Chris Hedges: The Puppets & the Puppet Masters

On the 9th October 2022, Ford Fischer filmed Chris Hedges speech at the US Department of Justice “Merrick Garland and those who work in the Department of Justice are the puppets, not the puppet masters,” said Pulitzer-winning journalist Chris Hedges Saturday outside the DOJ. “The engine driving the lynching of Julian Assange is not here … Continue reading “Chris Hedges: The Puppets & the Puppet Masters”

On the 9th October 2022, Ford Fischer filmed Chris Hedges speech at the US Department of Justice

“Merrick Garland and those who work in the Department of Justice are the puppets, not the puppet masters,” said Pulitzer-winning journalist Chris Hedges Saturday outside the DOJ.

“The engine driving the lynching of Julian Assange is not here on Pennsylvania Avenue. It is in Langley, Virginia, located at a complex we will never be allowed to surround, the Central Intelligence Agency. It is driven by a secretive inner state, one where we do not count, in the mad pursuit of empire and ruthless exploitation.

“We cannot fight on behalf of Julian Assange unless we are clear who we are fighting against,” he then described as “A global billionaire class who have orchestrated a social inequality rivaled by Pharaonic Egypt.”

Filmed by Ford Fischer

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Also reported in Consortium News and ScheerPost by Chris Hedges

Merrick Garland and those who work in the Department of Justice are the puppets, not the puppet masters. They are the façade, the fiction, that the longstanding persecution of Julian Assange has something to do with justice. Like the High Court in London, they carry out an elaborate judiC.I.A.l pantomime. They debate arcane legal nuances to distract from the Dickensian farce where a man who has not committed a crime, who is not a U.S. citizen, can be extradited under the Espionage Act and sentenced to life in prison for the most courageous and consequential journalism of our generation.

The engine driving the lynching of Julian is not here on Pennsylvania Avenue. It is in Langley, Virginia, located at a complex we will never be allowed to surround – the Central Intelligence Agency. It is driven by a secretive inner state, one where we do not count in the mad pursuit of empire and ruthless exploitation. Because the machine of this modern leviathan was exposed by Julian and WikiLeaks, the machine demands revenge. 

The United States has undergone a corporate coup d’etat in slow motion. It is no longer a functioning democracy. The real centers of power, in the corporate, military and national security sectors, were humiliated and embarrassed by WikiLeaks. Their war crimes, lies, conspiracies to crush the democratic aspirations of the vulnerable and the poor, and rampant corruption, here and around the globe, were laid bare in troves of leaked documents.  

We cannot fight on behalf of Julian unless we are clear about whom we are fighting against. It is far worse than a corrupt judiC.I.A.ry. The global billionaire class, who have orchestrated a soC.I.A.l inequality rivaled by pharaonic Egypt, has internally seized all of the levers of power and made us the most spied upon, monitored, watched and photographed population in human history. When the government watches you 24-hours a day, you cannot use the word liberty. This is the relationship between a master and a slave. Julian was long a target, of course, but when WikiLeaks published the documents known as Vault 7, which exposed the hacking tools the C.I.A. uses to monitor our phones, televisions and even cars, he — and journalism itself — was condemned to crucifixion.

The object is to shut down any investigations into the inner workings of power that might hold the ruling class accountable for its crimes, eradicate public opinion and replace it with the cant fed to the mob.

I spent two decades as a foreign correspondent on the outer reaches of empire in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and the Balkans. I am acutely aware of the savagery of empire, how the brutal tools of repression are first tested on those Frantz Fanon called “the wretched of the earth.” Wholesale surveillance. Torture. Coups. Black sites. Black propaganda. Militarized police. Militarized drones. Assassinations. Wars.

Once perfected on people of color overseas, these tools migrate back to the homeland. By hollowing out our country from the inside through deindustrialization, austerity, deregulation, wage stagnation, the abolition of unions, massive expenditures on war and intelligence, a refusal to address the climate emergency and a virtual tax boycott for the richest individuals and corporations, these predators intend to keep us in bondage, victims of a corporate neo-feudalism. And they have perfected their instruments of Orwellian control. The tyranny imposed on others is imposed on us.

From its inception, the C.I.A. carried out assassinations, coups, torture and illegal spying and abuse, including that of U.S. citizens, activities exposed in 1975 by the Church Committee hearings in the Senate and the Pike Committee hearings in the House. All these crimes, especially after the attacks of 9/11, have returned with a vengeance. The C.I.A. is a rogue and unaccountable paramilitary organization with its own armed units and drone program, death squads and a vast archipelago of global black sites where kidnapped victims are tortured and disappeared. 

