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Justice Department unseals charges against Assange

Assange arrested on U.S. extradition request

The Justice Department has unsealed charges of conspiracy against Julian Assange, after the founder of WikiLeaks was arrested by London's Metropolitan Police Thursday at the Ecuadorian Embassy in the city. Assange, who has not left the embassy since 2012, recently had his asylum status revoked by Ecuador.

Police have also confirmed that Assange was arrested "on behalf" of U.S. law enforcement authorities, who have filed a formal extradition request for Assange for publishing classified information through WikiLeaks.

The charges from the Justice Department accuse Assange of conspiring with Chelsea Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst, to download and publish records containing classified defense information.

"The primary purpose of the conspiracy was to facilitate Manning's acquisition and transmission of classified information related to the national defense of the United States so that WikiLeaks could publicly disseminate the information on its website," the indictment reads.

CBS News sought comment from U.S. law enforcement agencies on Thursday, but the FBI, National Security Agency and Justice Department had little to say.

The statement by the London Metropolitan Police confirming that Assange had been "arrested in relation to an extradition warrant on behalf of the United States authorities" was the first official confirmation from either side of the Atlantic of an official extradition request.

A court document published in "error" last year, in an unrelated case in Virginia, had suggested strongly that prosecutors had prepared charges against him under seal.

Both the Departments of Justice and State told CBS News they were aware of Assange's arrest, but referred to U.K. authorities for further information.

Britain's Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said in a statement that Assange was "no hero."

"He has hidden from the truth for years and years and it is right that his future should be decided in the British judicial system," Hunt said. "This will now be decided properly, independently by the British legal system respected throughout the world for its independence and integrity and that is the right outcome."

"We're not making any judgment about Julian Assange's innocence or guilt," Hunt added, "That is for the courts to decide. But what is not acceptable is for someone to escape facing justice, and he has tried to do that for a very long time."

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