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London shoot-out: Inside the CIA's secret war plans against WikiLeaks

London shoot-out: Inside the CIA's secret war plans against WikiLeaks

Zach DorfmanSean D. Naylor and Michael Isikoff
Sun, September 26, 2021, 7:00 PM·39 min read

In this article:

In 2017, as Julian Assange began his fifth year holed up in Ecuador’s embassy in London, the CIA plotted to kidnap the WikiLeaks founder, spurring heated debate among Trump administration officials over the legality and practicality of such an operation.
Some senior officials inside the CIA and the Trump administration even discussed killing 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 conversations were part of an unprecedented CIA campaign directed against WikiLeaks and its founder. The agency’s multipronged plans also included extensive spying on WikiLeaks associates, sowing discord among the group’s members, and stealing their electronic devices.
While Assange had been on the radar of U.S. intelligence agencies for years, these plans for an all-out war against him were sparked by WikiLeaks’ ongoing publication of extraordinarily sensitive CIA hacking tools, known collectively as “Vault 7,” which the agency ultimately concluded represented “the largest data loss in CIA history.”
President Trump’s newly installed CIA director, Mike Pompeo, was seeking revenge on WikiLeaks and Assange, who had sought refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy since 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden on rape allegations he denied. Pompeo and other top agency leaders “were completely detached from reality because they were so embarrassed about Vault 7,” said a former Trump national security official. “They were seeing blood.”
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Former CIA Director Mike Pompeo in 2017. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The CIA’s fury at WikiLeaks led Pompeo to publicly describe the group in 2017 as a “non-state hostile intelligence service.” More than just a provocative talking point, the designation opened the door for agency operatives to take far more aggressive actions, treating the organization as it does adversary spy services, former intelligence officials told Yahoo News. Within months, U.S. spies were monitoring the communications and movements of numerous WikiLeaks personnel, including audio and visual surveillance of Assange himself, according to former officials.

This Yahoo News investigation, based on conversations with more than 30 former U.S. officials — eight of whom described details of the CIA’s proposals to abduct Assange — reveals for the first time one of the most contentious intelligence debates of the Trump presidency and exposes new details about the U.S. government’s war on WikiLeaks. It was a campaign spearheaded by Pompeo that bent important legal strictures, potentially jeopardized the Justice Department’s work toward prosecuting Assange, and risked a damaging episode in the United Kingdom, the United States’ closest ally.
The CIA declined to comment. Pompeo did not respond to requests for comment.
“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,” Barry Pollack, Assange’s U.S. lawyer, told Yahoo News.
Assange is now housed in a London prison as the courts there decide on a U.S. request to extradite the WikiLeaks founder on charges of attempting to help former U.S. Army analyst Chelsea Manning break into a classified computer network and conspiring to obtain and publish classified documents in violation of the Espionage Act.
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“My hope and expectation is that the U.K. courts will consider this information and it will further bolster its decision not to extradite to the U.S.,” Pollack added.
There is no indication that the most extreme measures targeting Assange were ever approved, in part because of objections from White House lawyers, but the agency’s WikiLeaks proposals so worried some administration officials that they quietly reached out to staffers and members of Congress on the House and Senate intelligence committees to alert them to what Pompeo was suggesting. “There were serious intel oversight concerns that were being raised through this escapade,” said a Trump national security official.
Some National Security Council officials worried that the CIA’s proposals to kidnap Assange would not only be illegal but also might jeopardize the prosecution of the WikiLeaks founder. Concerned the CIA’s plans would derail a potential criminal case, the Justice Department expedited the drafting of charges against Assange to ensure that they were in place if he were brought to the United States.
In late 2017, in the midst of the debate over kidnapping and other extreme measures, the agency’s plans were upended when U.S. officials picked up what they viewed as alarming reports that Russian intelligence operatives were preparing to sneak Assange out of the United Kingdom and spirit him away to Moscow.
The intelligence reporting about a possible breakout was viewed as credible at the highest levels of the U.S. government. At the time, Ecuadorian officials had begun efforts to grant Assange diplomatic status as part of a scheme to give him cover to leave the embassy and fly to Moscow to serve in the country’s Russian mission.
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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange appears at the window of the Ecuadorean Embassy in London on Feb. 5, 2016. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)

In response, the CIA and the White House began preparing for a number of scenarios to foil Assange’s Russian departure plans, according to three former officials. Those included 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. (U.S. officials asked their British counterparts to do the shooting if gunfire was required, and the British agreed, according to a former senior administration official.)
“We had all sorts of reasons to believe he was contemplating getting the hell out of there,” said the former senior administration official, adding that one report said Assange might try to escape the embassy hidden in a laundry cart. “It was going to be like a prison break movie.”
The intrigue over a potential Assange escape set off a wild scramble among rival spy services in London. American, British and Russian agencies, among others, stationed undercover operatives around the Ecuadorian Embassy. In the Russians’ case, it was to facilitate a breakout. For the U.S. and allied services, it was to block such an escape. “It was beyond comical,” said the former senior official. “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.”
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White House officials briefed Trump and warned him that the matter could provoke an international incident — or worse. “We told him, this is going to get ugly,” said the former official.
As the debate over WikiLeaks intensified, some in the White House worried that the campaign against the organization would end up “weakening America,” as one Trump national security official put it, by lowering barriers that prevent the government from targeting mainstream journalists and news organizations, said former officials.
The fear at the National Security Council, the former official said, could be summed up as, “Where does this stop?”
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When WikiLeaks launched its website in December 2006, it was a nearly unprecedented model: Anyone anywhere could submit materials anonymously for publication. And they did, on topics ranging from secret fraternity rites to details of the U.S. government’s Guantánamo Bay detainee operations.
Yet Assange, the lanky Australian activist who led the organization, didn’t get much attention until 2010, when WikiLeaks released gun camera footage of a 2007 airstrike by U.S. Army helicopters in Baghdad that killed at least a dozen people, including two Reuters journalists, and wounded two young children. The Pentagon had refused to release the dramatic video, but someone had provided it to WikiLeaks.
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WikiLeaks releases leaked 2007 footage of a U.S. Apache helicopter fatally shooting a group of men at a public square in eastern Baghdad. (U.S. Military via

Later that year, WikiLeaks also published several caches of classified and sensitive U.S. government documents related to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as more than 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables. Assange was hailed in some circles as a hero and in others as a villain. For U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies, the question was how to deal with the group, which operated differently than typical news outlets. “The problem posed by WikiLeaks was, there wasn’t anything like it,” said a former intelligence official.
How to define WikiLeaks has long confounded everyone from government officials to press advocates. Some view it as an independent journalistic institution, while others have asserted it is a handmaiden to foreign spy services.
“They’re not a journalistic organization, they’re nowhere near it,” William Evanina, who retired as the U.S.’s top counterintelligence official in early 2021, told Yahoo News in an interview. Evanina declined to discuss specific U.S. proposals regarding Assange or WikiLeaks.
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But the Obama administration, fearful of the consequences for press freedom — and chastened by the blowback from its own aggressive leak hunts — restricted investigations into Assange and WikiLeaks. “We were stagnated for years,” said Evanina. “There was a reticence in the Obama administration at a high level to allow agencies to engage in” certain kinds of intelligence collection against WikiLeaks, including signals and cyber operations, he said.
That began to change in 2013, when Edward Snowden, a National Security Agency contractor, fled to Hong Kong with a massive trove of classified materials, some of which revealed that the U.S. government was illegally spying on Americans. WikiLeaks helped arrange Snowden’s escape to Russia from Hong Kong. A WikiLeaks editor also accompanied Snowden to Russia, staying with him during his 39-day enforced stay at a Moscow airport and living with him for three months after Russia granted Snowden asylum.
In the wake of the Snowden revelations, the Obama administration allowed the intelligence community to prioritize collection on WikiLeaks, according to Evanina, now the CEO of the Evanina Group. Previously, if the FBI needed a search warrant to go into the group’s databases in the United States or wanted to use subpoena power or a national security letter to gain access to WikiLeaks-related financial records, “that wasn’t going to happen,” another former senior counterintelligence official said. “That changed after 2013.”
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An image of Edward Snowden on a giant screen in Hong Kong on June 23, 2013. (Sam Tsang/South China Morning Post via Getty Images)