The U.S. allocates a secret black budget of about $50 billion a year to hide multiple types of clandestine projects carried out by the National Security Agency, the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies, usually beyond the scrutiny of Congress. The C.I.A. has a well-oiled apparatus to kidnap, torture and assassinate targets around the globe, which is why, since it had already set up a system of 24-hour video surveillance of Julian in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, it quite naturally discussed kidnapping and assassinating him. That is its business. Senator Frank Church — after examining the heavily redacted C.I.A. documents released to his committee — defined the C.I.A.’s “covert activity” as “a semantic disguise for murder, coercion, blackmail, bribery, the spreading of lies and consorting with known torturers and international terrorists.”

All despotisms mask state persecution with sham court proceedings. The show trials and troikas in Stalin’s Soviet Union. The raving Nazi judges in fascist Germany. The Denunciation rallies in Mao’s China. State crime is cloaked in a faux legality, a judicial farce.

If Julian is extradited and sentenced and, given the Lubyanka-like proclivities of the Eastern District of Virginia, this is a near certainty, it means that those of us who have published classified material, as I did when I worked for The New York Times, will become criminals. It means that an iron curtain will be pulled down to mask abuses of power. It means that the state, which, through Special Administrative Measures, or SAMs, anti-terrorism laws and the Espionage Act that have created our homegrown version of Stalin’s Article 58, can imprison anyone anywhere in the world who dares commit the crime of telling the truth.

We are here to fight for Julian. But we are also here to fight against powerful subterranean forces that, in demanding Julian’s extradition and life imprisonment, have declared war on journalism. 

We are here to fight for Julian. But we are also here to fight for the restoration of the rule of law and democracy. 

We are here to fight for Julian. But we are also here to dismantle the wholesale Stasi-like state surveillance erected across the West. 

We are here to fight for Julian. But we are also here to overthrow — and let me repeat that word for the benefit of those in the F.B.I. and Homeland Security who have come here to monitor us — overthrow the corporate state and create a government of the people, by the people and for the people, that will cherish, rather than persecute, the best among us.

You can see my interview with Julian’s father, John Shipton

McBride on Five Eyes

On the 10th August, whistleblower David McBride posted on Twitter Wikipedia: David William McBride (born 1963 or 1964) is an Australian whistleblower and former British Army major and Australian Army lawyer. From 2014 to 2016 McBride provided the Australian Broadcasting Corporation with information about war crimes allegedly committed by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan. The ABC broadcast details in 2017.  In 2018, he was charged with several offences related … Continue reading “McBride on Five Eyes”

On the 10th August, whistleblower David McBride posted on Twitter

Wikipedia: David William McBride (born 1963 or 1964) is an Australian whistleblower and former British Army major and Australian Army lawyer. From 2014 to 2016 McBride provided the Australian Broadcasting Corporation with information about war crimes allegedly committed by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan. The ABC broadcast details in 2017.  In 2018, he was charged with several offences related to his whistleblowing, and is awaiting trial. The war crime allegations were reviewed in the Brereton Report.

Editors Note: Of interest the commander-in-chief [of Australian Defence Force] refusing to prosecute torture and war crimes committed by his subordinates, incurs personal criminal liability under the Nuremberg Principles and the doctrine of command and superior responsibility

There will never be any significant help for Assange as long as Aust in part of ‘Five Eyes’. Under its provisions ‘their information’ is ‘our information’, such that we have to consider Assange a criminal as well, no matter what crime he uncovered.

The Five Eyes ruling concept, that ‘once you are in, there is no difference between individual int services, just diff nationalities serving the same goal’, means that the US were even consulted in my prosecution, as if it was ‘their information’. They pushed for prosecution.

‘Five Eyes’ is a misleading name because it implies a collective but it’s actually simply four nations collecting Int for the US. We get to see their stuff, if it suits them. But there is only one ‘decision maker’. and it’s not us.

When @AlboMP and @SenatorWong say things like ‘legally our hands are tied’ they are not being genuine, but the truth is even worse: even if they desperately wanted to help Assange they could do nothing. It would be like a State Govt complaining about a Fed arrest: not their lane.

While it sounds reasonable to say ‘we do a lot for the US, they should do something for us’ that’s not how ‘Five Eyes’ works. ‘Five Eyes’ assumes that whatever they want is also what we want: “You must hate this guy too, he released our Secrets!” “Our war crimes?” “Our Secrets!”

