WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gives a thumbs up after his arrest last week in London. Photo by EPA-EFE
April 16 (UPI) -- U.S. prosecutors secretly filed charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in 2017, two months before the public indictment, court documents show.
An affidavit unsealed Monday shows chat logs between Assange and former U.S. intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning. Prosecutors accuse Assange of helping Manning crack a password to hack into a Defense Department network and access classified information.
The documents show that after one exchange of documents, Manning said, "that's all i really got left." Assange pushed for more. Manning replied "i've already exposed quite a bit, just no-one knows yet. i'll slip into darkness for a few years, let the heat die down."
Manning was arrested two months later in Iraq where she was on duty. Assange was arrested last week after spending nearly six years under the protection of the Ecuadorian embassy.
The affidavit states that U.S. authorities identified the founder of WikiLeaks as the person Manning was communicating with because he dropped hints during the chats. The person had knowledge of the financial day-to-day operations of WikiLeaks and talked about events and matters that Assange was known to be involved in.
The affidavit isn't clear on whether Assange was able to figure out the password.
Manning was convicted of violating the Espionage Act and copying and disseminating classified military field reports. She allegedly downloaded sensitive information about the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and the operations in Guantanamo Bay.
President Barack Obama commuted her sentence after she spent nearly seven years in jail. But the Trump administration has made prosecuting Assange a priority with then CIA director Mike Pompeo calling WikiLeaks a "nonstate hostile intelligence service."
Ecuador foreign minister Jose Valencia said it revoked Assange's political asylum because his behavior was "undeserving, disrespectful." He went on to say that Ecuador was concerned he might hack their network, too.
Assange will remain in a London jail until an extradition hearing next month, during which he will learn if he'll be sent to the United States to face hacking charges.