Charges announced by the Justice Department on Thursday against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange provide fresh insight into why federal prosecutors sought to question whistleblower Chelsea Manning last month before a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia.
Manning, convicted in 2013 of leaking classified U.S. government documents to WikiLeaks, was jailed in early March as a recalcitrant witness after refusing to answer the grand jury’s questions. After her arrest, she was held in solitary confinement in a Virginia jail for nearly a month before being moved into its general population—all in an attempt to coerce her into answering questions about conversations she allegedly had with Assange at the time of her illegal disclosures, according to court filings.
Though Manning confessed to leaking more than 725,000 classified documents to WikiLeaks following her deployment to Iraq in 2009—including battlefield reports and five Guantanamo Bay detainee profiles—she was charged with leaking portions of only a couple hundred documents, including dozens of diplomatic cables that have since been declassified.
British authorities on Thursday removed Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, his home for nearly seven years, following Ecuador’s decision to rescind his asylum. The U.S. government has requested that he be extradited to the United States to face a federal charge of conspiracy to commit computer crimes.