There will never be justice in Aust for war crimes whistleblowers while we are part of ‘Five Eyes’. It’s not a ‘benign collective of friends’. The US calls all the shots. The rest of us just take orders, and pass on information. We have joined the US’s ‘mafia’. There’s no leaving

If you read the Talking Points of both the UK and Aust closely they are like the answers of hostages, or people under duress. We say ‘it’s what we want’ but those answers make no sense when scrutinised against the national laws we also say we uphold.

Again, don’t take my word for it. Research ‘Five Eyes’ yourself. And ask the question, if Aust or the UK want something, but the US doesn’t, what happens? I’m pretty sure you’ll find that it’s always the US position that is followed. The only alternative is to leave Five Eyes.

The next question for the research would be ‘how does a nation leave Five Eyes?’. While there will be a possible way, follow through the steps logically and see if it is really possible. If the Greens were elected they could do it, perhaps, as NZ did once. But the ALP? Nope.

To show I know what I’m talking about, here’s a prediction: We know the PM is broadly supportive of Assange because of comments he made before he was elected. Yet despite this, now all we will here is ‘hands are tired’ ‘Justice must take its course’ ‘can’t interfere etc’

At the same time as Assange is forgotten by them, the military ties with the US will grow stronger and stronger until there is no discernible difference between US and Aust Navys (Five Eyes Military) . The US doesn’t even pay for its bases in Aust. Strange, no? (FOI it).

While we like to talk up the (salesman BS) that under ANZUS ‘an attack on Aust is an attack on the US’ in the reality it’s always the other way around. We’ll let Assange die in a US prison, because by embarrassing them, he has (under Five Eyes) he has embarrassed us.

All the senior Aust in the ADF knew that the ISAF mission was doomed to fail, but no one said anything, because ‘success’ wasn’t our mission ‘bolstering the strategic relationship’ was (again, feel free to fact check).

The great irony of Aust politics is that there is only one truly ‘national and authentic’ Australian party, and it’s the Greens. The other two both belong to the US, Corps, Five Eyes. Anyone but you and me. Oh, but they talk a good game. Right. Like that will help.

Original Posting on Twitter

Matt Orfalea: If Assange Loses We All Lose

While originally posted on the 17th December 2021, This video by Matt Orfalea posted on Twitter is still ‘On Fire’ on the internet. Coverage of US media seeking to discover ‘What did Assange actually do wrong and finding the only response being professional journalism’

While originally posted on the 17th December 2021, This video by Matt Orfalea posted on Twitter is still ‘On Fire’ on the internet. Coverage of US media seeking to discover ‘What did Assange actually do wrong and finding the only response being professional journalism’

Marise Payne has not raised CIA plot to kidnap and assassinate Julian Assange with US counterparts

On 28th of October Australian Greens senator Janet Rice questions Australian Foreign Minister & Minister for Women. Senator for NSW Marise Payne regarding diplomatic followup of the kidnap and assassination reports circulating in the media Senator @janet_rice asked Foreign Minister @MarisePayne if she had heard about the CIA plot to kidnap and assassinate Julian #Assange. … Continue reading “Marise Payne has not raised CIA plot to kidnap and assassinate Julian Assange with US counterparts”

On 28th of October Australian Greens senator Janet Rice questions Australian Foreign Minister & Minister for Women. Senator for NSW Marise Payne regarding diplomatic followup of the kidnap and assassination reports circulating in the media

WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief: Ex-CIA Chief’s Call to Prosecute Sources Who Outed Alleged Plot to Target Assange ‘Confirms’ story

On the 30th September 2021, RT News updated its the extensive commentary on Yahoo News report on CIA malfeasance under former CIA Director Mike Pompeo. WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief Kristinn Hrafnsson said former CIA Director Mike Pompeo has “confirmed” a bombshell report about alleged agency plans to “kidnap or kill” Julian Assange by calling for the prosecution … Continue reading “WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief: Ex-CIA Chief’s Call to Prosecute Sources Who Outed Alleged Plot to Target Assange ‘Confirms’ story”

On the 30th September 2021, RT News updated its the extensive commentary on Yahoo News report on CIA malfeasance under former CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief Kristinn Hrafnsson said former CIA Director Mike Pompeo has “confirmed” a bombshell report about alleged agency plans to “kidnap or kill” Julian Assange by calling for the prosecution of its sources.

