Justice Department officials are reportedly trying to find out whether Julian Assange encouraged or helped Private Bradley Manning disseminate classified documents, so that they can charge Assange as a conspirator in the leak. (Manning’s been in solitary confinement in a U.S. Marine brig for five months after reportedly sharing classified military documents with WikiLeaks.) Prosecutors are studying instant-message chats between Manning and Assange for evidence, and investigating Manning’s alleged claims that Assange gave him access to a WikiLeaks server for uploading classified documents. Adrian Lamo, the ex-hacker who turned Manning in, said the FBI had taken his hard drive, on which his conversations with Manning were saved. Of course, Manning hasn’t even been convicted of a crime yet, so this could be complicated. But the Times notes: “By bringing a case against Assange as a conspirator to Manning’s leak, the government would not have to confront awkward questions about why it is not also prosecuting traditional news organizations who also disclose information the government says should be secret.” So, if the U.S. government only charges people who had an active role in the leaking (and didn’t just receive and publish state secrets), the Times could be off the hook.