The U.S. government has filed charges against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange — and the reason we know is because of a copy-and-paste error.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kellen S. Dwyer accidentally dropped in two references to the sealed charges against Julian Assange in a filing for a separate unsealed case completely unrelated to Wikileaks. The , which are unknown at this time, are under seal according to a report by The Washington Post.
The unintentional disclosure appears to have occurred due to a copy-and-paste mistake, reports both and . It looks as if the prosecutor copied text from a similar case and neglected to swap out Assange’s name.
SCOOP: US Department of Justice “accidentally” reveals existence of sealed charges (or a draft for them) against WikiLeaks’ publisher Julian Assange in apparent cut-and-paste error in an unrelated case also at the Eastern District of Virginia. https://t.co/wrjlAbXk5Z pic.twitter.com/4UlB0c1SAX
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) November 16, 2018
In the unrelated filing written in August and unsealed on November 8, Dwyer writes “Another procedure short of sealing will not adequately protect the needs of law enforcement at this time because, due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged.”
Later in the filing, Dwyer makes another reference to the Assange case, “The complaint, supporting affidavit, and arrest warrant, as well as this motion and the proposed order, would need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested in connection with the charges in the criminal complaint and can therefore no longer evade or avoid arrest and extradition in this matter.”
Deputy Director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University Seamus Hughes originally made the discovery and shared his findings on Twitter.
The charges against Assange come nearly 8 years after the U.S. Justice Department first began a criminal investigation into Wikileaks after the release of U.S. diplomatic cables in November 2010. At the time, under then-Attorney General Eric Holder, the Justice Department was considering charges related to a violation of the Espionage Act. Fearing extradition to the U.S., Assange has been living in London’s Ecuadorian embassy since 2010, avoiding British arrest over a sexual assault case in Sweden.
Special counsel 12 Russian intelligence officers in July for their role in hacking the DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign during the 2016 election. A Wikileaks connection was cited in the indictment. Political consultant Roger Stone, as well as other President Trump confidantes, have been wrapped into Mueller’s investigation as connections between Russia, Wikileaks, and the Trump campaign are being explored.
While the Obama administration’s Justice Department that prosecuting Assange would threaten the freedom of the press, it seems the DOJ under the Trump administration has a different take. Assange’s prosecution, argue civil rights groups like , would set a dangerous precedent for journalists and the first amendment.