From that point onward, U.S. intelligence worked closely with friendly spy agencies to build a picture of WikiLeaks’ network of contacts “and tie it back to hostile state intelligence services,” Evanina said. The CIA assembled a group of analysts known unofficially as “the WikiLeaks team” in its Office of Transnational Issues, with a mission to examine the organization, according to a former agency official.
Still chafing at the limits in place, top intelligence officials lobbied the White House to redefine WikiLeaks — and some high-profile journalists — as “information brokers,” which would have opened up the use of more investigative tools against them, potentially paving the way for their prosecution, according to former officials. It “was a step in the direction of showing a court, if we got that far, that we were dealing with agents of a foreign power,” a former senior counterintelligence official said.
Among the journalists some U.S. officials wanted to designate as “information brokers” were Glenn Greenwald, then a columnist for the Guardian, and Laura Poitras, a documentary filmmaker, who had both been instrumental in publishing documents provided by Snowden.
“Is WikiLeaks a journalistic outlet? Are Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald truly journalists?” the former official said. “We tried to change the definition of them, and I preached this to the White House, and got rejected.”
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The Obama administration’s policy was, “If there’s published works out there, doesn’t matter the venue, then we have to treat them as First-Amendment-protected individuals,” the former senior counterintelligence official said. “There were some exceptions to that rule, but they were very, very, very few and far between.” WikiLeaks, the administration decided, did not fit that exception.
In a statement to Yahoo News, Poitras said reported attempts to classify herself, Greenwald and Assange as “information brokers” rather than journalists are “bone-chilling and a threat to journalists worldwide.”
“That the CIA also conspired to seek the rendition and extrajudicial assassination of Julian Assange is a state-sponsored crime against the press,” she added.
“I am not the least bit surprised that the CIA, a longtime authoritarian and antidemocratic institution, plotted to find a way to criminalize journalism and spy on and commit other acts of aggression against journalists,” Greenwald told Yahoo News.
By 2015, WikiLeaks was the subject of an intense debate over whether the organization should be targeted by law enforcement or spy agencies. Some argued that the FBI should have sole responsibility for investigating WikiLeaks, with no role for the CIA or the NSA. The Justice Department, in particular, was “very protective” of its authorities over whether to charge Assange and whether to treat WikiLeaks “like a media outlet,” said Robert Litt, the intelligence community’s senior lawyer during the Obama administration.
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Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras at a news conference in 2014. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

Then, in the summer of 2016, at the height of the presidential election season, came a seismic episode in the U.S. government’s evolving approach to WikiLeaks, when the website began publishing Democratic Party emails. The U.S. intelligence community later concluded the Russian military intelligence agency known as the GRU had hacked the emails.
In response to the leak, the NSA began surveilling the Twitter accounts of the suspected Russian intelligence operatives who were disseminating the leaked Democratic Party emails, according to a former CIA official. This collection revealed direct messages between the operatives, who went by the moniker Guccifer 2.0, and WikiLeaks’ Twitter account. Assange at the time steadfastly denied that the Russian government was the source for the emails, which were also published by mainstream news organizations.
Even so, Assange’s communication with the suspected operatives settled the matter for some U.S. officials. The events of 2016 “really crystallized” U.S. intelligence officials’ belief that the WikiLeaks founder “was acting in collusion with people who were using him to hurt the interests of the United States,” said Litt.
After the publication of the Democratic Party emails, there was “zero debate” on the issue of whether the CIA would increase its spying on WikiLeaks, said a former intelligence official. But there was still “sensitivity on how we would collect on them,” the former official added.
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The CIA now considered people affiliated with WikiLeaks valid targets for various types of spying, including close-in technical collection — such as bugs — sometimes enabled by in-person espionage, and “remote operations,” meaning, among other things, the hacking of WikiLeaks members’ devices from afar, according to former intelligence officials.
The Obama administration’s view of WikiLeaks underwent what Evanina described as a “sea change” shortly before Donald Trump, helped in part by WikiLeaks’ release of Democratic campaign emails, won a surprise victory over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.
As Trump’s national security team took their positions at the Justice Department and the CIA, officials wondered whether, despite his campaign trail declaration of “love” for WikiLeaks, Trump’s appointees would take a more hard-line view of the organization. They were not to be disappointed.
“There was a fundamental change on how [WikiLeaks was] viewed,” said a former senior counterintelligence official. When it came to prosecuting Assange — something the Obama administration had declined to do — the Trump White House had a different approach, said a former Justice Department official. “Nobody in that crew was going to be too broken up about the First Amendment issues.”
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On April 13, 2017, wearing a U.S. flag pin on the left lapel of his dark gray suit, Pompeo strode to the podium at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington think tank, to deliver to a standing-room-only crowd his first public remarks as Trump’s CIA director.
Rather than use the platform to give an overview of global challenges or to lay out any bureaucratic changes he was planning to make at the agency, Pompeo devoted much of his speech to the threat posed by 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,” he continued.
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Pompeo answers questions at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington in 2017. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

It had been barely five weeks since WikiLeaks had stunned the CIA when it announced it had obtained a massive tranche of files — which it dubbed “Vault 7” — from the CIA’s ultrasecret hacking division. Despite the CIA’s ramped up collection on WikiLeaks, the announcement came as a complete surprise to the agency, but as soon as the organization posted the first materials on its website, the CIA knew it was facing a catastrophe.
Vault 7 “hurt the agency to its core,” said a former CIA official. Agency officials “used to laugh about WikiLeaks,” mocking the State Department and the Pentagon for allowing so much material to escape their control.
Pompeo, apparently fearful of the president’s wrath, was initially reluctant to even brief the president on Vault 7, according to a former senior Trump administration official. “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.
Irate senior FBI and NSA officials repeatedly demanded interagency meetings to determine the scope of the damage caused by Vault 7, according to another former national security official.
The NSA believed that, although the leak revealed only CIA hacking operations, it could also give countries like Russia or China clues about NSA targets and methods, said this former official.
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Pompeo’s aggressive tone at CSIS reflected his “brash attitude,” said a former senior intelligence official. “He would want to push the limits as much as he could” during his tenure as CIA director, the former official said.
The Trump administration was sending more signals that it would no longer be bound by the Obama administration’s self-imposed restrictions regarding WikiLeaks. For some U.S. intelligence officials, this was a welcome change. “There was immense hostility to WikiLeaks in the beginning from the intelligence community,” said Litt.
Vault 7 prompted “a brand-new mindset with the administration for rethinking how to look at WikiLeaks as an adversarial actor,” Evanina said. “That was new, and it was refreshing for the intelligence community and the law enforcement community.” Updates on Assange were frequently included in Trump’s President’s Daily Brief, a top-secret document prepared by U.S. intelligence agencies that summarizes the day’s most critical national security issues, according to a former national security official.
The immediate question facing Pompeo and the CIA was how to hit back against WikiLeaks and Assange. Agency officials found the answer in a legal sleight of hand. Usually, for U.S. intelligence to secretly interfere with the activities of any foreign actor, the president must sign a document called a “finding” that authorizes such covert action, which must also be briefed to the House and Senate intelligence committees. In very sensitive cases, notification is limited to Congress’s so-called Gang of Eight — the four leaders of the House and Senate, plus the chairperson and ranking member of the two committees.
But there is an important carveout. Many of the same actions, if taken against another spy service, are considered “offensive counterintelligence” activities, which the CIA is allowed to conduct without getting a presidential finding or having to brief Congress, according to several former intelligence officials.
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.
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Assange discusses the publication of secret U.S. documents about the war in Afghanistan at a 2010 press conference in London. (Julian Simmonds/Shutterstock)

