LONDON — The Ecuadorean government has admitted to severing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s internet access in the country’s embassy in London, citing concerns over possible interference in the U.S. election.
Assange has reportedly been without internet access since Saturday, according to a Monday tweet from WikiLeaks. Another tweet that day referred to “contingency plans” being activated in response to the move by a “state actor.”
We can confirm Ecuador cut off Assange's internet access Saturday, 5pm GMT, shortly after publication of Clinton's Goldman Sachs speechs.
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) October 17, 2016
Assange has lived on asylum in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London since 2012, when he entered the embassy under threat of extradition to Sweden over allegations of sexual misconduct with two women. Although the case against him has weakened over time, he remains confined to the embassy, fearing extradition from Sweden to the United States.
Amid widespread speculation about the apparent loss of internet access, Ecuador’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility issued a short statement on Tuesday acknowledging that the country had “exercised its sovereign right to temporarily restrict access to some of its private communications network within its Embassy in the United Kingdom.”
BREAKING: Ecuador admits it cut off Assange's internet due to his use of it to interfere in the U.S. election. pic.twitter.com/VNJ6sdHhHj
— Eric Geller (@ericgeller) October 18, 2016
The statement also attempted to justify the decision:
“In recent weeks, WikiLeaks has published a wealth of documents, impacting on the U.S. election campaign. This decision was taken exclusively by that organization.
The Government of Ecuador respects the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other states. It does not interfere in external electoral processes, nor does it favor any particular candidate.”
It further notes that, “This temporary restriction does not prevent the WikiLeaks organization from carrying out its journalistic activities.” Indeed, WikiLeaks has continued to publish new emails hacked from the Gmail account of John Podesta, chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, despite Assange’s limited internet access.
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) October 18, 2016
The ministry’s statement also reiterated that Assange’s claim of asylum remains intact:
“Ecuador, in accordance with its tradition of defending human rights and protecting the victims of political persecution, reaffirms the asylum granted to Julian Assange and reiterates its intention to safeguard his life and physical integrity until he reaches a safe place.”
Earlier on Tuesday, WikiLeaks took to Twitter to imply that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was responsible for Ecuador’s decision to shut off Assange’s internet access.
BREAKING: Multiple US sources tell us John Kerry asked Ecuador to stop Assange from publishing Clinton docs during FARC peace negotiations.
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) October 18, 2016
pre-commitment 3: UK FCO f33a6de5c627e3270ed3e02f62cd0c857467a780cf6123d2172d80d02a072f74
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) October 16, 2016
“Brian,” writing for Empty Lighthouse Magazine, speculated that the codes were the “contingency plan” referred to in WikiLeaks’ tweet about Assange’s loss of internet access. Ultimately, these codes could be the keys to unlock encrypted files already distributed to WikiLeaks operatives.
“Well, it appears that there are operatives across the world who have the packets of information described above, and that Wikileaks has just given them the green light to do something with them. Now that the keys are public, the holders of the information can look at it and post it as they choose.”
Because the encrypted files are presumably already in the possession of WikiLeaks allies, the files could be released no matter what happens to Assange.
“So if Assange is killed, or captured, or his servers are confiscated or somehow incapacitated, the material will still be released,” Brian wrote.
The codes briefly sparked speculation that Assange had died, including one particularly wild rumor that he’d eaten poisoned vegan food given to him by actress Pamela Anderson. But Gizmodo confirmed that Assange is alive and well on Sunday.
Bryan Menegus, a Gizmodo staff writer, also confirmed that the codes likely relate to unreleased files. He wrote:
“‘Pre-commitment’ in this case is a references [sic] to a cryptographic scheme to prevent unreleased information from being tampered with. Essentially those unique codes are proof to anyone reading the documents in the future that their contents remain unchanged: alteration to the leaks will likewise alter those 64-character codes.”
Ultimately, Menegus concluded: “What remains to be seen is when Wikileaks plans to make these three leaks public, and what they’ll contain.”
Watch “Did Ecuador And Clinton Conspire Against Assange?” from INSPIRE:
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