WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange today left the Ecuadorian embassy in London in handcuffs to face charges of conspiring to hack a computer in the US.
This was Assange's first time outside the embassy in seven years; he arrived there on June 19, 2012 after he was granted asylum to avoid extradition to Sweden. However, as the BBC reports, Ecuador's president Lenin Moreno has now revoked his asylum following "repeated violations of international conventions."
The US government subsequently charged Assange with conspiracy, which led to the arrest today. He now faces extradition to the US thanks to the US/UK Extradition Treaty.
The US indictment charges Assange with conspiracy to commit computer intrusion. Specifically, the US Department of Justice alleges that in March 2010, Assange agreed to help Chelsea Manning, then a US intelligence analyst with the US Army, crack a password on Department of Defense computers so that she could access classified documents and pass them to WikiLeaks.
It does not appear that Assange was successful; at one point, he wrote to Manning that he had "no luck so far" in cracking the code, according to the indictment.
"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," the DOJ says.
Still, these "real-time discussions regarding Manning's transmission of classified records to Assange...reflect Assange actively encouraging Manning to provide more information," the DOJ says. If found guilty, the maximum penalty Assange faces is five years in prison, however, before a judgment can be made in a US court, Assange needs to be extradited from the UK. That is being handled by the Department of Justice's Office of International Affairs.
Manning was arrested in 2010 and sentenced to 35 years in 2013 for handing over classified US military and State Deparment documents to WikiLeaks. That sentence was later commuted by President Obama, but Manning is now back in jail after refusing to testify in the government's case against WikiLeaks.
While confined to the Ecuadorian embassy, Assange is thought to have continued playing a role at WikiLeaks. President Moreno revoked his asylum status due to his recent behavior, his intervention "in the internal affairs of other states," and in particular the leaking of Vatican documents through WikiLeaks in January.
A 2018 indictment of 12 Russian military officers for hacking the Democratic National Committee and other targets says Russian officers transferred stolen materials to "Organization 1," a likely reference to WikiLeaks.