The difficulty in proving that WikiLeaks was operating at the direct behest of the Kremlin was a major factor behind the CIA’s move to designate the group as a hostile intelligence service, according to a former senior counterintelligence official. “There was a lot of legal debate on: Are they operating as a Russian agent?” said the former official. “It wasn’t clear they were, so the question was, can it be reframed on them being a hostile entity.”
Intelligence community lawyers decided that it could. When Pompeo declared WikiLeaks “a non-state hostile intelligence service,” he was neither speaking off the cuff nor repeating a phrase concocted by a CIA speechwriter. “That phrase was chosen advisedly and reflected the view of the administration,” a former Trump administration official said.
But Pompeo’s declaration surprised Litt, who had left his position as general counsel of the Office of the Director for National Intelligence less than three months previously. “Based on the information that I had seen, I thought he was out over his skis on that,” Litt said.
For many senior intelligence officials, however, Pompeo’s designation of WikiLeaks was a positive step. “We all agreed that WikiLeaks was a hostile intelligence organization and should be dealt with accordingly,” said a former senior CIA official.
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Soon after the speech, Pompeo asked a small group of senior CIA officers to figure out “the art of the possible” when it came to WikiLeaks, said another former senior CIA official. “He said, ‘Nothing’s off limits, don’t self-censor yourself. I need operational ideas from you. I’ll worry about the lawyers in Washington.’” CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., sent messages directing CIA stations and bases worldwide to prioritize collection on WikiLeaks, according to the former senior agency official.
The CIA’s designation of WikiLeaks as a non-state hostile intelligence service enabled “the doubling down of efforts globally and domestically on collection” against the group, Evanina said. Those efforts included tracking the movements and communications of Assange and other top WikiLeaks figures by “tasking more on the tech side, recruiting more on the human side,” said another former senior counterintelligence official.
This was no easy task. WikiLeaks associates were “super-paranoid people,” and the CIA estimated that only a handful of individuals had access to the Vault 7 materials the agency wanted to retrieve, said a former intelligence official. Those individuals employed security measures that made obtaining the information difficult, including keeping it on encrypted drives that they either carried on their persons or locked in safes, according to former officials.
WikiLeaks claimed it had published only a fraction of the Vault 7 documents in its possession. So, what if U.S. intelligence found a tranche of those unpublished materials online? At the White House, officials began planning for that scenario. Could the United States launch a cyberattack on a server being used by WikiLeaks to house these documents?
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Assange presents U.S. military documents on the Iraq War at press conference in London on Oct. 23, 2010. (Shutterstock)

Officials weren’t sure if the Defense Department had the authority to do so at the time, absent the president’s signature. Alternatively, they suggested, perhaps the CIA could carry out the same action under the agency’s offensive counterintelligence powers. After all, officials reasoned, the CIA would be erasing its own documents. However, U.S. spies never located a copy of the unpublished Vault 7 materials online, so the discussion was ultimately moot, according to a former national security official.
Nonetheless, the CIA had some successes. By mid-2017, U.S. spies had excellent intelligence on numerous WikiLeaks members and associates, not just on Assange, said former officials. This included what these individuals were saying and who they were saying it to, where they were traveling or going to be at a given date and time, and what platforms these individuals were communicating on, according to former officials.
U.S. spy agencies developed good intelligence on WikiLeaks associates’ “patterns of life,” particularly their travels within Europe, said a former national security official. U.S. intelligence was particularly keen on information documenting travel by WikiLeaks associates to Russia or countries in Russia’s orbit, according to the former official.
At the CIA, the new designation meant Assange and WikiLeaks would go from “a target of collection to a target of disruption,” said a former senior CIA official. Proposals began percolating upward within the CIA and the NSC to undertake various disruptive activities — the core of “offensive counterintelligence” — against WikiLeaks. These included paralyzing its digital infrastructure, disrupting its communications, provoking internal disputes within the organization by planting damaging information, and stealing WikiLeaks members’ electronic devices, according to three former officials.
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Infiltrating the group, either with a real person or by inventing a cyber persona to gain the group’s confidence, was quickly dismissed as unlikely to succeed because the senior WikiLeaks figures were so security-conscious, according to former intelligence officials. Sowing discord within the group seemed an easier route to success, in part because “those guys hated each other and fought all the time,” a former intelligence official said.
But many of the other ideas were “not ready for prime time,” said the former intelligence official.
“Some dude affiliated with WikiLeaks was moving around the world, and they wanted to go steal his computer because they thought he might have” Vault 7 files, said the former official.
The official was unable to identify that individual. But some of these proposals may have been eventually approved. In December 2020, a German hacker closely affiliated with WikiLeaks who assisted with the Vault 7 publications claimed that there had been an attempt to break into his apartment, which he had secured with an elaborate locking system. The hacker, Andy Müller-Maguhn, also said he had been tailed by mysterious figures and that his encrypted telephone had been bugged.
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Andy Müller-Maguhn speaks at the Cyber Security Summit in Bonn, Germany, in 2014. (Ollendorf/Itterman (Telekom))

Asked whether the CIA had broken into WikiLeaks’ associates’ homes and stolen or wiped their hard drives, a former intelligence official declined to go into detail but said that “some actions were taken.”
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By the summer of 2017, the CIA’s proposals were setting off alarm bells at the National Security Council. “WikiLeaks was a complete obsession of Pompeo’s,” said a former Trump administration national security official. “After Vault 7, Pompeo and [Deputy CIA Director Gina] Haspel wanted vengeance on Assange.”
At meetings between senior Trump administration officials after WikiLeaks started publishing the Vault 7 materials, Pompeo began discussing kidnapping Assange, according to four former officials. While the notion of kidnapping Assange preceded Pompeo’s arrival at Langley, the new director championed the proposals, according to former officials.
Pompeo and others at the agency proposed abducting Assange from the embassy and surreptitiously bringing him back to the United States via a third country — a process known as rendition. The idea was to “break into the embassy, drag [Assange] out and bring him to where we want,” said a former intelligence official. A less extreme version of the proposal involved U.S. operatives snatching Assange from the embassy and turning him over to British authorities.
Such actions were sure to create a diplomatic and political firestorm, as they would have involved violating the sanctity of the Ecuadorian Embassy before kidnapping the citizen of a critical U.S. partner — Australia — in the capital of the United Kingdom, the United States’ closest ally. Trying to seize Assange from an embassy in the British capital struck some as “ridiculous,” said the former intelligence official. “This isn’t Pakistan or Egypt — we’re talking about London.”
British acquiescence was far from assured. Former officials differ on how much the U.K. government knew about the CIA’s rendition plans for Assange, but at some point, American officials did raise the issue with their British counterparts.
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The Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange resided for seven years. (Will Oliver/EPA/Shutterstock)

