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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange: Has US already indicted him?

It is entirely possible that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is already under indictment in the US. Grand juries work in secret, and indictments can be sealed, but there have been hints.

By Staff writer / December 2, 2010

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gives a press conference in London on Oct. 23.

Felipe Trueba/Photoshot/Newscom

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Washington

Sweden has issued an arrest warrant for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and according to one newspaper report, he is hiding out in Britain. But is he already under indictment in the United States on charges related to his online release of a vast trove of secret US documents?

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It’s certainly possible. US officials publicly will only say that they are investigating the matter and that no legal options have been ruled out. But an indictment in such an important federal matter would be handed down by a grand jury, and grand jury proceedings are secret, notes Stephen Vladeck, an expert in national security law at American University. There may be an empaneled grand jury considering the Assange case right now.

“We wouldn’t know what they’re doing until the whole thing is concluded,” he says.

A judge could order an indictment of Assange sealed until such time as the US is able to apprehend him, or until he is in custody in a nation from which he is likely to be extradited. The purpose of such secrecy would be to keep the WikiLeaks chief from going even further underground.

At least one prominent US legal analyst thinks this is just the sort of thing that is going on.

“I would not be at all surprised if there was a sealed arrest warrant currently in existence against [Assange],” said CNN legal expert Jeffrey Toobin on Wednesday. “That question is whether the American authorities can find him and bring him back to the United States for trial.”

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