The WikiLeaks founder has long drawn the attention of federal investigators for revealing U.S. secrets.
WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange has been charged under seal, prosecutors inadvertently revealed in a recently unsealed court filing — a development that could significantly advance the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election and have major implications for those who publish government secrets.
The disclosure came in a filing in a case unrelated to Assange. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kellen S. Dwyer, urging a judge to keep the matter sealed, wrote “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, Dwyer wrote the charges would “need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested.”
Joshua Stueve, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Virginia said, “The court filing was made in error. That was not the intended name for this filing.”
An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment.
Federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia have long been investigating Assange, and in the Trump administration had begun taking a second look at whether to charge members of the WikiLeaks organization for the 2010 leak of diplomatic cables and military documents which the anti-secrecy group published. Investigators also had explored whether WikiLeaks could face criminal liability for the more recent revelation of sensitive CIA cyber-tools.
Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III has also exploring the publication by WikiLeaks of emails from the Democratic National Committee and the account of Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John D. Podesta. Officials have alleged the emails were hacked by Russian spies and transferred to WikiLeaks.