“There was a discussion with the Brits about turning the other cheek or looking the other way when a team of guys went inside and did a rendition,” said a former senior counterintelligence official. “But the British said, ‘No way, you’re not doing that on our territory, that ain’t happening.’” The British Embassy in Washington did not return a request for comment.
In addition to diplomatic concerns about rendition, some NSC officials believed that abducting Assange would be clearly illegal. “You can’t throw people in a car and kidnap them,” said a former national security official.
In fact, said this former official, for some NSC personnel, “This was the key question: Was it possible to render Assange under [the CIA’s] offensive counterintelligence” authorities? In this former official’s thinking, those powers were meant to enable traditional spy-versus-spy activities, “not the same kind of crap we pulled in the war on terror.”
Some discussions even went beyond kidnapping. U.S. officials had also considered killing Assange, according to three former officials. One of those officials said he was briefed on a spring 2017 meeting in which the president asked whether the CIA could assassinate Assange and provide him “options” for how to do so.
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“It was viewed as unhinged and ridiculous,” recalled this former senior CIA official of the suggestion.
It’s unclear how serious the proposals to kill Assange really were. “I was told they were just spitballing,” said a former senior counterintelligence official briefed on the discussions about “kinetic options” regarding the WikiLeaks founder. “It was just Trump being Trump."
Nonetheless, at roughly the same time, agency executives requested and received “sketches” of plans for killing Assange and other Europe-based WikiLeaks members who had access to Vault 7 materials, said a former intelligence official. There were discussions “on whether killing Assange was possible and whether it was legal,” the former official said.
Yahoo News could not confirm if these proposals made it to the White House. Some officials with knowledge of the rendition proposals said they had heard no discussions about assassinating Assange.
In a statement to Yahoo News, Trump denied that he ever considered having Assange assassinated. “It’s totally false, it never happened,” he said. Trump seemed to express some sympathy for Assange’s plight. “In fact, I think he’s been treated very badly,” he added.
Whatever Trump’s view of the matter at the time, his NSC lawyers were bulwarks against the CIA’s potentially illegal proposals, according to former officials. “While people think the Trump administration didn’t believe in the rule of law, they had good lawyers who were paying attention to it,” said a former senior intelligence official.
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Then-President Donald Trump at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., in 2017. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

The rendition talk deeply alarmed some senior administration officials. John Eisenberg, the top NSC lawyer, and Michael Ellis, his deputy, worried that “Pompeo is advocating things that are not likely to be legal,” including “rendition-type activity,” said a former national security official. Eisenberg wrote to CIA General Counsel Courtney Simmons Elwood expressing his concerns about the agency’s WikiLeaks-related proposals, according to another Trump national security official.
It’s unclear how much Elwood knew about the proposals. “When Pompeo took over, he cut the lawyers out of a lot of things,” said a former senior intelligence community attorney.
Pompeo’s ready access to the Oval Office, where he would meet with Trump alone, exacerbated the lawyers’ fears. Eisenberg fretted that the CIA director was leaving those meetings with authorities or approvals signed by the president that Eisenberg knew nothing about, according to former officials.
NSC officials also worried about the timing of the potential Assange kidnapping. Discussions about rendering Assange occurred before the Justice Department filed any criminal charges against him, even under seal — meaning that the CIA could have kidnapped Assange from the embassy without any legal basis to try him in the United States.
Eisenberg urged Justice Department officials to accelerate their drafting of charges against Assange, in case the CIA’s rendition plans moved forward, according to former officials. The White House told Attorney General Jeff Sessions that if prosecutors had grounds to indict Assange they should hurry up and do so, according to a former senior administration official.
Things got more complicated in May 2017, when the Swedes dropped their rape investigation into Assange, who had always denied the allegations. White House officials developed a backup plan: The British would hold Assange on a bail jumping charge, giving Justice Department prosecutors a 48-hour delay to rush through an indictment.
Eisenberg was concerned about the legal implications of rendering Assange without criminal charges in place, according to a former national security official. Absent an indictment, where would the agency bring him, said another former official who attended NSC meetings on the topic. “Were we going to go back to ‘black sites’?”
[Image: b0998e60-1d52-11ec-b3a6-eb807a482f2c]
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.
As U.S. officials debated the legality of kidnapping Assange, they came to believe that they were racing against the clock. Intelligence reports warned that Russia had its own plans to sneak the WikiLeaks leader out of the embassy and fly him to Moscow, according to Evanina, the top U.S. counterintelligence official from 2014 through early 2021.
The United States “had exquisite collection of his plans and intentions,” said Evanina. “We were very confident that we were able to mitigate any of those [escape] attempts.”
Officials became particularly concerned when suspected Russian operatives in diplomatic vehicles near the Ecuadorian Embassy were observed practicing a “starburst” maneuver, a common tactic for spy services, whereby multiple operatives suddenly scatter to escape surveillance, according to former officials. This may have been a practice run for an exfiltration, potentially coordinated with the Ecuadorians, to get Assange out of the embassy and whisk him out of the country, U.S. officials believed.

Assange greets supporters outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London on May 19, 2017. (Frank Augstein/AP)

“The Ecuadorians would tip off the Russians that they were going to be releasing Assange on the street, and then the Russians would pick him up and spirit him back to Russia,” said a former national security official.
Officials developed multiple tactical plans to thwart any Kremlin attempt to spring Assange, some of which envisioned clashes with Russian operatives in the British capital. “There could be anything from a fistfight to a gunfight to cars running into each other,” said a former senior Trump administration official.
U.S. officials disagreed over how to interdict Assange if he attempted to escape. A proposal to initiate a car crash to halt Assange’s vehicle was not only a “borderline” or “extralegal” course of action — “something we’d do in Afghanistan, but not in the U.K.” — but was also particularly sensitive since Assange was likely going to be transported in a Russian diplomatic vehicle, said a former national security official.
If the Russians managed to get Assange onto a plane, U.S. or British operatives would prevent it from taking off by blocking it with a car on the runway, hovering a helicopter over it or shooting out its tires, according to a former senior Trump administration official. In the unlikely event that the Russians succeeded in getting airborne, officials planned to ask European countries to deny the plane overflight rights, the former official said.
Eventually, the United States and the U.K. developed a “joint plan” to prevent Assange from absconding and giving Vladimir Putin the sort of propaganda coup he had enjoyed when Snowden fled to Russia in 2013, Evanina said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a press conference in Moscow on July 1, 2013, that his country had never extradited anyone before. (Alexander Nemenov/AFP via Getty Images)

“It’s not just him getting to Moscow and taking secrets,” he said. “The second wind that Putin would get — he gets Snowden and now he gets Assange — it becomes a geopolitical win for him and his intelligence services.”
Evanina declined to comment on the plans to prevent Assange from escaping to Russia, but he suggested that the “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance between the United States, the U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand was critical. “We were very confident within the Five Eyes that we would be able to prevent him from going there,” he said.
But testimony in a Spanish criminal investigation strongly suggests that U.S. intelligence may also have had inside help keeping tabs on Assange’s plans.
By late 2015, Ecuador had hired a Spanish security company called UC Global to protect the country’s London embassy, where Assange had already spent several years running WikiLeaks from his living quarters. Unbeknownst to Ecuador, however, by mid-2017 UC Global was also working for U.S. intelligence, according to two former employees who testified in a Spanish criminal investigation first reported by the newspaper El País.
The Spanish firm was providing U.S. intelligence agencies with detailed reports of Assange’s activities and visitors as well as video and audio surveillance of Assange from secretly installed devices in the embassy, the employees testified. A former U.S. national security official confirmed that U.S. intelligence had access to video and audio feeds of Assange within the embassy but declined to specify how it acquired them.
By December 2017, the plan to get Assange to Russia appeared to be ready. UC Global had learned that Assange would “receive a diplomatic passport from Ecuadorian authorities, with the aim of leaving the embassy to transit to a third state,” a former employee said. On Dec. 15, Ecuador made Assange an official diplomat of that country and planned to assign him to its embassy in Moscow, according to documents obtained by the Associated Press.

