Assange Lawyers Prepare for U.S. Spying Indictment

Attorney tells ABC News U.S. charges under Espionage Act are expected soon.

December 1, 2010, 12:14 PM

LONDON, Dec. 10, 2010— -- Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, the man behind the publication of more than a 250,000 classified U.S. diplomatic cables, could face spying charges in the U.S. related to the Espionage Act, Assange's lawyer said today.

"Our position of course is that we don't believe it applies to Mr. Assange and that in any event he's entitled to First Amendment protection as publisher of Wikileaks and any prosecution under the Espionage Act would in my view be unconstitutional and puts at risk all media organizations in the U.S.," Assange's attorney Jennifer Robinson told ABC News.

Robinson said they're hearing from lawyers in the U.S. that an indictment of Assange could be imminent.

Assange is already in custody in London on sexual assault charges including rape originating out of Sweden. He is being held in solitary confinement with restricted access to a phone and his lawyers, Robinson said.

"This means he is under significant surveillance but also means he has more restrictive conditions than other prisoners," she said. "Considering the circumstances he was incredibly positive and upbeat."

Justice Department officials declined to comment on the possible coming charges, but earlier this week, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the release of the documents had put the United States at risk and said he authorized a criminal investigation into Assange.

"The lives of people who work for the American people has been put at risk; the American people themselves have been put at risk by these actions that are, I believe, arrogant, misguided and ultimately not helpful in any way. We are doing everything that we can," Holder said Tuesday. "We have a very serious, active, ongoing investigation that is criminal in nature. I authorized just last week a number of things to be done so that we can hopefully get to the bottom of this and hold people accountable, as they -- as they should be."

In response to widespread criticism of the sex crime charges, a lawyer for the two Swedish women accusing Assange said the charges are in no way politically motivated and the woman are angry at that suggestion.

"They were attacked by Mr. Assange and then they are treated like perpetrators themselves," attorney Claes Borgstrom told ABC News. "He has molested them and then sacrificed them for his own interests."

One woman accused Assange of sexually coercing her twice in August, including one time when he allegedly "forcibly parted her legs, preventing her from moving... then had intercourse without a condom," according to prosecutors. The second woman claimed that Assange had unprotected sex with her while she slept.

Borgstrom told ABC News one of the women went to the hospital following one of the alleged attacks.

The timing of the arrest earlier this week led a Wikileaks spokesperson, Assange's lawyer Mark Stephens and hundreds of Assange's supporters to claim they were part of a political effort to marginalize the Wikileaks founder in the face of the massive document drop.

But Borgstrom said his clients were hardly against Wikileaks. Rather, the two were employed by Wikileaks and were in fact "admirers" of Assange's work.

"They want that there will be a trial so Julian Assange must answer to what he has done and so the world sees it's true and it really happened," Borgstrom said.

The accusations against Assange were previously dropped by one Swedish prosecutor before being picked up by another. When the accusations were read in a British court Tuesday, the judge said the case is "about serious sexual offenses on three separate occasions, involving two separate victims...extremely serious allegations."

Assange has denied the sex crimes charges and after his arrest, Stephens told ABC News Assange is ready "to vindicate himself and clear his good name."

Cyber Battle Explodes Over Wikileaks

Assange's detention appears to have sparked a cyber skirmish as his supporters targeted government and private websites that have taken action against Wikileaks, before some the supporters' own pages were taken down in return.

After a loosely affiliated group of computer users known as Anonymous declared Operation: Payback against several major websites like Paypal, and -- all companies who refused to process payments for Wikileaks -- and the Swedish government website, some of those sites went down for hours Wednesday. Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin told ABC News she was among the victims of the attacks late Wednesday after she spoke out on Facebook against Assange.

"No wonder others are keeping silent about Assange's antics," Palin said in an e-mail to ABC News. "This is what happens when you exercise the First Amendment and speak against his sick, un-American espionage efforts."

For hours was not operational once again, although service appears to have been restored.

"This is a way kind of to strike back and to say 'Hey, you can't push us around,'" Wired Magazine's Noah Schactman told "Good Morning America." "These retaliatory attacks really show that in today's, you know, super-networked world, that a very few number of people can have an outsize effect."

But then the so-called "hackivists" took their own cyber shots as several websites they were apparently using to organize the attacks, including Facebook and Twitter, were also taken down. The FBI is investigating the so-called Operation: Payback attacks, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a press conference today.

A cached page for, a page that is currently down but had shown Anonymous' alleged plans, quotes the co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which describes itself as the "first line of defense" against attacks on online freedom.

"The first serious infowar is now engaged. The field of battle is WikiLeaks. You are the troops," EFF co-founder John Perry Barlow said in a tweet last week.

Wikileaks spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnsson told ABC News in an exclusive interview the refusal of service by Mastercard, Visa and Paypal amounted to an "outrageous" attack on freedom of speech.

"We are seeing growing support for us, especially in the last few days when we've had these outrageous attacks on us by companies that are bowing to political pressure from political forces in the United States," Hrafnsson said Wednesday. "We are getting seriously close to censorship in the United States and that must surely go against the fundamental values that the country is based upon."

Cables Target U.S. National Security Interests

One of the most recent cables leaked to anger U.S. authorities includes a list of installations vital to America's national security and interests.

U.S. government officials say that the diplomatic leaks have already had an effect on relationships with individuals and governments around the world.

"We have gotten indications that there is at least some change in how individuals and governments cooperate with us, and share information," said Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan, without providing any details. There's a vague "sense that there has been some pulling back because of these revelations."

Speaking a press conference Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the leak could "create potential dangers for our friends and partners."

In a February 2009 cable, American envoys were asked to identify sensitive places "whose loss could critically impact the public health, economic security, and/or national and homeland security of the United States."

Clinton said she would not comment on "any specific cable," but said the theft of the cables was "deeply distressing."

Clinton then called on "countries around the world and businesses to assist us in preventing any of the consequences that could either endanger individuals or other interests internationally."

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