During an appearance on journalist Megyn Kelly’s podcast aired on Wednesday, Pompeo was asked to respond to the explosive Yahoo News story – which was based on inputs from some 30 former US intelligence and national security officials with knowledge of the agency’s efforts against WikiLeaks.

“I can’t say much about this other than whoever those 30 people who allegedly spoke to one of these reporters; they should all be prosecuted for speaking about classified activity inside the CIA,” Pompeo said, while noting that the report published on Sunday made for “pretty good fiction.”

However, he confirmed that “pieces of [the report] are true,” such as the existence of a CIA campaign to target WikiLeaks after the organization had published highly sensitive documents from the agency’s so-called ‘Vault 7’ that offered a glimpse into some of its hacking tools and methods.

“This can be seen as a Pompeo’s confirmation of the Assange ‘kidnap or kill’ story. Why else would he want to prosecute those sources ‘speaking about classified activity’?” Hrafnsson tweeted in response.

During the show, Pompeo repeated his infamous allegation that WikiLeaks was a “non-state hostile intelligence service”that is “actively seeking to steal American classified information.” According to the report, the CIA had sought to define Assange and other journalists as “information brokers” so as to allow the agency to conduct “offensive counterintelligence”activities on the group.

“When bad guys steal those secrets we have a responsibility to go after them, to prevent [such actions] from happening,”Pompeo said, adding that the agency had a “responsibility to respond.”

We desperately wanted to hold accountable those individuals that had violated US law, that had violated requirements to protect information and had tried to steal it. There is a deep legal framework to do that. And we took actions consistent with US law to try to achieve that.

At the height of its preparations for hostilities in 2017, the agency was reportedly expecting Russian agents to help Assange flee the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. In such a contingency, the Americans and the British had drawn up plans for potential street shoot-outs, ramming Russian diplomatic vehicles, or shooting out the tires of a Russian plane to prevent it from lifting off.

However, Pompeo claimed the CIA “never acted in a way that was inconsistent with [US law]” under his watch and noted that the agency was “not permitted by US law to conduct assassinations.” Instead, he said the Department of Justice (DOJ) believed it had a “valid claim” to extradite Assange to face trial in the US.

Next month, an appeal by the DOJ to extradite him is expected to reach the High Court in London. But Hrafnsson told RT’s Afshin Rattanshi on his show Going Underground this week that the agency’s alleged plans to kidnap and kill Assange had a “strong implication…for the extradition hearing.” 

Noting that it showed how far US agencies are willing to go to “crack down” on journalists exposing its “dark secrets,”Hrafnsson said the CIA’s effort to “craft a new definition” for WikiLeaks had meant that the group would be considered “hostile agents” – which, he added, was “basically a licence to kill.”

Meanwhile, Assange’s US lawyer Barry Pollack said it was “highly disturbing” that Pompeo’s “reaction is to try to prevent information about misconduct from being known by the American people.”

Read original article with extensive links to further Assange related articles in RT News

Kidnapping, Assassination and a London Shoot-out: Inside the CIA’s Secret War Plans Against WikiLeaks

On the 26th September 2021, Zach Dorfman, Sean D. Naylor and Michael Isikoff write in Yahoo News 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 … Continue reading “Kidnapping, Assassination and a London Shoot-out: Inside the CIA’s Secret War Plans Against WikiLeaks”

On the 26th September 2021, Zach Dorfman, Sean D. Naylor and Michael Isikoff write in Yahoo News

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.”

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.

“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.

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.”

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?”

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.

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.

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 illegallyspying 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 andliving 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.”

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.”

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.”

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.

“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.

“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.

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’?”

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.

“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.

“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 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.

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.”

Read original article in Yahoo News

Follow up articles and commentary
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RT News on this article with an extensive coverage of Internet responses

Pompeo gaslights Germans with Huawei privacy concerns… casually forgets NSA spied on Merkel

On 1st June 2020, Rt News Editors examined statements from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Fox News Editor’s Note: This article is included as an example of the importance Wikileaks is to present day journalism. We see this story covering what appears to be unfair practices to protect market dominance in the electronics … Continue reading “Pompeo gaslights Germans with Huawei privacy concerns… casually forgets NSA spied on Merkel”

On 1st June 2020, Rt News Editors examined statements from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Fox News

Editor’s Note: This article is included as an example of the importance Wikileaks is to present day journalism. We see this story covering what appears to be unfair practices to protect market dominance in the electronics industry using a common theme.
( unsubstantiated accusations viz spying, ignoring standards set by own behaviour viz spying, undermining character of competitors and threats of illegal and disproportionate response)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has warned the US’ European allies against using Huawei tech, insisting privacy-loving Germans shouldn’t stand for such (alleged) spying. Never mind that time the NSA wiretapped Merkel.