Assange prepares to make a statement at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London on May 19, 2017. (Matt Dunham/AP)

Assange said he “was not aware” of the plan struck by the Ecuadorian foreign minister to assign him to Moscow, and refused to “accept that assignment,” said Fidel Narvaez, who was the first secretary at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2017 and 2018.
Narvaez told Yahoo News that he was directed by his superiors to try and get Assange accredited as a diplomat to the London embassy. “However, Ecuador did have a plan B,” said Narvaez, “and I understood it was to be Russia.”
Aitor Martínez, a Spanish lawyer for Assange who worked closely with Ecuador on getting Assange his diplomat status, also said the Ecuadorian foreign minister presented the Russia assignment to Assange as a fait accompli — and that Assange, when he heard about it, immediately rejected the idea.
On Dec. 21, the Justice Department secretly charged Assange, increasing the chances of legal extradition to the United States. That same day, UC Global recorded a meeting held between Assange and the head of Ecuador’s intelligence service to discuss Assange’s escape plan, according to El País. “Hours after the meeting” the U.S. ambassador relayed his knowledge of the plan to his Ecuadorian counterparts, reported El País.
Martínez says the plan — organized by the head of Ecuadorian intelligence — to sneak Assange out of the London embassy and onward, as a diplomat, to a third country was canceled after they learned the Americans were aware of it.
But U.S. intelligence officials believed Russia planned to exfiltrate Assange, reportedly on Christmas Eve. According to the former UC Global employee, the company’s boss discussed with his American contacts the possibility of leaving the embassy door open, as if by accident, “which would allow persons to enter from outside the embassy and kidnap the asylee.”

In testimony first reported in the Guardian, another idea also took shape. “Even the possibility of poisoning Mr. Assange was discussed,” the employee said his boss told him.
Even Assange appeared to fear assassination. Some Vault 7 material, which CIA officials believed to be even more damaging than the files WikiLeaks had published, had been distributed among Assange’s colleagues with instructions to publish it if one of them were killed, according to U.S. officials.
A primary question for U.S. officials was whether any CIA plan to kidnap or potentially kill Assange was legal. The discussions occurred under the aegis of the agency’s new “offensive counterintelligence” authorities, according to former officials. Some officials thought this was a highly aggressive, and likely legally transgressive, interpretation of these powers.
Without a presidential finding — the directive used to justify covert operations — assassinating Assange or other WikiLeaks members would be illegal, according to several former intelligence officials. In some situations, even a finding is not sufficient to make an action legal, said a former national security official. The CIA’s newfound offensive counterintelligence powers regarding WikiLeaks would not have stretched to assassination. “That kind of lethal action would be way outside of a legitimate intelligence or counterintelligence activity,” a former senior intelligence community lawyer said.
In the end, the assassination discussions went nowhere, said former officials.
The idea of killing Assange “didn’t get serious traction,” said a former senior CIA official. “It was, this is a crazy thing that wastes our time.”

Inside the White House, Pompeo’s impassioned arguments on WikiLeaks were making little headway. The director’s most aggressive proposals were “probably taken seriously” in Langley but not within the NSC, a former national security official said.
Even Sessions, Trump’s “very, very anti-Assange” attorney general, was opposed to CIA’s encroachment onto Justice Department territory, and believed that the WikiLeaks founder’s case was best handled through legal channels, said the former official.
Sessions’ concerns mirrored the tensions between the ramped-up intelligence collection and disruption efforts aimed at WikiLeaks, and the Justice Department’s goal of convicting Assange in open court, according to former officials. The more aggressive the CIA’s proposals became, the more 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.”

Eventually, those within the administration arguing for an approach based in the courts, rather than on espionage and covert action, won the policy debate. On April 11, 2019, after Ecuador’s new government revoked his asylum and evicted him, British police carried the WikiLeaks founder out of the embassy and arrested him for failing to surrender to the court over a warrant issued in 2012. The U.S. government unsealed its initial indictment of Assange the same day.
That indictment focused exclusively on allegations that in 2010, Assange offered to help Manning, the Army intelligence analyst, crack a password to break into a classified U.S. government network, an act that would have gone beyond journalism. But in a move that drew howls from press advocates, prosecutors later tacked on Espionage Act charges against Assange for publishing classified information — something that U.S. media outlets do regularly.
Assange’s legal odyssey appears to have only just begun. In January, a British judge ruled Assange could not be extradited to the United States, finding that he would be a suicide risk in a U.S. prison. Although Assange supporters hoped the Biden administration might drop the case, the United States, undeterred, appealed the decision. In July, a U.K. court formally permitted the U.S. appeal to proceed.

Assange, facing an extradition warrant in London, is seen arriving at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on April 11, 2019. (Rob Pinney/LNP/Shutterstock)

Pollack, Assange’s lawyer, told Yahoo News that if Assange is extradited to face trial, “the extreme nature of the type of government misconduct that you’re reporting would certainly be an issue and potentially grounds for dismissal.” He likened the measures used to target Assange to those deployed by the Nixon administration against Daniel Ellsberg for leaking the Pentagon Papers, noting the charges against Ellsberg were ultimately dismissed as well.
Meanwhile, WikiLeaks may be increasingly obsolete. The growing ability of groups and individuals — whistleblowers or dissidents, spies or criminals — to publish leaked materials online diminishes the group’s raison d’être. “We’re kind of post-WikiLeaks right now,” said a former senior counterintelligence official.
Yet spy services are increasingly using a WikiLeaks-like model of posting stolen materials online. In 2018, the Trump administration 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.
For a former Trump national security official, the lessons of the CIA’s campaign against WikiLeaks are clear. “There was an inappropriate level of attention to Assange given the embarrassment, not the threat he posed in context,” said this official.
“We should never act out of a desire for revenge.”
Cover thumbnail photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP, Getty Images (2), CIA, WikiLeaks.
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.

How Is The CIA Still A Thing?
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Listen to a reading of this article:

Citing "conversations with more than 30 former U.S. officials," a new report by Yahoo News has confirmed earlier allegations that the Central Intelligence Agency not only spied on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and his associates, but also drew up plans for kidnapping, renditioning, and assassinating him.
These plans were reportedly made in coordination with the Trump White House as then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo and then-Deputy CIA Director Gina Haspel raged over WikiLeaks' 2017 Vault 7 release which revealed that the CIA had lost control of an enormous digital arsenal of hacking tools. These included tools which enabled the surveillance of smartphones, smart TVs and web browsers, the hacking of computerized vehicle control systems, and the ability to frame foreign governments for cyber attacks by inserting the digital "fingerprints" of the hacking methods they employ for investigators to find. It was the single largest data leak in CIA history.
Normally we have to wait decades for confirmation that the CIA did something nefarious, and then people absurdly assume that such things no longer occur because it was so long ago, and because changing your worldview is uncomfortable. But here we are with an extensively sourced report that the agency plotted to kidnap, rendition and assassinate a journalist for publishing authentic documents in the public interest, just four years after the fact.
[Image: kgosztola.jpg]Kevin Gosztola @kgosztola
Journalists for Yahoo! News finally confirmed a narrative around Mike Pompeo and the CIA's war on WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange, which I outlined back in October 2019. It's an important report.

