The latest on Julian Assange reads like a James Bond movie with Mike Pompeo.

Thanks to Ginger Liberty and Yahoo News, we received and update on Julian Assange’s case this morning.

A recent Yahoo Investigation report by Zach Dorfman, Sean D. Naylor, and Michael Isikoff says that the CIA attempted to kidnap WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange from the Ecuador embassy in London where he has been held since 2012, and that some senior officials inside the CIA and the Trump administration even discussed assassinating Julian Assange…{going so far as to request “sketches” or “options” for how to assassinate him. Discussions over kidnapping or killing Assange occurred “at the highest levels” of the Trump administration, said a former senior counterintelligence official. “There seemed to be no boundaries.”}.

The CIA’s war against Assange included spying on WikiLeaks associates, stealing their devices, and attempts to turn the group’s members against each other. I wonder how many people were framed in those attempts? Apparently, the CIA declared this war against Wikileaks because of a sensitive data breach of CIA hacking tools, known as “Vault 7”.

Did Pompeo break the law? Did he put the United States Department of Justise in jeopardy? A former national security official said that the CIA “was completely detached from reality because they were so embarrassed about Vault 7. They were seeing blood.” Mike Pompeo, CIA director wanted revenge.

“Assange’s U.S. lawyer, Barry Pollack told Yahoo, “As an American citizen, I find it absolutely outrageous that our government would be contemplating kidnapping or assassinating somebody without any judicial process simply because he had published truthful information,”.

Michael Pompeo, director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), listens during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, May 11, 2017. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Back in 2017, Ecuadorian officials began efforts to grant Assange diplomatic status to give him cover to leave the embassy and fly to Moscow to serve in the country’s Russian mission. According to officials, that is when the CIA and the White House discussed a number of scenarios to arrest or kill Assange, including “potential gun battles with Kremlin operatives on the streets of London, crashing a car into a Russian diplomatic vehicle transporting Assange and then grabbing him, and shooting out the tires of a Russian plane carrying Assange before it could take off for Moscow”. Apparently British officials even agreed to help do the shooting if gunfire according to a former senior administration official.

“It was going to be like a prison break movie.” Said one senior official. “It was beyond comical,”. “It got to the point where every human being in a three-block radius was working for one of the intelligence services whether they were street sweepers or police officers or security guards.” They told then President Trump, “this is going to get ugly,”. The White House worried that the campaign against the organization would end up “weakening America,”.

In 2010, Assange published classified U.S. government documents related to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as more than 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables. U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies did not know how to deal with Wikileaks publishing information that other reporters would never touch. Some think WikiLeaks is an independent journalist institution, and that Julian Assange is a hero. Others think that he is a villainous spy.

Did the Obama Administration change the definition of a journalist? Cyber operations changed in 2013 when Edward Snowden fled to Hong Kong with a massive amounts of classified NSA documents. A WikiLeaks editor helped arrange Snowden’s escape to Russia from Hong Kong and lived with him for months. William Evanina, a retired U.S. counter-intelligence official says, “The Obama administration prioritized collecting WikiLeaks information to build a picture of WikiLeak’s contacts and tie it back to hostile state intelligence services. The CIA assembled a group of analysts known unofficially as the WikiLeaks team in its Office of Transnational Issues”, but he also states theta the Obama Administration backed off because of the First Amendment.

Prior to the 2016 presidential election WikiLeaks began publishing Democratic Party emails. The NSA began tracking Twitter accounts. The CIA targeted people affiliated with Wikileaks. U.S. intelligence officials believed Assange “was acting in collusion with people who were using him to hurt the interests of the United States”. A Trump Whitehouse  official said, “Nobody in that crew was going to be too broken up about the First Amendment issues.”, and the Trump Administration went after Assange.

Shortly after the election, and about five weeks after Wikileaks embarrassed Pompeo by publishing the “Vault 7” files, Pompeo made his speech about Wikileaks, “WikiLeaks walks like a hostile intelligence service and talks like a hostile intelligence service and has encouraged its followers to find jobs at the CIA in order to obtain intelligence,” he said. “It’s time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is: a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia”.

Vault 7 “hurt the agency to its core,” said a former CIA official. Pompeo was reluctant to brief the president on Vault 7, “Don’t tell him, he doesn’t need to know,” Pompeo told one briefer, before being advised that the information was too critical and the president had to be informed, said the former official.

Covert actions by U.S. intelligence agencies to interfere with the activities of any foreign actor normally require the president be briefed and that the president sign a “finding” to authorize the covert operations or the CIA can conduct “offensive counterintelligence” activities without getting a presidential finding or having to brief Congress.

“Often, the CIA makes these decisions internally, based on interpretations of so-called common law passed down in secret within the agency’s legal corps. I don’t think people realize how much the CIA can do under offensive counterintelligence and how there is minimal oversight of it, said a former official.”