Pompeo pleaded with European governments on Fox News on Sunday that “the right thing to do for their people” was to kick Huawei’s cheaper and arguably more advanced technology to the curb and run back into the waiting arms of Uncle Sam.

The US diplomat insisted the track record of the villainous Chinese government warranted nothing less. “No German citizen should have their private information transition across a piece of Chinese hardware which will clearly be owned and controlled by the Chinese Communist Party,” Pompeo proclaimed.

In Europe, they care deeply about privacy of their citizens. Allowing that information to go across Chinese-controlled networks is the antithesis of providing that very privacy.

Pompeo neglected to mention that the US has still not produced evidence of back doors in Huawei equipment feeding users’ information to Beijing, despite hyping up the possibility for years. He also somehow omitted how the National Security Agency (NSA) was caught snooping on German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other top officials in 2015.

WikiLeaks published documents revealing the agency had been listening in on some 125 phone numbers belonging to the Chancellor’s office and other government ministries in eavesdropping that, in some cases, went back decades.The strident outrage that greeted that scandal indicated that Germans do, indeed, care deeply about privacy. Whether they’ll heed the warnings of the same country that so recently violated theirs remains to be seen. The UK, despite previously refusing US blandishments urging London to drop their inclusion of Huawei in 5G infrastructure, has reportedly caved to pressures both internal and external, and is seeking to “phase out” the Chinese firm by 2023.

Pompeo’s efforts to frame China as the world’s top bogeyman didn’t stop at spying. “They steal information, they deny freedom of expression, they oppress their peoples, and they present risk to people all across the world,” he declared. Pompeo also denied there could possibly be any comparison between the Hong Kong protesters widely supported by the Trump administration and the civil unrest tearing through American cities on the heels of the police killing of an unarmed black man in Minneapolis.

On Saturday, Germany, France and the UK issued a statement condemning the US decision to revoke sanctions waivers that allowed the countries to work with Iran on civilian nuclear projects, lamenting the end of the international cooperation that had provided a reassuring window onto Iranian nuclear activities.

Read article in RT News

New Court Files expose Sheldon Adelson’s security team in US Spy operation

On the 14th May 2020, Max Blumenthal reports “I was the CIA director. We lied, we cheated, we stole.” –Mike Pompeo, College Station, TX, April 15, 2019 An exclusive investigation by The Grayzone reveals new details on the critical role Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands played in an apparent CIA spying operation targeting Julian Assange, and … Continue reading “New Court Files expose Sheldon Adelson’s security team in US Spy operation”

On the 14th May 2020, Max Blumenthal reports

“I was the CIA director. We lied, we cheated, we stole.” 
Mike Pompeo, College Station, TX, April 15, 2019

An exclusive investigation by The Grayzone reveals new details on the critical role Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands played in an apparent CIA spying operation targeting Julian Assange, and exposes the Sands security staff who helped coordinate the malicious campaign.

As the co-founder of a small security consulting firm called UC Global, David Morales spent years slogging through the minor leagues of the private mercenary world. A former Spanish special forces officer, Morales yearned to be the next Erik Prince, the Blackwater founder who leveraged his army-for-hire into high-level political connections across the globe. But by 2016, he had secured just one significant contract, to guard the children of Ecuador’s then-President Rafael Correa and his country’s embassy in the UK.

The London embassy contract proved especially valuable to Morales, however. Inside the diplomatic compound, his men guarded Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, a top target of the US government who had been living in the building since Correa granted him asylum in 2012. It was not long before Morales realized he had a big league opportunity on his hands.

In 2016, Morales rushed off alone to a security fair in Las Vegas, hoping to rustle up lucrative new gigs by touting his role as the guardian of Assange. Days later, he returned to his company’s headquarters in Jerez de Frontera, Spain with exciting news. 

“From now on, we’re going to be playing in the first division,” Morales announced to his employees. When a co-owner of UC Global asked what Morales meant, he responded that he had turned to the “dark side” – an apparent reference to US intelligence services. “The Americans will find us contracts around the world,” Morales assured his business partner.

