US seeks to build WikiLeaks conspiracy case-report

WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – Federal prosecutors are  looking for any evidence WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange  conspired with a former U.S. Army intelligence analyst  suspected of leaking classified government documents, The New  York Times reported yesterday.

U.S. Justice Department officials were trying to determine  whether Assange encouraged or helped Private Bradley Manning  extract classified military and State Department files from a  government computer system, the newspaper said.

If he did, officials believe Assange could be charged as a  conspirator in the leak, not just as a passive recipient of the  documents who then published them, the newspaper said, citing  people familiar with the case.

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on the  report.
The Justice Department has been looking into a range of  criminal charges, including violations of the 1917 Espionage  Act, that could used to prosecute the WikiLeaks case.

Prosecutors were studying an online chat log in which  Manning is said to claim he had been directly communicating  with Assange while downloading government files, The New York  Times reported.

Manning bragged about his exploits to former hacker Adrian  Lamo, who then turned him into the authorities, Lamo told  Reuters.

Manning has been detained at Quantico Marine Base in  Virginia after being charged in July with improperly obtaining  a classified video showing a 2007 helicopter attack that killed  a dozen people in Iraq, including two Reuters journalists.

Assange has been held in a London jail after being arrested  in connection with an unrelated investigation by Swedish  authorities into alleged sex crimes in that country.

Some legal experts have said it would be difficult for the  Obama administration to prosecute WikiLeaks or Assange, who is  an Australian citizen, for espionage. Other parts of U.S. law,  however, make it easier to prosecute people for unauthorized  disclosure of certain classified information.

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