What Is Julian Assange Charged With? Prosecutors Accidentally Reveal Charges Against Wikileaks Founder

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been charged under seal in the United States, prosecutors mistakenly revealed in a court filing unrelated to his case.

The accidental disclosure was first reported on Twitter Thursday by Seamus Hughes, deputy director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University. Sources reportedly confirmed to The Washington Post that the leak was "true, but unintentional."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kellen S. Dwyer mistakenly revealed the information in an August 22 filing that part was of an ongoing case in the Eastern District of Virginia. Dwyer is also probing WikiLeaks.

"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," Dwyer wrote in the filing, which added that charges would "need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested."

It remains unclear what charges the U.S. is bringing against the WikiLeaks publisher. Assange and his anti-secrecy group have long been under investigation for the publication of thousands of government documents. Federal prosecutors under the Trump administration have reportedly been looking at possible charges related to leaks in 2010. And special counsel Robert Mueller has examined the publication by WikiLeaks of Democratic emails during the 2016 presidential election campaign.

While prosecutors have mulled over charges such as conspiracy or violations of the Espionage Act, critics of that approach worried that taking on WikiLeaks—in the form of a publisher—would leave news outlets at risk. Many traditional outlets routinely publicize government secrets.

"Prosecuting Wikileaks would set a dangerous precedent that the Trump administration would surely use to target other news organizations," the American Civil Liberties Union wrote in April 2017.

Based on the filing, prosecutors may circumvent WikiLeaks and focus on Assange. Trump administration officials have previously called for his arrest and incarceration.

It remains unclear both if and how Assange could face charges in the United States. Currently, he resides under political asylum inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. He entered in 2012 while facing sexual assault allegations, which have since been dropped.

His relationship with Ecuador has deteriorated in recent months—leaving his future uncertain.

Joshua Stueve, a spokesperson for the attorney's office responsible for the filing, told the Post it had been "made in error" and claimed that Assange was "not the intended name for this filing."

WikiLeaks did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Hughes, on Twitter, indicated he agreed with Stueve. He wrote: "To be clear, seems Freudian, it's for a different completely unrelated case, every other page is not related to him, EDVA just appears to have Assange on the mind when filing motions to seal and used his name."

Barry Pollack, of Assange's legal team, told the Post, "The only thing more irresponsible than charging a person for publishing truthful information would be to put in a public filing information that clearly was not intended for the public and without any notice to Mr. Assange. Obviously, I have no idea if he has actually been charged or for what, but the notion that the federal criminal charges could be brought based on the publication of truthful information is an incredibly dangerous precedent to set."

On Twitter Friday, WikiLeaks branded the news a "scoop" and said it was a "cut and paste error" by the the Eastern District of Virginia.

WikiLeaks tweeted: "The US case against WikiLeaks started in 2010 and was expanded over Snowden and the largest leak in CIA history 'Vault 7.' The prosecutor on the order is not from Mr. Mueller's team and WikiLeaks has never been contacted by anyone from his office."

Julian Assange
Julian Assange makes his way back indoors after speaking to the media from the balcony of the Embassy of Ecuador on May 19, 2017. Jack Taylor/Getty Images