Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is facing expanded hacking charges in a second indictment that supersedes the original one from May last year, alleging that the Australian recruited hackers from the LulzSec group in his quest for classified government documents.
According to a court filing [pdf] in a US district court, Assange spoke directly to the leader of the LulzSec hackers, and allegedly provided that person with a list of targets.
Assange is alleged by the American authorities to have asked LulzSec to hack US intelligence services the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, along with the New York Times, looking for emails, documents, and databases that could be published by Wikileaks.
The request allegedly took place in 2012 during which time Hector Monsegur from New York City, known as Sabu, was said to be the leader of LulzSec, which engaged in serious distributed denial of service attacks against Sony Pictures and other organisations, as well as defacing websites.
Prior to Assange's alleged approach tpo Sabu and other LulzSec hackers Ryan "Kayla" Ackroyd and Jake "Topiary" Davies, the leader of the group had begun cooperating with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The LulzSec group is said to be affiliated with the Anonymous hacking collective, and others such as Gnosis and AntiSec.
Wikileaks and Assange are alleged by the US to have played roles in one of the largest compromises of classified documents in American history.
With the help of former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, Assange and Wikileaks leaked several pieces of classified material, including documents from the Afghanistan and Iraqi wars, government messages and a video of a botched airstrike in Baghdad that killed 12 people, including correspondents for Reuters.
Wikileaks is also alleged to have interfered in the 2016 US presidential election by publishing emails sent and received by Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton while she acted as Secretary of State under Barack Obama.
Assange and Wikileaks are also alleged to have received the emails from Russia's GRU military intelligence service, something the Australian has continued to deny.
The earlier eighteen charges for computer intrusions laid against Assange remain, with no new ones being added.
Should Assange be convicted, the US Department of Justice says he faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison on each of the 17 charges, and five years imprisonment for conspiracy to commit computer intrusion.
However, the DoJ said that US sentencing guidelines for federal crimes typically lead to judges handing down less than the maximum penalties.
To avoid extradition to Sweden on allegations of sexual assault Assange took refuge in the Embassy of Ecuador in London, where he stayed for nearly seven years.
After falling out with the Ecuadorian government, British police were invited to the embassy and arrested Assange on May 19 last year.
On that same day, the US authorities unsealed the original indictment against Assange, accusing him of hacking, and later on, for breaching the 1917 Espionage Act.
Assange faces extradition from the UK to the US, and is being held in Belmarsh Prison in London.