WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested on Thursday by British police and carried out of the Ecuadorean embassy, where he has been hiding for nearly seven years to avoid extradition to Sweden over a sexual assault investigation. The Ecuadorean embassy rescinded his asylum this morning.
“Julian Assange, 47, has today, Thursday 11 April, been arrested by officers from the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) at the Embassy of Ecuador,” an MPS statement said.
Reuters reported that a video posted online showed an agitated, frail-looking man with white hair and a white beard being carried out of the central London building by at least seven men.
A short while later, MPS said Assange had been “further arrested on behalf of the United States authorities”, at 10:53hrs after his arrival at a central London police station. The statement continued: “This is an extradition warrant under Section 73 of the Extradition Act. He will appear in custody at Westminster Magistrates’ Court later today (Thursday, 11 April).”
The extradition warrant is in connection with a federal charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion for agreeing to break a password to a classified U.S. government computer. According to court documents unsealed today, the charge relates to Assange’s alleged role in one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States.
The indictment alleges that in March 2010, Assange engaged in a conspiracy with Chelsea Manning, a former intelligence analyst in the U.S. Army, to assist Manning in cracking a password stored on U.S. Department of Defense computers connected to the Secret Internet Protocol Network (SIPRNet), a U.S. government network used for classified documents and communications. Manning, who had access to the computers in connection with her duties as an intelligence analyst, was using the computers to download classified records to transmit to WikiLeaks. Cracking the password would have allowed Manning to log on to the computers under a username that did not belong to her. Such a deceptive measure would have made it more difficult for investigators to determine the source of the illegal disclosures.
A Department of Justice statement says that during the conspiracy, Manning and Assange engaged in real-time discussions regarding Manning’s transmission of classified records to Assange. The discussions also reflect Assange actively encouraging Manning to provide more information. During an exchange, Manning told Assange that “after this upload, that’s all I really have got left.” To which Assange replied, “curious eyes never run dry in my experience.”
Assange is charged with conspiracy to commit computer intrusion. He faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison if convicted.