CIA planned to kidnap or assassinate Julian Assange, ex-officials say

Posted 20 days ago


CIA officials under the Trump administration allegedly made secret plans to kidnap or even assassinate Wikileaks founder Julian Assange after the website published sensitive agency hacking tools online, according to a report on Sunday.

The publication of the tools by Wikileaks in 2016 was considered the 'largest data loss in CIA history', and senior agency officials reportedly requested 'sketches' and 'options' on how to kidnap or assassinate Assange in response.

The claims were made in a newly released Yahoo News investigation that included interviews with 30 former US officials.

Former CIA director Mike Pompeo allegedly led the crusade against Assange in 2017 when WikiLeaks continued publishing classified government documents under the name 'Vault 7.'

Pompeo's plans intensified that year when the US government heard Assange might attempt to escape Ecuador for Russia, prompting the CIA to plan a number of scenarios for intercepting him.

One proposal allegedly involved shooting out the tires of his plane if Assange attempted to flee to Russia from London.

Assange had his asylum at the embassy revoked in April 2019, and was arrested by British police. He is currently detained in Belmarsh prison while he fights extradition to the US on espionage charges.

Among the proposals reportedly suggested by agency officials are scenarios that appear to be straight out of a James Bond movie.

They included possible shootouts on the streets of London, crashing a car into a vehicle transporting him, or shooting out the tires of a plane taking him to Russia.

In the lattermost scenario, U. S. officials allegedly even asked their British counterparts to aide in the mission by carrying out the shooting.

A former senior administration official told Yahoo News that the British agreed with the plan.

The CIA's war against Assange was concurrent to the Justice Department's debate over extraditing Assange from London to the US for prosecution.

WikiLeaks first drew fury from the U. S. government in 2010 after publishing thousands of pages of once-secret reports and documents generated by American military and intelligence agencies, including detailed descriptions of CIA hacking capabilities.

That same year, U. S. authorities alleged Assange engaged in a conspiracy to hack a classified U.S. government computer with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.

In 2012, Assange entered the Ecuadorian embassy in London and was granted political asylum.

Debate over possible American moves to seek Assange's extradition from Britain first arose nearly a decade ago when Barack Obama served as president and Joe Biden was his vice president.

Obama's Justice Department decided not to seek Assange's extradition on the grounds that what Assange and WikiLeaks did was too similar to journalistic activities protected by the First Amendment of the U. S. Constitution.

WikiLeaks gained national attention again after publishing emails hacked from Democrat Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign and a key adviser, which Clinton and some of her supporters say was a factor in her election defeat to Republican Donald Trump.

Then, in 2017, WikiLeaks began Vault 7 and drew the ire of Trump administration officials.

Only weeks after taking office in January 2017, the Trump administration filed a series of increasingly harsh criminal charges accusing Assange of participating in the Chelsea Manning hacking conspiracy.

The Justice Department rushed its drafts of such charges against Assange out of concern that Pompeo and the CIA's talks of kidnapping or killing him would derail or jeopardize the prosecution, Yahoo reports.

A former senior counterintelligence official told Yahoo News that these talks happened 'at the highest levels' of the Trump administration and 'there seemed to be no boundaries.'

The official added that Pompeo and agency leaders 'were completely detached from reality because they were so embarrassed about Vault 7. They were seeing blood.'

Five weeks after the Vault 7 files began, in April 2017, Pompeo addressed WikiLeaks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington think tank, for his first public remarks as Trump's CIA director.

He said, '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. 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.'

If the CIA could legitimize WikiLeaks as a non-state hostile intelligence service, it meant they could treat it the way they treat foreign enemies. However, the CIA faced difficulty in proving that WikiLeaks was conspiring with the Kremlin, which stunted their attempts ... (Read more)