Morales had just signed on to guard Queen Miri, the $70 million yacht belonging to one of the most high profile casino tycoons in Vegas: ultra-Zionist billionaire and Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson. Given that Adelson already had a substantial security team assigned to guard him and his family at all times, the contract between UC Global and Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands was clearly the cover for a devious espionage campaign apparently overseen by the CIA. 

Unfortunately for Morales, the Spanish security consultant charged with leading the spying operation, what happened in Vegas did not stay there. 

Following Assange’s imprisonment, several disgruntled former employees eventually approached Assange’s legal team to inform them about the misconduct and arguably illegal activity they participated in at UC Global. One former business partner said they came forward after realizing that “David Morales decided to sell all the information to the enemy, the US.” A criminal complaint was submitted in a Spanish court and a secret operation that resulted in the arrest of Morales was set into motion by the judge. 

Morales was charged by a Spanish High Court in October 2019 with violating the privacy of Assange and abusing the publisher’s attorney-client privileges, as well as money laundering and bribery. The documents revealed in court, which were primarily backups from company computers, exposed the disturbing reality of his activities on “the dark side.”

Obtained by media outlets including The Grayzone, the UC Global files detail an elaborate and apparently illegal US surveillance operation in which the security firm spied on Assange, his legal team, his American friends, US journalists, and an American member of Congress who had been allegedly dispatched to the Ecuadorian embassy by President Donald Trump. Even the Ecuadorian diplomats whom UC Global was hired to protect were targeted by the spy ring. 

The ongoing investigation detailed black operations ranging from snooping on the Wikileaks founder’s  private conversations to fishing a diaper from an embassy trash can in order to determine if the feces inside it belonged to his son. 

According to witness statements obtained by The Grayzone, weeks after Morales proposed breaking into the office of Assange’s lead counsel, the office was burglarized. The witnesses also detailed a proposal to kidnap or poison Assange. A police raid at the home of Morales netted two handgunswith their serial numbers filed off, along with stacks of cash. 

One source close to the investigation told The Grayzone that an Ecuadorian official was robbed at gunpoint while carrying private information pertaining to a plan to secure diplomatic immunity for Assange.

Throughout the black operations campaign, US intelligence appears to have worked through Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands, a company that had previously served as an alleged front for a CIA blackmail operation several years earlier. The operations formally began once Adelson’s hand-picked presidential candidate, Donald Trump, entered the White House in January 2017.

In its coverage of the alleged relationship between the CIA, UC Global, and Adelson’s Sands, the New York Times claimed it was “unclear whether it was the Americans who were behind bugging the embassy.” Though he outlined work for an “American client” in company emails, Morales insisted before a Spanish judge that the spying he conducted in the embassy was performed entirely on behalf of Ecuador’s SENAIN security services. He has even claimed to CNN Español that he was merely seeking to motivate his employees when he boasted about “playing in the first division” after returning from his fateful trip to Las Vegas.

This investigation will further establish the US government’s role in guiding UC Global’s espionage campaign, shedding new light on the apparent relationship between the CIA and Adelson’s Sands, and expose how UC Global deceived the Ecuadorian government on behalf of the client Morales referred to as the “American friends.” 

Thanks to new court disclosures, The Grayzone is also able to reveal the identity of Sands security staff who presumably liaised between Morales, Adelson’s company, and US intelligence.

According to court documents and testimony by a former business associate and employees of Morales, it was Adelson’s top bodyguard, an Israeli-American named Zohar Lahav, who personally recruited Morales, then managed the relationship between the Spanish security contractor and Sands on a routine basis. After their first meeting in Vegas, the two security professionals became close friends, visiting each other overseas and speaking frequently.

During the spying operation, Lahav worked directly under Brian Nagel, the director of global security for Las Vegas Sands. A former associate director of the US Secret Service and cyber-security expert, Nagel was officially commended by the CIA following successful collaborations with federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies. At Sands, he seemed to be an ideal middleman between the company and the US national security state, as well as a potential guide for the complex surveillance tasks assigned to Morales. 

When Adelson’s favored candidate, Donald Trump, moved into the Oval Office, the CIA came under the control of Mike Pompeo, another Adelson ally who seemed to relish the opportunity to carry out illegal acts, including spying on American citizens, in the name of national security. 

Pompeo outlines the attack on Assange

Journey to “the dark side”

Pompeo’s first public speech as CIA Director, hosted at the Washington DC-based Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank on April 13, 2017, was one of the most paranoid and resentful addresses ever delivered by an agency chief.