[Image: https%3A%2F%2Fbucketeer-e05bbc84-baa3-43...0x675.jpeg]Kidnapping, assassination and a London shoot-out: Inside the CIA’s secret war plans against WikiLeaksIn 2017, as Julian Assange began his fifth year holed up in Ecuador’s embassy in London, the CIA plotted to kidnap the WikiLeaks founder, spurring
September 26th 2021
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Which is about as spectacular a violation of virtually every value that western society claims to uphold. Particularly the assassination bit.
The authors of the story (who for the record insert their own flimsy spin insinuating ties between Russia and WikiLeaks) say it's not known just how serious the assassination plans were taken at Langley. But they make it abundantly clear that such plans were made:

Quote:"[A]gency executives requested and received 'sketches' of plans for killing Assange and other Europe-based WikiLeaks members who had access to Vault 7 materials, said a former intelligence official. There were discussions 'on whether killing Assange was possible and whether it was legal,' the former official said."
And that, right there, just by itself, should be reason enough to completely abolish the Central Intelligence Agency. Just the fact that this is an institution where such conversations even happen and such plans even get made, to say nothing of the obvious implication that they wouldn't have such conversations and make such plans if they did not act on them from time to time.
I just can't get over how this claim was openly confirmed by a mainstream journalism investigation and the public response has been "Oh wow what an alarming news story," instead of, "Okay well the CIA doesn't get to exist then." 
I mean, is it not out-of-this-world bizarre that we just found out the CIA recently drew up plans to assassinate a journalist for journalistic activity, and yet we're not all unanimously demanding that the CIA be completely dismantled and flushed down the toilet forever?
[Image: SocialistMMA.jpg]Nick is a Fred Hampton Leftist ? @SocialistMMA
I’m seriously confused at the people who are opposed to abolishing the CIA?

Is the argument that they are doing good work?

How can anyone hear about the history of the CIA and what they do and be like, “I approve”

September 27th 2021
293 Retweets1,542 Likes


This would after all be the same lyingdrug-runningwarmongeringpropagandizingpsychological terrorizing Central Intelligence Agency that has been viciously smashing the world into compliance with its agendas for generations. It is surely one of the most depraved institutions ever to have existed, comparable in terms of sheer psychopathy to the worst of the worst in history.
So why does it exist? Why is there still an institution whose extensive use of torture has reportedly included "Rape, gang rape, rape using eels, snakes, or hard objects, and rape followed by murder; electric shock ('the Bell Telephone Hour') rendered by attaching wires to the genitals or other sensitive parts of the body, like the tongue; the 'water treatment'; the 'airplane' in which the prisoner's arms were tied behind the back, and the rope looped over a hook on the ceiling, suspending the prisoner in midair, after which he or she was beaten; beatings with rubber hoses and whips; the use of police dogs to maul prisoners"?
I am of course being rhetorical. We all know why the CIA still exists. An agency which exerts control over the news media with ever-increasing brazenness is not about to start helping the public become more well-informed about its unbroken track record of horrific abuses, and if anyone in power ever even thinks about crossing them they have "six ways from Sunday of getting back at you."

The date of the absolute last time the CIA ever did anything evil keeps getting moved forward. The CIA just casually had plans drawn up for the assassination of Julian Assange in case they decided that was something they wanted to do, but you're a crazy conspiracy theorist if you think they might be doing other bad things right now.
The reason the latest Assange story isn't getting more traction and causing more people to think critically about the CIA is because the US government making plans to kidnap, rendition and assassinate a journalist for telling the truth is so incomprehensibly evil that it causes too much cognitive dissonance for people to really take in. Our minds are wired to reject information which disrupts our worldview, and people who've spent their lives marinating in the belief that they live in a free democracy will have worldviews that are resistant to information which shows we are actually ruled by secretive power structures who laugh at our votes.
So to recap, the CIA made plans to kidnap and rendition Julian Assange and to assassinate him and his associates. The CIA also spied on Assange and his legal team, and a notoriously untrustworthy key witness for the prosecution in his case has admitted to fabricating evidence. And yet the CIA is not being burnt to the ground and its ashes scattered to the Langley winds, and the UK is still somehow proceeding right along with the US appeal to extradite Assange.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: as much light as WikiLeaks has shone on the dark inner workings of the powerful over the years, the persecution of Julian Assange by those very same power structures has revealed far, far more. The more they seek to persecute him the brighter that light shines on them, making it easier and easier for us to see who they are, what they do, and how they do it.
My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following me on FacebookTwitterSoundcloud or YouTube, or throwing some money into my tip jar on Ko-fiPatreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy my books. The best way to make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for at my website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. Everyone, racist platforms excluded, has my permission to republish, use or translate any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here

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"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.
What it’s like to be targeted by the CIA and its mates
America's relentless pursuit of Julian Assange, up to and including planning to kidnap or murder him, also affected people brave enough to support him. So why is the Australian government remaining silent?
SEP 28, 2021

[Image: 20210106001512105862-original-e1609963167321.jpg]COURT ARTIST SKETCH OF JULIAN ASSANGE (IMAGE: ELIZABETH COOK/PA WIRE VIA AP)
The confirmation yesterday by Yahoo! News that the CIA planned to abduct and render, or murder, Julian Assange also revealed the absurd extent of surveillance to which Assange, and anyone associated with him, was subjected to. One former official quoted by Yahoo! described the surveillance, by teams from multiple countries, as “beyond comical”, with “every human being in a three-block radius … working for one of the intelligence services — whether they were street sweepers or police officers or security guards”.
Assange was also the subject of intense surveillance within the Ecuadorian embassy, with even toilets bugged by UC Global, the firm ostensibly charged with providing security for the embassy.
The surveillance meant that anyone who visited Assange was scrutinised by an array of official and non-official intelligence units.
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“I visited the embassy a number of times, most recently in 2017,” former Greens senator Scott Ludlam says. “Knowing now that Julian and other guests of the Ecuadorians were being placed on a speculative kill list makes my blood run cold. The revelations of the last few days confirm beyond doubt that the pursuit of Julian and his friends and associates was long ago unmoored from the rule of law, common sense or morality … it must end now, and it’s time, a decade late, for our government to draw a line.”
Former Greens staffer Felicity Ruby found herself directly targeted for her support of Assange. “First it was part of my job, but the more I learned, the work became my own choice,” she told [i]Crikey[/i]. “I’ve visited Julian in Ellingham Hall, the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and the Belmarsh dungeon [where he is currently imprisoned]. I knew each time I visited that I was under surveillance and that caring personally about him and his team could be dangerous.”
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CIA’s Assange abduction/murder plan raises questions for Australian government
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“While it has cost me, not acting in defence of a free press would have cost me more. The very point of a chilling effect is provoking fear and paralysis, so it’s important to shrug it off but that hasn’t always been easy.
“It got real for me personally when documents surfaced showing the UC Global chief telling his staff to target me and a colleague. My mother was dying at the time and I was disturbed by the confirmation of our fears, but also afraid it would become public and upset her. We know … plans existed back in 2010 to destroy supporters and the organisation.
“If you’re a friend of Julian’s, it does affect your life, how you communicate, how open you are to meeting new people without suspicion. It’s awkward too when an old friend gets in touch, or a new friend comes into my life, to explain that because I’m a close friend of Julian Assange, their communication will likely be caught in surveillance, but it seems irresponsible to not flag it.”
“Reading about plans to kill Julian, and that we were all stalked and watched makes me wonder how much our government knew or even participated in this CIA operation, and when it will ever end. I’m tired, but that’s also the point of the torment, to tire supporters and see them drop away, but the opposite is happening.”
Academic and technology researcher Suelette Dreyfus speaks of the high personal cost of being a friend of Assange’s. “I wrote a book with Julian Assange in 1997, and we’ve stayed friends. Nothing could prepare me for the personal cost of that friendship in terms of the surveillance inflicted on me.
“The physical surveillance was so obvious that at times friends and relatives observed it and asked about it. At times, their presence frightened my children. My phone was stuffed for months. Out of place people followed me to country Victoria. Strangers entered my house when I wasn’t there — and they didn’t know I could determine they had been there. A surveillance team even followed me to Queensland on holidays with my family. It was nuts. I was censored from speaking at a conference — here in Australia — by Australian Signals Directorate.
“So, yeah, I’ve paid a high personal cost. But nowhere near as high as Julian Assange. Nor Daphne Galizia, Jan Kuciak, Giorgos Karaivaz or Peter de Vries — all assassinated investigative journalists.” 
Dreyfus wants to know how much the government knew about the US and UK plans. “When your best-buddy allies hatch plans to assassinate your citizens, it may be time to rethink that partnership … President Biden needs to drop all the trumped-up charges against Assange. All three governments need to issue, if not an apology which is owed, at least an enduring commitment to stop trying to silence journalists who reveal uncomfortable truths. And all of these governments need to confess to their citizen victims about the overreach of the spying and harassment that went on — so it doesn’t happen again.”
Human rights lawyer and Assange legal adviser Jen Robinson also wants answers from the Australian government. “I have serious questions for the Morrison government: (1) What did you know and when about US plans to abduct and assassinate Julian Assange, an Australian citizen? (2) What action will the Australian government now take in response to these revelations? (3) What more will it take for our government to act to protect this Australian citizen?”
“For more than a decade,” Robinson says, “I have been asking successive Australian governments to exercise diplomatic protection over Assange. How can the Australian government now stand silent and refuse to act in response to a CIA proposal to assassinate an Australian citizen who has done no more than publish truthful information about the US, war crimes, human rights abuse and unlawful government surveillance?”
“For years, we have been raising concern with our government about the unlawful spying on Assange and on us as his lawyers. The Australian government has so far done nothing.”
On Friday, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki, asked about Assange, said “we do think of ourselves and we are approaching this from an entirely different approach of the last few years as it relates to freedom of the press”.
The US appeal to overturn the ruling by the British courts refusing to allow the extradition of Assange on espionage and conspiracy charges continues. Assange remains in Belmarsh prison.
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.
Imperialist gangsterism and the CIA plot to kill Julian Assange
Thomas Scripps
a day ago
Revelations that the CIA discussed the assassination of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange confirm the staggering criminality of the US and British ruling class. By rights, they should see the US extradition case against Assange still proceeding through the UK High Court thrown out, and the investigation and prosecution of the conspirators up to the highest level of the US and UK governments and their intelligence agencies.

