Inside sources say the U.S. Justice Department is preparing charges of conspiracy to violate espionage and computer protection laws against Julian Assange, in order to avoid bringing charges against mainstream media outlets such as the New York Times.
The indictment is being prepared by a secret federal grand jury organized by the Justice Department in Alexandria, Virginia, and is expected to name imprisoned American soldier Bradley Manning as a co-conspirator. Other American professors and technicians will likely be charged with accessory roles.
The government has intercepted email communications between Assange and Manning over a period of time.
Those who say there is no basis for the prosecution are "dead wrong," says one source close to the proceedings. "The government is going to avoid all the freedom of the press issues," the source added.
The 1917 Espionage Act includes a provision on conspiracy. In addition, a 1985 law dealing with computer protection will be employed to gain the indictment.
The speed of the U.S. grand jury process underscores the legal and political importance of any extradition hearing in the UK or Sweden, where Assange is facing possible charges of non-consensual sex. An extradition hearing now is scheduled for January 11 in London.
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