U.S. Accuses Julian Assange of Recruiting LulzSec and Anonymous Hackers to Steal Gov’t Documents for WikiLeaks

News and Analysis

A United States district court has released an indictment alleging Julian Assange, the founder of the online archive containing thousands of classified documents from government and corporate entities, WikiLeaks, of an attempt to recruit hackers from the LulzSec and Anonymous hacker groups to obtain sensitive information from government systems. Once stolen, the documents would appear on the WikiLeaks website for further dissemination.

According to the document, Assange continued his efforts to urge interested parties to help WikiLeaks when he and his associates spoke at various hacking-related conferences around the world such as “Hacking at Random” and “Hack in the Box Security Conference,” which took place in 2009.

Failing to Meet Estimates Given to Assange?

Going further, the file provides a flow of communication between WikiLeaks representatives and certain members of LulzSec, revealing how the relationship between WikiLeaks and the hacker group was established and developed. In one conversation, Assange allegedly told Hector “Sabu” Monsegur, the head of LulzSec, that “the most impactful release of hacked materials would be from the CIA, NSA, or the New York Times.”

The file continued stating that in January 2012, Sabu asked Assange to name any targets, with the WikiLeaks founder stating that he could not “give target suggestions for the obvious legal reasons,” further adding “but, for people that do bad things, and probably have that documented, there’s [‘Research and Investigative Firm’]” and “lots of the companies” mentioned on a website whose address Assange provided.

“In February 2012, Hammond [a LulzSec hacker] told Sabu that the incompetence of his fellow hackers was causing him to fail to meet estimates he had given to Assange for the volume of hacked information that Hammond expected to provide WikiLeaks, writing, ‘can’t sit on all these targets dicking around when the booty is sitting there … especially when we are asked to make it happen with WL. We repeated a 2TB number to JA. Now turns out it’s like maybe 100GB. Would have been 40-50GB if I didn’t go and reget all the mail from [foreign cybersecurity company]’,” the document said.

Fight Against Extradition to the U.S.

The indictment accused Assange of 18 counts, which include conspiracy to commit computer intrusions, attempted unauthorized obtaining and receiving of National Defense information, and unauthorized disclosure of National Defense information.

In the meantime, Assange is fighting against his extradition from a United Kingdom prison to the U.S. According to Nick Vamos, the former head of extradition at the Crown Prosecution Service, Assange’s lawyers would likely claim that the extradition request is politically motivated and that most probably he would not receive a fair trial in the U.S.

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