By Craig Mackenzie, Last updated at 10:36 AM on 24th December 2011
– Prosecutors reveal online chats with U.S. army private
– Assange allegedly used alias ‘Nathanial Frank’
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange could face spy charges in the U.S. after a court revealed his apparent ‘role’ in the theft of secret military documents, it emerged today.
Lawyers have produced logs of online chats they claim show him coaching U.S. Private Bradley Manning how to break passwords to gain access to military computer networks.
The prosecutors made the allegations in an hour-long presentation at Manning’s pre-trial hearing for allegedly uploading 700,000 stolen documents to WikiLeaks.
They disclosed three new excerpts taken from the Guantanamo-held suspect’s personal Macintosh laptop.
In one, he allegedly asks Mr Assange for help in figuring out a password. In another, he tells him, ‘I’m throwing everything I’ve got on at you now’ and estimates the ‘upload is about 36 pct’ complete.
To which the 40-year-old WikiLeaks boss replied, according to the prosecutors, ‘OK . . . great.’
He has denied direct contact with Manning, but his lawyers believe the evidence produced in the military court would form an espionage conspiracy case against their client.
One told the Times that the evidence ‘gives us a very clear indication that the U.S. government intends to prosecute Julian Assange and potentially others associated with WikiLeaks.’
The prosecutors claim Manning, 24, used the online alias of ‘Nobody’ while talking to ‘Nathanial Frank’ which they claim was an alias for Mr Assange.
In one chat, the young intelligence analyst asked ‘Frank’ for help cracking the password on his classified computer so he could log on anonymously.
He asked if he had experience breaking such ‘hash’ codes. ‘Frank’ allegdly replied yes they had ‘rainbow tables’ for doing that.
Manning’s lawyer David Coombs urged prosecutors who are seeking a life sentence, to drop the most serious charge of aiding the enemy.
He said the release of documents had caused no harm to national security and the government was trying ‘to strong-arm a plea from my client.’
‘The sky is not falling, the sky has not fallen and the sky will not fall’ he said as a result of the document release.
The courtroom at Fort Meade, northeast of Washington, was packed for the closing arguments.
Mr Assange’s lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, attended, as did Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers about the Vietnam War in the 1970s.
Presiding officer Lt. Col. Paul Almanza now has until January 16 to recommend whether Manning should stand trial for aiding the enemy and 21 other charges.
Mr Assange is on bail pending an appeal against extradition to Sweden where he faces sex crime allegations.