Was Wikileaks operating as a Russian agent? The CIA had no proof. “It wasn’t clear they were, so the question was, can it be reframed on them being a hostile entity.” Intelligence lawyers decided that the CIA could operate counterintelligence because Pompeo declared WikiLeaks “a non-state hostile intelligence service”. Pompeo had control of the lawyers in D.C., and he wanted the Vault 7 documents. White House officials considered different ways the counterintelligence operation would play out, and officials reasoned that the CIA would be erasing its own documents.

Pompeo’s plan was to “break into the embassy, drag Assange out and bring him to where we want,” said a former intelligence official. “You can’t throw people in a car and kidnap them,” said a former national security official. Another official even says that the president discussed assassinating Assange. “It was viewed as unhinged and ridiculous”.

Former President Trump denies that he ever considered having Assange assassinated. “It’s totally false, it never happened” and added, “In fact, I think he’s been treated very badly”. Officials says that Trump’s lawyers were against the CIA’s illegal proposals “While people think the Trump administration didn’t believe in the rule of law, they had good lawyers who were paying attention to it”. “The White House told Attorney General Jeff Sessions that if prosecutors had grounds to indict Assange they should hurry up and do so”, and then “the Swedes dropped a rape investigation into Assange giving prosecutors 48 more hours to rush an indictment”.

U.S. officials couldn’t just run over a Russian diplomatic vehicle to arrest or kill Assange, but they had to find a way to prevent Vladimir Putin from getting both Snowden and Assange. Putin would have enjoyed that too much and would have had control of the propaganda.

Assange spent years running WikiLeaks from his living quarters, but the Associated Press uncovered a Spanish firm, UC Global that works for U.S. intelligence to provide detailed reports on Assange’s activities by secretly installed devices in the embassy. Ecuadorian authorities made Assange a citizen and provided him a passport so he could leave for Moscow. Fidel Narvaez told Yahoo News that the first secretary at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2017 and 2018 said that Assange said refused to accept that assignment and that he was asked to persuade him. “However, Ecuador did have a plan B,” said Narvaez, “and I understood it was to be Russia.”

The Justice Department secretly charged Assange. UC Global planned to leave the embassy door open to allow U.S officials to get in, and even considered poisoning Assange. Assange’s colleagues planned to publish even more Vault 7 files if he were killed.

There was still no finding from the U.S. president and the CIA was in a bind with no presidential finding. “That kind of lethal action would be way outside of a legitimate intelligence or counterintelligence activity,” a former senior intelligence community lawyer said. Sessions warned the CIA to arrest Assange legally and  other U.S. officials worried about what the discovery process might reveal if Assange were to face trial in the United States.

“I was part of every one of those conversations,” Evanina said. “As much as we had the greener light to go do things, everything we did or wanted to do had repercussions in other parts of the administration.” As a result, he said, sometimes administration officials would ask the intelligence community to either not do something or do it differently, so that “we don’t have to sacrifice our collection that’s going to be released publicly by the bureau to indict WikiLeaks.”

In 2019, Ecuador’s government gave Assange to the British police who arrested him on a warrant that was issued in 2012. The U.S. government unsealed its initial indictment of Assange the same day that focused on 2010 allegations that Assange helped Manning, the Army intelligence analyst, crack a password to break into a classified U.S. government network. Prosecutors then charged Assange with Espionage Act charges  for publishing classified information. A British judge then ruled that Assange could not be extradited to the United States because he would be a suicide risk in a U.S. prison.

Trump may or may not have agreed to let Pompeo kill Assange, but in 2018, “Trump granted the CIA aggressive new secret authorities to undertake the same sort of hack-and-dump operations for which Russian intelligence has used WikiLeaks. Among other actions, the agency has used its new powers to covertly release information online about a Russian company that worked with Moscow’s spy apparatus” says Yahoo News investigators. A Trump official told Yahoo News, “There was an inappropriate level of attention to Assange given the embarrassment, not the threat he posed in context,”.

Let me know what you think about Assange’s case in the comments. You can also find the Yahoo News story here:  CIA’s secret war plans against Wikileaks led to a London shootout, kidnapping, assassination plot. (Sun, September 26, 2021, 4:00 AM·39 min read, Kidnapping, assassination and a London shoot-out: Inside the CIA’s secret war plans against WikiLeaks)

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Patty

I love life and people. I am a daughter, mother, and a grandmother.

2 thoughts on “The latest on Julian Assange reads like a James Bond movie with Mike Pompeo.”

    1. I was sure that I asked if the Obama administration changed the definition of journalism. That would have had to have happened around 2012 or 2013, at least four years before Trump became president.

      Liked by 1 person

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