The Justice Department announced a criminal charge Thursday against WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange, accusing him of conspiring with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to hack into a classified U.S. government computer.
“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 Justice Department said in a press release.
The announcement followed an extradition request by the U.S. for Assange, 47, who on Thursday morning was arrested and removed from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he has lived for nearly seven years. A British judge said Thursday that the U.S. must share its case justifying Assange’s extradition by June 12, multiple outlets reported.
If convicted, Assange could face five years in prison, though his actual sentence would likely fall below the legal maximum.
The indictment, filed under seal in the Eastern District of Virginia in March 2018, states that he and Manning worked together in 2010 to crack passwords on government computers and download reams of information with the intent of publishing them on WikiLeaks. Manning was jailed last month for refusing to testify to a grand jury investigating Assange’s document-sharing organization.