Julian Assange being dragged out of the Ecuadorean embassy in London, April 2019
According to an investigation by Yahoo News published Sunday, President Donald Trump’s CIA director Mike Pompeo christened WikiLeaks a “non-state hostile intelligence service” in 2017 to make its employees and associates a legitimate target for CIA “offensive counterintelligence” activities.

Pompeo then asked for plans to be drawn up for Assange’s kidnap or assassination. The report is based on information from more than 30 US sources. Both Pompeo and the CIA have refused to comment.

These sources, former top US officials, explain that the US manhunt of Assange escalated dramatically after the publication of the “Vault 7” leaks in March 2017, exposing intimate details of CIA spying operations. Three sources stated that plans were discussed to kill the WikiLeaks founder, with Trump reportedly asking for “options” from the agency on how this could be done. CIA heads apparently requested and were provided “sketches” of assassination plans and discussions were had on “whether killing Assange was possible and whether it was legal,” according to one source.

Plans for Assange’s kidnap, in the event of a Russian-backed escape from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where Assange had claimed asylum, included ramming a Russian diplomatic vehicle, shoot-outs with Russian agents in the streets of London and, as a last resort, shooting the tyres of any Russian plane trying to carry Assange out of the country. A senior official told Yahoo that Britain agreed “to do the shooting if gunfire was required.”

Yahoo’s investigation confirms and substantially expands on claims subject to a current court case in Spain that the firm UC Global, which provided security for Ecuador’s London embassy, worked with the CIA to spy on Assange and discussed his kidnap and assassination.

There is nothing the least surprising about the existence of plans for Assange’s murder. US imperialism has despatched its professional assassins all over the world to secure its interests for decades. The Assange plot recalls the murder of Chilean dissident Orlando Letelier in 1976, whose car was blown up in Washington D.C., just a mile from the White House. Organised by Augusto Pinochet’s secret police, the killing was facilitated by US intelligence under Operation Condor—though this has always been denied.

What is new today is the increasingly unguarded character of ruling class violence and repression. Plots once organised through accomplices, kept closely under wraps and strenuously denied are now carried out in ever more open fashion.

The admitted murder and dismemberment of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, in the Saudi consulate in Turkey in 2018 by agents of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, elicited only the most token “condemnation” by the US and UK governments.

Just over a week ago, the New York Times gloried in the US-Israeli assassination of Iranian physicist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

Assange’s own killing was widely discussed shortly after the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs and US diplomatic cables leaks. In 2012, WikiLeaks produced a video, titled “Assassinating Assange,” collecting the threats made against his life by prominent figures in the previous two years.

Commentators on Fox News called for the then Obama administration to “illegally shoot the son of a b****,” “have the CIA take him out” and say, “if we catch you, we’re gonna hang you.” Former Republican speaker of the house Newt Gingrich said Assange had “engaged in terrorism” and “should be treated as an enemy combatant.” He was agreed with by then Vice President Joe Biden, who labelled Assange a “high-tech terrorist.” Secretary of State Hilary Clinton reportedly asked in private, “Can’t we just drone this guy?”

There is no doubt that high-level discussions regarding Assange’s possible assassination took place under Obama. Sunday’s revelations demonstrate that the Trump administration, in response to continued WikiLeaks releases causing serious damage to US imperialism and an explosion of domestic class tensions, sought ever more recklessly to realise this aim. Moreover, their leaking by so many sources must be related to the escalating factional warfare in ruling circles regarding Trump’s January 6 coup plot.

The close involvement of the British state in these plans sheds light on the January 4 surprise ruling by District Judge Vanessa Baraitser that Assange should not be extradited to the US due to the “substantial risk” of his suicide. That ruling was challenged by the US, which this August was granted expanded grounds to appeal the decision in a hearing before the High Court scheduled for October 27-28.

Clearly, the type of “suicide” Baraitser had in mind was a murder orchestrated by the US state. The pseudo-legal pursuit of Assange was an ancillary operation to the kill or capture mission discussed by the CIA. Once Assange was in the clutches of the US prison system, he could meet a similar fate to that of Jeffrey Epstein—who supposedly hanged himself in his cell in August 2019 before being called to testify in a sex trafficking case implicating dozens of the most powerful figures in American society.

In the knowledge of this plot, the UK ruling class evidently felt it lacked sufficient deniability in January for such a barefaced murder of a journalist whose imprisonment it has overseen for the past decade. Every action taken by the British judiciary since the original denial of extradition, however, has been in the US government’s favour. By proceeding with the case, the British state is knowingly complicit in an ongoing conspiracy to murder or otherwise silence Assange forever.

Also complicit are the world’s media, above all the “liberal” Guardian in the UK and the New York Times in the US. At the time of writing, the Times had not reported on the Yahoo News revelations at all. The Guardian only published an article late on Monday evening (9 pm BST) and buried it in its media section.

Despite feeling belatedly forced to make a show of opposition to Assange’s extradition, these papers continue to do all in their power to obscure the full implications of a case that reveals the total, unreformable criminality of US, British and world imperialism. They have painted the extradition proceedings as a case of ill-advised overreach by embarrassed governments, which should be ruled against by a wiser judiciary.

These latest exposures blow this fraud apart. The only conclusion to be drawn is that Assange’s extradition must be dropped immediately. The US has not even the formal right to seek his extradition—under UK law, no one can be extradited to a country where they have a chance of facing the death penalty—and the UK has no right to hear his case. Both governments are party to kidnap and murder plots against him.

These facts alone do not offer any guarantee of Assange’s safety. In her ruling against extradition, Baraitser said of the defence’s evidence on UC Global and CIA surveillance that “there is no reason to assume this related to these proceedings” and that “fruits of any surveillance would not be seen by prosecutors assigned to the case.”

