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Assange Arrested, Faces Extradition To US For Hacking “Conspiracy With Chelsea Manning”

Update (12:50 pm ET): Clearly feeling the pressure from his many supporters who sympathize with Assange, President Trump told reporters in the White House press pool that “I know nothing about Wikileaks. It’s not my thing.”

Of course, then-candidate Trump praised Wikileaks repeatedly during the campaign after it released several tranches of emails purportedly stolen from the DNC and Clinton campaign manager John Podesta (his son also purportedly exchanged Twitter messages with the group).

Whatever happens next will be up to the attorney general.

Meanwhile, Assange supporters took to twitter to remind the president of his support for the organization during the campaign. Sean Hannity, a Fox News host with whom Trump has a close relationship, once even offered to have Assange host his show.

And here’s a video of Trump saying ‘Wikileaks’ 141 times on the campaign trail.

Meanwhile, Assange’s lawyer spoke outside Westminster Thursday afternoon to crowd of Assange supporters, who warned that the Assange extradition warrant sets “a dangerous” precedent for journalists.

“Since 2010 we’ve warned that Julian Assange would face prosecution and extradition to the United States for his publishing activities with Wikileaks. Unfortunately today we’ve been proven right…we’ve today received a warrant and a provisional extradition request from the United States alleging that he has conspired with Chelsea Manning in relation to the materials published by Wikileaks in 2010. This sets a dangerous precedent for all media organisations and journalists in Europe and elsewhere around the world. This precedent means that any journalist can be extradited for prosecution in the United States for having published truthful information about the United States.”

Watch a clip from her remarks:

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Update (11:55 am ET): Swedish prosecutors have reopened their preliminary investigation into allegations of rape made by two women against Assange that were the initial reason why he sought asylum in the embassy.

After a lawyer for one of the women requested that Swedish prosecutors revisit the case, which we reported earlier, the prosecutors’ office has affirmed that it will be reopened. They didn’t give a deadline for the probe.

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Update (11 am ET): Protesters have gathered outside the Magistrates Court in London where Assange was found guilty.

Speaking outside the court, WikiLeaks’ editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnssonsaid said “anyone who wants the press to be free should consider the implications of this case. If they will extradite a journalist to the US then no journalist will be safe. This must stop. This must end.”

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Update (10 am ET): Assange has been found guilty of failing to surrender. He will be sent to Southwark Crown Court for sentencing.

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Update (9:50 am ET): Assange’s bail hearing has begun with some not exactly objective words from District Judge Michael Snow. Snow said the Wikileaks’ founder’s behavior is “narcissist and laughable” and he “can’t get passed his own self interest.”

Here’s a rundown of the hearing courtesy of a reporter from the BBC:

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Update (9:35 am ET): With Assange in custody, Sweden appears to be reviving its prosecution of Assange on rape charges (stemming from him allegedly having unprotected sex against his consenting partners’ wishes).

Elisabeth Massi Fritz, a lawyer who represents one of Assange’s accusers in Sweden, has submitted a request to Sweden prosecutor’s office for the investigation to resume, according to local media reports.

A few other things to note that have emerged in the past few minutes:

Assange is now sitting in the dock at Westminster magistrates awaiting his hearing. He’s reportedly reading the Gore Vidal book.

His lawyer, Jennifer Robinson and Wikileaks’ editor will make a statement after the hearing. She has said that he will not give evidence in UK bail case (it’s expected that, since he’s facing charges of skipping bail, he will be held as a flight risk).

Reporters and legal experts on Twitter have pointed out a few interesting observations.

First, Assange isn’t being charged with publishing classified information, or with hacking into US government computer systems. Rather, he’s solely facing charges on encouraging Chelsea Manning to steal the documents.

And the fact that he’s only facing violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act could leave room for Assange to successfully fight extradition, like UK hacker Lauri Love.

The fact that the charges are so limited in scope could eliminate some of the feared ‘chilling effect’ on press freedoms.

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Update (9:25 am ET): Journalist Glenn Greenwald has raised some important points about the precedent that the US government is setting by prosecuting Assange for leaking classified information (something that US media organizations engage in on a regular basis):

Also, if one believes Mike Pompeo’s warnings that Wikileaks is “an arm of Russian intelligence” then the prosecution of Assange would be another example of Trump acting contrary to Putin’s interests.

Also, Greenwald points out that one of the behaviors that allegedly led to Assange’s prosecution was his decision to encourage Manning to retrieve more documents, something that journalists do with sources “all the time.” That’s why hi prosecution amounts to the “criminalization of journalism”.

And security state cheerleaders in the mainstream media are already gloating over Assange’s arrest.

But they’d be crying ‘facism’ if the circumstances were slightly different.

