The UK will now decide whether to extradite him to US to face conspiracy charges after his whistle-blowing website Wikileaks published classified US documents. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
Jack Taylor/Getty Images

The Justice Department is levelling more accusations against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange — though not new charges. Officials have filed a superseding indictment against Assange that maintains the earlier 18 counts of computer intrusion and Espionage Act violations, but adds claims that he recruited hackers, including people from Anonymous and LulzSec.

Most notably, the DOJ alleges that Assange talked to a LulzSec leader (who’d already turned FBI informant) in 2012 and provided a list of hacking targets for a document sweep. He reportedly encouraged the LulzSec leader to target the CIA, NSA and New York Times, arguing that theses organizations’ hacked materials would be more “impactful,” according to the DOJ.

The updated charges also cite an Anonymous- and LulzSec-linked hacker who said that Assange asked him to spam a US intelligence consulting company after he had already taken emails from the firm. The DOJ had already accused Assange of plotting with Chelsea Manning to break into a Defense Department computer.

Assange is still detained in the UK facing extradition to the US. These new claims won’t necessarily lead to more prison time for Assange if he’s convicted, but the government is clearly hoping they’ll bolster the case against the WikiLeaks creator.

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