The Department of Justice has prepared charges against WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange for their roles in several leaks back in 2010, several reports claimed Thursday. The site had posted confidential government information that was stolen by the former U.S. Army Intelligence Analyst, Chelsea Manning.
According to CNN, possible charges against the site and its founder would include conspiracy, violating the Espionage Act and theft of government property. However, any of these charges would require approval from high-ranking officials in the Justice Department.
On Thursday, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at a news conference in El Paso, Texas that Assange’s arrest was a priority for the department.
“We are going to step up our effort and already are stepping up our efforts on all leaks. This is a matter that’s gone beyond anything I’m aware of. We have professionals that have been in the security business of the United States for many years that are shocked by the number of leaks and some of them are quite serious,” Sessions said.
“So yes, it is a priority. We’ve already begun to step up our efforts and whenever a case can be made, we will seek to put some people in jail,” he added.
The department’s move came after WikiLeaks released about 8,000 documents that was code-named “Vault-7” last month, which said it revealed secrets about the CIA’s cyber intelligence tools in order to break into cell phones, computers and even smart TVs. The site also previously made public 250,000 State Department cables and embarrassed the country’s military with over hundreds of thousands of logs from Afghanistan and Iraq.
U.S.’s opinion about WikiLeaks changed after they discovered what they believed was proof that Assange and his site played a major role in helping Edward Snowden, former NSA analyst to disclose a large number of classified documents that exposed the vast hacking power of the NSA and other intelligence agencies in 2015.
U.S. intelligence agencies have also concluded that WikiLeaks had a role to play in the 2016 presidential elections where the Russian intelligence could have allegedly used the site to publish emails aimed at meddling with the campaign of Hillary Clinton, which could be a part of a broader plan to hack the elections, according to the Washington Post.