Meanwhile, Assange appears to be trying to keep his spirits up, giving supporters a thumbs up from a police van.


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Update (9 am ET): The official US indictment of Assange has been published by federal prosecutors in Virginia. According to the indictment, Assange is being charged for his “role in one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States” where he allegedly conspired with Chelsea Manning to “break a password” to gain access to a government computer containing classified information.

Julian P. Assange, 47, the founder of WikiLeaks, was arrested today in the United Kingdom pursuant to the U.S./UK Extradition Treaty, in connection with a federal charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion for agreeing to break a password to a classified U.S. government computer.

According to court documents unsealed today, the charge relates to Assange’s alleged role in one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States.

Though if convicted, Assange faces only five-and-a-half years in jail.

Read the press release below:

The indictment alleges that in March 2010, Assange engaged in a conspiracy with Chelsea Manning, a former intelligence analyst in the U.S. Army, to assist Manning in cracking a password stored on U.S. Department of Defense computers connected to the Secret Internet Protocol Network (SIPRNet), a U.S. government network used for classified documents and communications. Manning, who had access to the computers in connection with her duties as an intelligence analyst, was using the computers to download classified records to transmit to WikiLeaks. Cracking the password would have allowed Manning to log on to the computers under a username that did not belong to her. Such a deceptive measure would have made it more difficult for investigators to determine the source of the illegal disclosures.

During the conspiracy, Manning and Assange engaged in real-time discussions regarding Manning’s transmission of classified records to Assange. The discussions also reflect Assange actively encouraging Manning to provide more information. During an exchange, Manning told Assange that “after this upload, that’s all I really have got left.” To which Assange replied, “curious eyes never run dry in my experience.”

Assange is charged with conspiracy to commit computer intrusion and is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, and Nancy McNamara, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, made the announcement after the charges were unsealed. First Assistant U.S. Attorney Tracy Doherty-McCormick, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kellen S. Dwyer, Thomas W. Traxler and Gordon D. Kromberg, and Trial Attorneys Matthew R. Walczewski and Nicholas O. Hunter of the Justice Department’s National Security Division are prosecuting the case.

The extradition will be handled by the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs.

Read the indictment below:

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Update (8:40 am ET): A scuffle reportedly broke out outside the embassy shortly after Assange’s arrest when a Chilean reporter demanded to speak with the Ecuadorian ambassador, but was rebuffed by the embassy’s security staff.

The reporter, from Chile’s el Ciudadano, accused the ambassador of lying to him when he said there had been no change in Assange’s status last week. He also accused President Moreno of “betraying an incipient socialist revolution,” per the Guardian.

A scuffle broke out outside the Ecuadorian embassy between embassy security and a reporter from Chile’s el Ciudadano who tried to challenge the ambassador as he was taken into a car.

Patricio Mary, the reporter, said he had wanted to ask ambassador Jaime Martin about promises he had made to respect Assange’s asylum.

“Ecuadorian police pushed me and tried to fight with me,” he said. “We started shouting traitor and liar because when I interviewed him two days ago he told me there was no change with the position of Julian Assange and that the government of Lenin Moreno will respect international law.”

He said the Ecuadorians had breached their own sovereignty by inviting British police into their embassy. It was symbolic of the way the Ecuadorian government had treated journalists in their own country, where president Lenin Moreno had shut down opposing newspapers and betrayed an incipient socialist revolution, he said.

It’s also looking increasingly probable that UK police had been monitoring the embassy for days, and deliberately stormed the building when Assange’s supporters, who had been camped outside, weren’t around./

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Update (8:30 am ET): Reporters have uncovered some more information about the circumstances surrounding Assange’s arrest. But first, former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, who initially welcomed Assange when the Wikileaks founder sought asylum in 2012, derided his successor, Lenin Moreno, as “corrupt” and accused him of committing a crime that “humanity will never forgive.”

The Guardian has confirmed that the US has confirmed what Assange’s lawyer said about the US extradition request…the wheels that will ultimately bring Assange to the US to face espionage charges have already been put in motion.

And we finally have an answer about the book/magazne that Assange was seen clutching as he was dragged out of the embassy: Gore Vidal’s “history of the national security state”.

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Update (7:20 am ET): Assange’s lawyer has just confirmed that he was arrested not solely on charges stemming from skipping bail in the UK, but “on behalf of the United States authorities”, in connection with an extradition request from the US.

The US warrant was delivered in December 2017, showing that the US prosecutors were behind his arrest.

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Press reports suggested that Assange was arrested at around 10 am London Time (5 am New York) in what appeared to be a “planned operation.” Though his first battle will be with the British legal system over charges of skipping bail when he sought asylum in 2012, analysts expect that he will eventually face extradition to the US, after a sealed indictment against him were accidentally revealed last year. Wikileaks accused Ecuador of illegally terminating Assange’s asylum, adding that the Ecuadorian ambassador invited police inside the embassy to take Assange into custody.

