'US intent on pursuing WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange'
Sydney: United States prosecutors have drawn up secret charges against Julian Assange, and are intent on pursuing the Wikileaks founder, declassified diplomatic cables have revealed.
The Australian embassy in Washington has been tracking a US espionage investigation targeting Assange for more than 18 months.
The diplomatic cables, released under freedom of information legislation, showed Australia's Ambassador, former Labor leader Kim Beazley, has made high level representations to the US government asking for advance warning of any moves to prosecute Assange.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the revelations are contrary to comments made by Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr, who has dismissed suggestions the US plans to eventually extradite Assange on charges of leaking US military and diplomatic documents.
He had repeatedly dismissed suggestions that the US has any interest in prosecuting and extraditing Assange.
However, the Australian embassy in Washington reported in February that “the US investigation into possible criminal conduct by Assange has been ongoing for more than a year”.
The embassy identified a wide range of criminal charges the US could bring against Assange, including espionage, conspiracy, unlawful access to classified information and computer fraud.
According to the paper, large sections of the released cables have been redacted on national security grounds, including parts of reports on the open pre-court martial proceedings of US Army Private Bradley Manning, who is alleged to have leaked a vast quantity of classified information to WikiLeaks.
Australian diplomats have highlighted the US military prosecution’s reference to ‘several connections between [Private] Manning and WikiLeaks which would form the basis of a conspiracy charge’ and evidence that the Justice Department’s investigation has targeted the ‘founders, owners, or managers of WikiLeaks’ for espionage, the paper said.