Baraitser’s statement proves there is no purely judicial route to Assange’s freedom. What is necessary is the construction of a mass international movement, rooted in the working class.

Building such a movement requires a complete rejection of the appeals made by those like the official Don’t Extradite Assange campaign to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, President Joe Biden and even, when he was president, Trump. All of these figures, together with their heads of intelligence and their deputies, are implicated in a plot to kill the WikiLeaks founder. The fight to free Assange is bound up with the struggle to put these imperialist gangsters in the dock in his place.
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.

The CIA labeled WikiLeaks a “non-state hostile intelligence service” while entertaining plans to kidnap or assassinate its founder.
[Image: Ryan-Grim-2-bw-crop-1521473736.jpg?auto=...&h=60&w=60][Image: sara-sirota-1.jpg?auto=compress%2Cformat&q=90&h=60&w=60]
Ryan GrimSara Sirota

September 29 2021, 8:02 a.m.

THE SENATE SELECT Committee on Intelligence in 2017 gave its stamp of approval to a legal maneuver that we now know the CIA was using to hunt WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
According to an explosive investigation published Sunday by Yahoo News, senior Trump administration officials — including the former president and director of the CIA — considered options to kidnap and even assassinate Assange in 2017 as part of a CIA “offensive counterintelligence” operation. In order to expand its legal options, the administration moved to designate WikiLeaks as a “non-state hostile intelligence service,” a label first unveiled by then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo at an April 2017 think tank event.
The creative relabeling was the culmination of an effort that had begun under the Obama administration. In the wake of Edward Snowden’s leak of classified National Security Agency documents, intelligence officials moved to label WikiLeaks an “information broker,” which they distinguished from journalism and publishing. In an extraordinary assault on the press, the officials also pushed to apply the same designation to Intercept co-founders Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras in a related but failed effort to strip them of First Amendment protections in the wake of the NSA leaks. The Obama White House rejected that effort as it related to all three, Yahoo reported, but under Trump, officials successfully applied the “non-state hostile intelligence service” label to WikiLeaks.
A former official told Yahoo News that the more aggressive label was “chosen advisedly and reflected the view of the administration” and allowed Pompeo and his lieutenants to think more creatively about how to target Assange. Those plans involved both kidnapping and assassination.
The administration also sought and won legislative language that backed up the claim for the expanded power.
As The Intercept 
reported at the time, a provision in the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 stated: “It is the sense of Congress that WikiLeaks and the senior leadership of WikiLeaks resemble a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors and should be treated as such a service by the United States.”

[Image: ebd4fbaf-14f4-43c0-b051-7c7c73aa2247.jpe...32000b39e2]
Even WikiLeaks Haters Shouldn’t Want it Labeled a “Hostile Intelligence Agency”

This kind of text doesn’t necessarily have a formal impact on policy, but the language was so alarming to Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., a senior member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, that he opposed the bill in a 14-1 panel vote in July 2017. “My concern is that the use of the novel phrase ‘non-state hostile intelligence service’ may have legal, constitutional, and policy implications, particularly should it be applied to journalists inquiring about secrets,” he explained in a press release at the time. A spokesperson for Wyden declined to comment on whether the senator knew about Pompeo’s interest in using the language to justify actions against Assange and WikiLeaks.
But Wyden’s comment strongly suggests that he was read in on some of the anti-Assange efforts and was sending out clues to the public without violating laws against revealing classified information, just as he did with regard to warrantless surveillance prior to Snowden’s disclosures. But in both cases, the vague clues were meaningless to the public, raising the question of what the purpose is of informing Congress of such activities if Congress is unwilling to either halt or expose them.
According to the Yahoo News story, Pompeo’s fixation with WikiLeaks began to worry the National Security Council by the summer of 2017, and at some point the CIA’s ideas to target the group drove White House officials to warn lawmakers and staffers on the House and Senate intelligence committees. (The House panel’s version of the fiscal year 2018 authorization bill, which it also voted on in July 2017, did not mention WikiLeaks.)

The drafts never left the committees that year. Instead, the final compromise bill, which included the new identification for WikiLeaks, was wrapped into the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 that Congress passed and President Donald Trump signed in December 2019. By that time, according to Yahoo News, members of the intelligence panels had already learned about the CIA’s proposals targeting the group. Yet no lawmaker publicly raised concerns about endorsing the “non-state hostile intelligence service” label.
In the Senate,[url=] that year’s defense authorization bill was opposed by Wyden, Ron Paul, Mike Lee, Ed Markey, Jeff Merkley, Kirsten Gillibrand, Mike Enzi, and Mike Braun. The senators then running for president — Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, and Cory Booker — all missed the vote. In the House, 41 Democrats, six Republicans, and libertarian Justin Amash voted no.
[Image: GettyImages-631546052.jpg?auto=compress%...1024&h=683]Rep. Mike Pompeo, Donald Trump’s nominee for the director of the CIA, arrives for his confirmation hearing before the Senate Select Intelligence Committee in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 12, 2017.
Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
IN 2017, the CIA was incensed and embarrassed that WikiLeaks had obtained and released a trove of files from its hacking division, Vault 7, but it didn’t have the authority to conduct widespread surveillance operations because the group had free speech protections.
Assange followed the scoop with an op-ed in the Washington Post, arguing that his motive was no different than that of the Post or the New York Times. He stressed that his journalistic outfit was essential to holding a democratic government accountable. “On his last night in office, President Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered a powerful farewell speech to the nation — words so important that he’d spent a year and a half preparing them,” Assange began.
“‘Ike’ famously warned the nation to ‘guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.’
“Much of Eisenhower’s speech could form part of the mission statement of WikiLeaks today. We publish truths regarding overreaches and abuses conducted in secret by the powerful.
“Our most recent disclosures describe the CIA’s multibillion-dollar cyberwarfare program, in which the agency created dangerous cyberweapons, targeted private companies’ consumer products and then lost control of its cyber-arsenal. Our source(s) said they hoped to initiate a principled public debate about the “security, creation, use, proliferation and democratic control of cyberweapons.”
Two days later, at a speech hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Pompeo declared that “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.”
Assange responded again in the Washington Post, mocking the CIA for its incompetence and arguing that WikiLeaks’s exposure of its mishandling of a massive project was in the public interest. “Vault 7 has begun publishing evidence of remarkable CIA incompetence and other shortcomings. This includes the agency’s creation, at a cost of billions of taxpayer dollarDiplomat Pressured UNC to Remove Teacher Who Criticized Israel

Murtaza Hussains, of an entire arsenal of cyber viruses and hacking programs — over which it promptly lost control and then tried to cover up the loss,” he wrote.

When the director of the CIA, an unelected public servant, publicly demonizes a publisher such as WikiLeaks as a “fraud,” “coward,” and “enemy,” it puts all journalists on notice, or should. Pompeo’s next talking point, unsupported by fact, that WikiLeaks is a “non-state hostile intelligence service,” is a dagger aimed at Americans’ constitutional right to receive honest information about their government. This accusation mirrors attempts throughout history by bureaucrats seeking, and failing, to criminalize speech that reveals their own failings.
As we now know, Pompeo responded to this challenge by ordering the CIA to draw up plans to kidnap Assange from the Ecuadorian Embassy, where he was receiving diplomatic protection.
In December 2017, WikiLeaks published video footage of what it plausibly described as a “grab team” waiting outside the embassy.

Assange is currently in a London prison fighting a U.S. extradition attempt. British courts blocked the effort, but the U.S. has appealed. A spokesperson for the Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a question about whether the revelation of the kidnapping and assassination plans has any effect on the decision of whether to continue the extradition attempt.
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.

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