April 15, 2019 / 9:02 PM / 4 months ago

Assange, Manning had reason to believe leaks would injure U.S.: prosecutors

FILE PHOTO: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange leaves the Westminster Magistrates Court in the police van, after he was arrested in London, Britain April 11, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and former U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning had reason to believe that leaking U.S. military reports “would cause injury” to the country, federal prosecutors alleged in a newly unsealed court filing on Monday.

In the affidavit submitted to federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, prosecutors said U.S. military reports from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq included information about the “identity and significance of local supporters of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan.”

When U.S. forces raided the compound in Pakistan where Osama bin Laden was hiding out, for example, they found a letter that showed the Al Qaeda leader was interested in copies of Pentagon documents published on WikiLeaks, the prosecutors said.

According to prosecutors, leaked reports on the Afghan war included information on militants’ improvised explosive device designs and attacks, including details of U.S. and coalition countermeasures against such home-made explosive devices and their limitations.

The prosecution’s affidavit is dated Dec. 21, 2017, but was made public on Monday. It follows the unsealing last week of a U.S. indictment charging Assange with conspiring with Manning to gain access to a government computer as part of one of the largest compromises of classified information in U.S. history.

Barry Pollack, a lawyer for Assange in Washington, said: “Encouraging sources to provide information, and using methods to protect their identity, are common practices by all journalists. There is no new information in the affidavit that was unavailable to the Department of Justice when it decided in the Obama administration that pursuing criminal charges against Mr. Assange would be contrary to the First Amendment.”

British police arrested Assange at Washington’s request after Ecuador revoked his seven-year asylum on Thursday. He was dragged out of the Ecuadorean Embassy in London and is being held in prison while he faces extradition to the United States.

The U.S. indictment, originally issued in secret by an Alexandria, Virginia-based grand jury in March 2018, said Assange in March 2010 engaged in a conspiracy to help Manning crack a password for a classified U.S. government network.

In the unsealed affidavit, prosecutors said Manning also had access to other U.S. government databases, including one relating to the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and a State Department database containing military cables.

Reporting by Mark Hosenball, editing by G Crosse

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