One camera feed for Ecuador, another for “the American client” 

On February 26, 2017, Wikileaks announced the forthcoming release of a major tranche of CIA files revealing details of the agency’s hacking and electronic surveillance tools. One such spying application called “Marble” allowed agency spies to implant code that obfuscated their identity on computers they had hacked. Other files contained evidence of programs that allowed hackers to break into encrypted messaging applications like Signal and Telegram, and to turn Samsung smart TVs into listening devices. 

From top US cyber-crime investigator to Adelson’s security chief

During his lengthy career in the US Secret Service, Nagel worked at the nexus of federal law enforcement and US intelligence. In the 1990s, Nagel not only served on the personal protection detail of Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton; he was assigned to “work with two foreign protective services after the assassination and attempted assassination of their respective heads of state,” he said in sworn testimony in a US District Court in 2011. Nagel also stated that he later protected the director and deputy director of a federal agency that he neglected to name

Adelson’s Israeli-American bodyman turns spying middleman

When Nagel joined Las Vegas Sands as its global security director, he was placed in charge of securing an international financial and political empire that spanned from the US to Israel to Macau in the People’s Republic of China. Sands chairman Sheldon Adelson possessed a fortune valued at around $30 billion that placed him consistently in the top 10 of Forbes’ list of the wealthiest Americans. 

A CIA front in Chinese territory?

By the time of the lawsuit, Adelson’s company appeared to have been working closely with the CIA. A confidential 2010 report by a private investigator contracted by the gambling industry pinpointed Adelson’s casino in Macau as a front for Agency operations against China.

“I sense that this person offered him to collaborate with American intelligence authorities”

A 2016 security industry fair in Las Vegas at the Sands Expo provided the occasion for Adelson’s company – and presumably the CIA – to enlist David Morales. His personal recruiter, according to witness testimony, was Lahav.

Spying, stealing diapers, and burglary plans

Stefania Maurizi, an Italian journalist who visited Assange regularly at the embassy in London, remembered relaxed encounters with minimal security and friendly interactions with embassy staff for the first five years of the Wikileaks founder’s stay. It was in December 2017 that everything changed.

Sabotaging Assange’s exit strategy, robbery and assassination plots

Throughout December 2017, Assange and his lawyers were formulating a plan to exit the embassy under the protections granted to diplomats under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. One proposal called for appointing Assange as a diplomat for a friendly government like Bolivia or Serbia, thus guaranteeing him diplomatic immunity. The final component of the plan relied on cooperation from the head of Ecuador’s SENAIN, Rommy Vallejo, who was technically the boss of Morales. Vallejo arrived at the embassy on December 20, 2017 – just five days before Assange planned to leave the embassy.

According to a source involved in the plan to grant Assange diplomatic immunity, the US ambassador to Ecuador, Todd Chapman, informed Ecuadorian authorities that he had learned of the initiative, and warned them against executing it.

The source also told The Grayzone that when one of the Ecuadorian officials involved in conceiving the strategy to free Assange from the embassy returned to Quito, his official government vehicle was stopped on a road by masked gunmen on a motorcycle who robbed him of his laptop. The computer contained detailed information about the plan to legally allow Assange to leave the embassy.

The alleged robbery of an Ecuadorian official in Quito was consistent with another violent plan divulged by a former UC Global employee in the Spanish court. 

The ex-staffer recalled Morales mentioning that “the Americans were desperate” to end Assange’s presence in the embassy. Thus they were “proposing to activate more extreme measures against him,” including “the possibility of leaving one diplomatic mission door open, arguing that it was an accidental mistake, to allow the entrance and kidnapping of the asylum seeker; or even the possibility of poisoning Mr. Assange.” 

The staffers were shocked when they learned of the proposal and protested to Morales that the direction he was taking “was starting to get dangerous.”

After a campaign of espionage, an Espionage Act prosecution

On April 11, 2019, British police raided the Ecuadorian embassy in London and dragged Assange into a waiting van. It was the first time in history a government had allowed a foreign law enforcement agency to enter its sovereign territory to arrest one of its citizens.

That same day, Ola Bini – the Swedish computer programmer branded as a “hacker” by Morales and placed under apparent US  surveillance – was arrested in Ecuador and detained for months without charges. Accused of collaborating with Assange and various cyber-crimes, Bini has been held in Ecuador’s El Inca prison, where US authorities have reportedly requested to interrogate him. Amnesty International has labeled Bini a “digital defender” and condemned “undue government interference” as well as the intimidation of his legal defense team.

