Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was secretly indicted by federal prosecutors in the U.S., according to an email from private intelligence company Stratfor obtained by the hacking group Anonymous and published by Wikileaks this week.
“Not for Pub — We have a sealed indictment on Assange. Pls protect,” Stratfor official Fred Burton wrote in a Jan. 26, 2011 email to colleagues at the company. It was one of over 5 million emails obtained from Stratfor’s servers. It was sent in reply to an email message from another Stratfor official linking to a CBS article about Assange.
Josh Gerstein reports that the Justice Department and an attorney for Assange did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment and that there are reasons to doubt that a sealed indictment actually exists:
For one thing, military prosecutors suggested in court filings in December that Assange faced no charges in the U.S. at that time. The statements came in response to motions from Assange and WikiLeaks asking that his lawyers be guaranteed access to both open and closed proceedings in the case against Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, who faces a court martial for allegedly providing hundreds of thousands of secret military reports and diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks.
In addition, the grand jury seems to have been most active in the middle of last year, which makes an indictment that would have been returned six months or so earlier unlikely but not impossible.