The Department of Justice has made its formal request to the U.K. to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange، Washington Examiner reported.
The U.S. made this official extradition request to the U.K. last Thursday، June 6، according to “a U.S. official who spoke on background to discuss a sensitive matter” as reported by the Washington Post.
The extradition treaty between the U.K. and the U.S.، signed in 2003 and made effective in 2007، required that “the formal request for extradition and the documents supporting the extradition request” had to be received within 60 days of Assange’s arrest back on April 11.
The next extradition hearing had been scheduled for June 12، although WikiLeaks says it has been moved to June 14.
Assange، 47، had initially been arrested at Ecuador’s Embassy in London early this year in connection to a single charge in the U.S. of conspiring to hack into a Pentagon computer network in 2010. This initial indictment revealed that prosecutors charged him with conspiracy to commit computer intrusion by agreeing to help Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning crack a password that would have given Manning access to a classified military network.
Federal prosecutors later accused the WikiLeaks founder of violating the Espionage Act as part of a new superseding indictment in late May، charging him on 17 new counts in addition to the single count unsealed in early April.
The Justice Department said those charges “relate to Assange’s alleged role in one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States.”
The U.S. government alleges that Assange "actively solicited United States classified information، including by publishing a list of ‘Most Wanted Leaks’ that sought، among other things، classified documents" starting in late 2009.
The extradition treaty between the two nations would make it very difficult for Assange to be charged with further crimes once he is brought from the U.K. to the U.S.، because the agreement says that persons extradited under the treaty can only be tried for crimes “for which extradition was granted” or crimes that are carried out “after the extradition of the person.” The idea that someone cannot be prosecuted for crimes not mentioned in their extradition proceedings is known in international law as the Doctrine of Speciality، although a provision in the treaty does say that the U.K. could potentially waive that provision if the U.S. asks.
Describing Assange as “the public face of WikiLeaks،” the Justice Department said he founded the website with the purpose of it being “an intelligence agency of the people.” The superseding indictment also said the information that WikiLeaks published "included names of local Afghans and Iraqis who had provided information to U.S. and coalition forces،" which prosecutors alleged "created a grave and imminent risk that the innocent people he named would suffer serious physical harm andor arbitrary detention."
Assange’s attorney، Barry Pollack، said last month: “These unprecedented charges demonstrate the gravity of the threat the criminal prosecution of Julian Assange poses to all journalists in their endeavor to inform the public about actions that have been taken by the U.S. government.”
The Justice Department said the disclosures from WikiLeaks put sources working with the U.S. “at great risk to their own safety،" including "journalists، religious leaders، human rights advocates، and political dissidents who were living in repressive regimes and reported to the United States the abuses of their own government.”
The DOJ said in its filings that “Manning responded to Assange’s solicitations by using access granted to her as an intelligence analyst to search for United States classified documents، and provided to Assange and WikiLeaks databases containing approximately 90،000 Afghanistan war-related significant activity reports، 400،000 Iraq war-related significant activities reports، 800 Guantanamo Bay detainee assessment briefs، and 250،000 U.S. Department of State cables.” Assange was not charged، however، for his organization’s role in exposing the CIA’s “Vault 7” program back in 2017، a massive document dump that revealed details about the agency’s electronic surveillance and hacking capabilities.
Nor was the WikiLeaks founder charged in connection to Russia’s election interference in 2016. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report said Russia's Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff، or GRU، hacked into Democratic Party email systems، stole thousands of their emails، and then distributed them through two GRU-operated fronts — the DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 websites. Mueller further reports “the GRU units transferred many of the documents they stole from the DNC and the chairman of the Clinton Campaign to WikiLeaks.”
Manning was convicted at a court martial trial in 2013 of leaking a trove of documents to WikiLeaks. Sentenced to 35 years in prison، Manning's sentence was commuted by Barack Obama just days before the end of his presidency in January 2017. Manning was recently imprisoned again after refusing to provide grand jury testimony in relation to the WikiLeaks case.
Assange’s possible arrest and extradition to the U.S. had been telegraphed after prosecutors mistakenly revealed in November 2018 that the Justice Department had secretly filed criminal charges against Assange. Following a U.K. Supreme Court ruling that he should be extradited to Sweden for questioning over sexual assault charges، Assange sought and was granted political asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London back in 2012. He had remained there until London’s Metropolitan Police arrested him in April.
It's possible that Assange could eventually appeal his case to a higher British court and perhaps even to the European Court of Human Rights.