In a tweet published moments ago, Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno said that Assange’s “discourteous and aggressive” behavior, as well as “hostile” acts committed by Wikileaks, pushed Ecuador to revoke his asylum. Moreno cited Wikileaks’ publication of sensitive Vatican documents earlier this year as the straw that finally broke the camel’s back. Members of the organization purportedly visited Assange in the embassy after the leak, apparently substantiating suspicions that Assange was still in charge of the organization.

Furthermore, Moreno declared his asylum “unsustainable and no longer viable” because Assange had repeatedly violated “clear cut provisions of the conventions of on diplomatic asylum.”

Following reports last week that the termination of Assange’s asylum was imminent, a UN envoy on torture warned Ecuador that revoking Assange’s protection would be a violation, since he could face “torture” and mistreatment should he be extradited to the US. Assange’s relationship with his host had become increasingly strained over the past year. Last year, Ecuador briefly revoked some of Assange’s “privileges”, including access to the Internet, over his ‘poor hygiene habits’, the #INAPapers about offshore money laundering, implicating the Ecuadorian president in a corruption scandal.

Edward Snowden reminded journalists of the UN’s finding in a tweet following Assange’s arrest.

The expulsion comes just a day after Wikileaks held a press conference accusing Ecuador of carrying out an “extensive spying operation”on Assange and handing intel over to the British and American authorities.

During the press conference, Fidel Narvaez, the former Consul of Ecuador to London, warned that “the Ecuadorian embassy is not protecting Assange any more…It is doing everything possible to end the asylum.”

RT published video of a bearded, disheveled-looking Assange shouting at police as he was dragged out of the embassy and loaded into a van.

According to Wikileaks, Assange is saying “the UK must resist this attempt by the Trump administration…” though his words are hard to make out. Footage of Assange’s arrest shows him holding a peculiar magazine that some suggested might have been an attempt to send his supporters a message.

Whatever Assange’s intentions might have been, others pointed out that the Wikileaks founder and former hacker was looking seriously vitamin D deficient…his time inside the embassy, where he was largely cut off from sunlight, have clearly taken a toll on him, as this photo from 2012, taken shortly after he arrived, clearly shows.

Journalist Cassandra Fairbanks, who had been in London to protest revocation of the asylum, tweeted what appears to be a first-hand account of the arrest.

She also pointed out that Moreno will visit Washington DC in five days.

As mainstream journalists scoffed at claims that UK ‘secret police’ had planned the operation to arrest Assange, Fairbanks reupped a video she filmed days ago where she identified a man she believed to be an undercover officer keeping tabs on the #ProtectAssange demonstration that was happening outside the embassy…he was also one of the men filmed arresting Assange.

Scotland Yard has confirmed that Assange is in custody.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid thanked Ecuador for its cooperation, suggesting that pressure from the British government was also a factor in Ecuador’s decision to revoke asylum.

While Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt thanked Ecuador and said Assange was “no hero” and that “no one is above the law.”

Foreign office minister Alan Duncan has issued a statement, calling the arrest “absolutely right” and adding that the UK courts will “deicde what happens next.”

“It is absolutely right that Assange will face justice in the proper way in the UK. It is for the courts to decide what happens next. We are very grateful to the government of Ecuador under President Moreno for the action they have taken.”

“Today’s events follow extensive dialogue between our two countries. I look forward to a strong bilateral relationship between the UK and Ecuador in the years ahead.”

A spokeswoman for Russia’s foreign ministry denounced the arrest as ‘the hand of democracy squeezing the throat of freedom’.

With Assange facing a complicated, Continent-spanning legal fight, Wikileaks is soliciting donations for its ‘defense fund’ on Twitter.

They also accused the CIA of orchestrating his arrest.

Assange’s arrest marks the end of an era, and the ignominious close of a nearly decade-long struggle. Much has yet to be determined, including this.

Amid the chaos…a new hashtag has been born #FreeAssange.


One Reply to “Assange Arrested, Faces Extradition To US For Hacking “Conspiracy With Chelsea Manning”

  1. The British Gestapo working with US terrorists abducted Julian Assange today from the Ecuadorian embassy, a criminal act and an act of terrorism. This blatant act of criminality must not be allowed to go unpunished. The peoples of the world need to rise up in arms and take whatever actions necessary to FREE JULIAN ASSANGE from the clutches of the EVIL EMPIRE! If any harm comes to Julian Assange those responsible should be held criminally accountable and brought to justice BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY! I repeat: BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY!!!!

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