During the first extradition hearing this February 24, Assange was confined to a glass box that prevented him from directly conferring with his lawyers. Observers including former British diplomat Craig Murray said they noticed US agents conferring outside the courtroom with UK prosecutors.

One witness to the extradition hearing provided The Grayzone with photographs of several attendees they claimed were US Department of Justice officials who sat directly behind British prosecutors throughout the proceedings.

After the hearing began, according to Assange’s lawyer, Martinez, a female British barrister arrived and demanded permission to observe. She was representing Las Vegas Sands, a clear indication that Adelson was deeply concerned about the outcome of the proceedings. 

Having been promoted from CIA director to secretary of state, Mike Pompeo has reportedly laid the groundwork to run for US senate in Kansas. The first step in Pompeo’s fledgling campaign, according to a raft of articles, was outreach to Sheldon Adelson to “gauge interest” in financing the Senate bid.

By the end of 2019, following the exposure of Sands’ relationship with UC Global, former employees of Morales revealed a rumor that Adelson’s bodyguard, Zohar Lahav, had been fired by Las Vegas Sands. When Morales was asked during an appearance before the Spanish court this February if the rumor was true, he confirmed it, stating that Lahav was terminated because of the “mess” that he helped create.

Read whole article in the Grayzone (includes pictures of various players and evidence presented in the Spanish spying case)

Craig Murray: CIA Spying on Assange’s Privileged Legal Conversations

On the 15th April, Craig Murray writes Here is an image of Julian and I talking in the Ecuadorean Embassy, part of the spycam footage that was commissioned by the CIA from Spanish security firm Global. Julian and I were discussing a number of overseas missions to liaise with foreign governments, which I was carrying … Continue reading “Craig Murray: CIA Spying on Assange’s Privileged Legal Conversations”

On the 15th April, Craig Murray writes

Here is an image of Julian and I talking in the Ecuadorean Embassy, part of the spycam footage that was commissioned by the CIA from Spanish security firm Global. Julian and I were discussing a number of overseas missions to liaise with foreign governments, which I was carrying out on his behalf.

Having been on the inside and knowing their capabilities, I have always assumed that the security services know everything I say and do, so I cannot claim this comes as a great shock or that my behaviour would have been much altered had I known. The shadowing on those overseas trips was unsubtle in any case, more of a warning off than attempt at covert surveillance. As anyone who has read my books will realise, I have always rather enjoyed the more shadowy elements, with me since my former profession. During a visit to Washington in September 2016 which has become somewhat infamous, for fun I entered an establishment of low repute and spent an afternoon giving out free flash drives with my tips to various young ladies and barmen, just to give the FBI lots of particularly wild geese to chase. I have wondered occasionally whether subsequent embarrassment is connected to Robert Mueller’s lack of desire to accept my evidence. (If you have no idea what I am talking about do not worry, you haven’t missed much and just skip this para).

While I am gently rambling away, I might add that it was most amusing to be portrayed as a housebound obsessive blogger by MSM journalists attacking me on Twitter over my Salmond coverage: that is attacked by MSM journalists who have never done anything in their life except copy and paste the odd establishment press release and pick up fat pay cheques from their billionaire owners.

There is however a point to this post. As the ABC news item above shows, Julian’s privileged conversations with his lawyers on his legal defence were being spied on, by the government which is now seeking to extradite him. In any jurisdiction in the civilised world, that should be enough immediately to bring proceedings to a halt. The first witnesses to be called when the hearing resumes are the witnesses who will attest to this. The defence have requested an adjournment of the case beyond May 18, because at present they have no access to their client due to Covid 19 lockdown in the jail, and because it is not at all clear witnesses will be able to travel from abroad by 18 May. Judge Vanessa Baraitser has refused to reschedule.

It is also worth asking why has nothing like that ABC coverage been seen on the BBC or Sky, where this case is actually being heard and Julian is a prisoner?

Read original Article in Craig’s blog

Ex-Icelandic Interior Minister: US Tried to FRAME Julian Assange in Iceland!

On June 15th 2019, Afshin Rattansi on Going Underground interviews former Minister of the Interior of Iceland Ögmundur Jónasson on how he kicked out a team of FBI investigators from Iceland who were trying to frame Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange.

On June 15th 2019, Afshin Rattansi on Going Underground interviews former Minister of the Interior of Iceland Ögmundur Jónasson on how he kicked out a team of FBI investigators from Iceland who were trying to frame Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange.