United States prosecutors have accidentally revealed the existence of criminal charges against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in a recently unsealed court filing in an unrelated ongoing sex crime case in the Eastern District of Virginia.
Assistant US Attorney Kellen S. Dwyer, who made this disclosure on August 22, urged the judge to keep the indictment [pdf] prepared against Assange sealed (secret) "due to the sophistication of the defendant, and the publicity surrounding the case."
Dwyer is assigned to the WikiLeaks case.
Dwyer also said the charges would "need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested in connection with the charges" in the indictment and can, therefore "no longer evade or avoid arrest and extradition in this matter."
WikiLeaks, the website that published thousands of classified U.S. government documents in 2010, said on social network Twitter that the Assange's name appearing in those court documents was due to an "apparent cut-and-paste error."
The charges America is bringing against the WikiLeaks Founder remains unclear, but the Justice Department last year was reportedly considering filing criminal charges against WikiLeaks and Assange in connection with the leak of diplomatic cables and military documents in 2010.
Special counsel Robert S. Mueller is probing leaks during the U.S. 2016 presidential election, and it was WikiLeaks who made public stolen emails from officials of Democratic National Committee (DNC), including Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta.
Assange, the 47-year-old Australian hacker, founded WikiLeaks in 2006 and has since made many high-profile leaks, exposing 'dirty' secrets of several individuals, political parties as well as government organizations across the world.
AI vs. AI: Harnessing AI Defenses Against AI-Powered Risks
Ready to tackle new AI-driven cybersecurity challenges? Join our insightful webinar with Zscaler to address the growing threat of generative AI in cybersecurity.Supercharge Your Skills
Assange has been forced to live in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since June 2012, after he was granted asylum by the Ecuador government when a British court ordered his extradition to Sweden to face questioning sexual assault and rape.
However, Assange's relationship with Ecuador has deteriorated in recent months, leaving his future uncertain. Ecuador has cut him off the Internet and any communication with the outside world except for his lawyers since this March.
The circumstances even made it difficult for him to do his job of editor-in-chief to run WikiLeaks and forced the whistleblower organization to appoint its new editor-in-chief, Kristinn Hrafnsson.
The new charges against Assange could ultimately have additional cascading effects.
"The news that criminal charges have apparently been filed against Mr. Assange is even more troubling than the haphazard manner in which that information has been revealed," Assange lawyer Barry Pollack told The New York Times.
"The government bringing criminal charges against someone for publishing truthful information is a dangerous path for a democracy to take."