The US Government is attempting to form a conspiracy case against WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange. It is basing its case upon evidence that Assange may have assisted an Army intelligence analyst, Bradley Manning, upload classified information, according to the New York Times in an article titled “U.S. Tries to Build Case for Conspiracy by WikiLeaks," published on December 15, 2010.
The US Government is looking to use the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986 to implicate Assange in a conspiracy to actively obtain classified information. This differs from past characterization of Assange’s activities as a passive recipient of classified government documents, which would make dissemination of such information protected under the First Amendment of the US Constitution.
The main piece of evidence in the potential conspiracy charge is instant messages between Manning and Adrian Lamo, an ex-hacker. However, Lamo claims that he cannot provide the full record of the instant message conversation because the FBI has confiscated his computer hard drive containing the information.
If Assange is convicted of conspiracy he may serve up to ten years in prison, pursuant to Section 1030 (c) of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. If he is convicted of more than one count of computer fraud and abuse, Assange may face up to twenty years in prison.
Assange is currently being held in London under sex crime allegations. However, Assange's lawyer, Mark Stephens, believes the allegations are only being used to hold Assange in order to extradite him to the US, reported a Financial Times article titled “UK Police Investigate WikiLeaks Supporters,” published on December 15, 2010.