The Dallas Morning News
Assange evicted, arrested
Ecuador rescinds Wikileaks founder’s asylum
LONDON — British police on Thursday hauled a shouting Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian Embassy, where he was holed up for nearly seven years, and a U.S. federal court unsealed an indictment charging the Wikileaks founder with conspiracy to hack a classified Defense Department computer.
Assange was taken into custody after Ecuador rescinded his asylum at its embassy in London. Ecuador’s president, Lenín Moreno, said he decided to evict Assange after “repeated violations to international conventions and dailylife protocols.”
Moreno later lashed out at Assange during a speech in Quito, Ecuador’s capital, calling the Australian native a “spoiled brat” who treated his hosts with disrespect.
London’s Metropolitan Police said that Assange, 47, was “arrested on behalf of the United States authorities.”
In an indictment unsealed hours later, Assange was accused of conspiring in 2010 with Chelsea Manning, a U.S. Army intelligence analyst then known as Bradley Manning, and others to illegally obtain secret U.S. military and diplomatic documents whose dissemination could be used to injure the United States.
Assange took refuge in the embassy in 2012 after he was released on bail in Britain while facing extradition to Sweden on sexual assault allegations, which have since been dropped. He refused to leave the embassy, fearing arrest and extradition to the U.S. for publishing classified military and diplomatic cables through Wikileaks.
In a court appearance Thursday, Assange was found guilty of breaching his bail, an offense that carries a prison sentence of up to 12 months. He pleaded not guilty.
Judge Michael Snow reprimanded Assange and said he demonstrated “the behavior of a narcissist who cannot get beyond his own selfish interests.”
Assange is due to appear at a later date to be sentenced for the bail charge.
He is due to appear again May 2 via video link regarding the extradition matter.
‘A dangerous precedent’
Outside court, one of Assange’s lawyers, Jennifer Robinson, said Assange would fight extradition to the United States. She called the action against him “a dangerous precedent for all news media.” Robinson said she was seeking medical care for Assange, whose health she said has suffered during his time in the Ecuadorian Embassy.
In Washington, President Donald Trump was asked Thursday about his expressed “love” for Wikileaks during the 2016 election campaign, when the organization was publishing stolen emails damaging to the campaign of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
“Wikileaks — I love Wikileaks!” he said in October 2016 at a rally in Pennsylvania, waving a report on the latest disclosures.
In response to the question Thursday, Trump said: “I know nothing about WikiLeaks. It’s not my thing.”
The U.S. indictment, filed in federal court in March 2018 and unsealed Thursday, accuses Assange of agreeing to help Manning break a password to the Defense Department’s computer network in 2010. That action, prosecutors alleged, would have allowed Manning to log in with another username. The indictment includes no evidence that the passwordhacking effort actually succeeded.
Even before the attempt to secure a password, Manning had given Wikileaks hundreds of thousands of classified records, prosecutors alleged. The material allegedly included four nearly complete databases, comprising 90,000 reports from the Afghanistan war, 400,000 reports from the Iraq war, and 250,000 State Department cables.
Manning was imprisoned for seven years for violations of the Espionage Act and other offenses.
Robinson, Assange’s lawyer, said that Assange met Thursday morning with the Ecuadorian ambassador, who notified him that his asylum was being revoked. Then the Metropolitan Police were invited into the embassy, where they arrested him, she said.
‘A courageous decision’
Video of the arrest showed a graybearded Assange being pulled by British police officers down the steps of the embassy and shoved into a police van. Assange appeared to be physically resisting. His hands were secured in front of him, but he appeared to be clutching a copy of Gore Vidal’s History of the National Security State.
The British government heralded the development. “Julian Assange is no hero, and no one is above the law,” said Jeremy Hunt, Britain’s foreign secretary.
He praised President Moreno for making “a courageous decision.”
The Ecuadorian president specifically cited Assange’s involvement in what he described as Wikileaks’ meddling in the internal affairs of other countries.
“He particularly violated the norm of not intervening in the internal affairs of other states,” Moreno said. “The most recent incident occurred in January 2019, when Wikileaks leaked Vatican documents.
“Key members of that organization visited Mr. Assange before and after such illegal acts,” Moreno said. “This and other publications have confirmed the world’s suspicion that Mr. Assange is still linked to Wikileaks and therefore involved in interfering in internal affairs of other states.”
Wikileaks used the arrest as a fundraising opportunity on Twitter.
“This man is a son, a father, a brother,” the group said on Twitter. “He has won dozens of journalism awards. He’s been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize every year since 2010. Powerful actors, including CIA, are engaged in a sophisticated effort to dehumanise, delegitimize and imprison him.”
Sen. Mark Warner, DVA., vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, had a less charitable take on Assange.
“Whatever his intentions when he started Wikileaks, what he’s really become is a direct participant in Russian efforts to undermine the West and a dedicated accomplice in efforts to undermine American security,” Warner said. “It is my hope that the British courts will quickly transfer him to U.S. custody so he can finally get the justice he deserves.”