Adam Entous and Evan Perez of the Wall Street Journal report:
Pentagon lawyers believe that online whistleblower group WikiLeaks acted illegally in disclosing thousands of classified Afghanistan war reports and other material, and federal prosecutors are exploring possible criminal charges, officials familiar with the matter said.
A joint investigation by the Army and the Federal Bureau of Investigation is still in its early stages and it is unclear what course the Department of Justice will decide to take, according to a U.S. law-enforcement official.
He said WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had not been identified by the FBI as a target of the probe.
“We can confirm that he’s wanted. He was charged last night – the allegation is suspected rape,” said Karin Rosander, director of communications at the national prosecutor’s office.
“One is rape and one is molestation,” she said, without giving details.
The timing of the Swedish charges has raised suspicion among some about a possible connection to the leak of military documents. Aljazeera.net reports:
Assange denied the charges on Saturday, stating on his Twitter account that the accusations were “without basis and their issue at this moment is deeply disturbing”.
On WikiLeaks own Twitter page it was stated that: “We were warned to expect ‘dirty tricks.’ Now we have the first one.”
The Swedish newspaper, The Local reports that the charges were made by two women in their twenties who were with Assange recently:
Assange spent time with one of the women at an apartment in Södermalm in Stockholm on Saturday night, while he met the other women in the nearby town of Enköping, according to Expressen. The prosecution authority said Assange was suspected of rape in the Enköping case and molestation in Stockholm.
Kristinn Hrafnsson, a colleague of Assange’s who spoke to news agency AFP from Iceland, said that the charges against him were false.
“He didn’t know of the charges until he read them in the right wing tabloid Expressen this morning”, Hrafnsson said. “There are powerful organisations who want to do harm to WikiLeaks.”
Hrafnsson said Assange was still in Sweden and would “go to the police very quickly.”
Update: Both BBC and The Local (Sweden) are reporting that it has been confirmed that rape charges have been dropped. From The Local:
“I do not consider there to be any reason to suspect that he has committed rape,” chief prosecutor Eva Finné said in a statement explaining her decision.
The statement was issued at 4.30pm on Saturday to confirm that Assange was no longer a suspect and is thus no longer required to contact the police.
“She (Eva Finné) has adjudged that he is not suspected of rape. There is thus no reason to retain a warrant for his arrest,” Karin Rosander at the Prosecution Authority confirmed.
Photo Credit: Esther Dyson, Flickr, used under Creative Commons License