Washington, Dec. 16 (ANI): Federal prosecutors in America are seeking to build a case against the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for his role in the huge dissemination of classified government documents.
According to the New York Times, they are looking for evidence of any collusion in his early contacts with an Army intelligence analyst suspected of leaking the information.
US Justice Department officials are trying to find out whether Assange encouraged or even helped Private Bradley Manning, to extract classified military and State Department files from a government computer system.
If he did so, they believe they could charge him as a conspirator in the leak, not just as a passive recipient of the documents who then published them.
Among materials prosecutors are studying is an online chat log in which Private Manning is said to claim that he had been directly communicating with Assange using an encrypted Internet conferencing service as the soldier was downloading government files.
Private Manning is also said to have claimed that Assange gave him access to a dedicated server for uploading some of them to WikiLeaks.
Adrian Lamo, an ex-hacker in whom Private Manning confided and who eventually turned him in, said Private Manning detailed those interactions in instant-message conversations with him.
He said the special server's purpose was to allow Private Manning's submissions to "be bumped to the top of the queue for review."
By Lamo's account, Private Manning bragged about this "as evidence of his status as the high-profile source for WikiLeaks."
Since WikiLeaks began making public large caches of classified United States government documents this year, Justice Department officials have been struggling to come up with a way to charge Assange with a crime.
Among other things, they have studied several statutes that criminalize the dissemination of restricted information under certain circumstances, including the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986.
Justice Department officials have declined to discuss any grand jury activity. But in interviews, people familiar with the case said the department appeared to be attracted to the possibility of prosecuting Assange as a co-conspirator to the leaking because it is under intense pressure to make an example of him as a deterrent to further mass leaking of electronic documents over the Internet. (ANI)