A new Yahoo News investigation has revealed that the CIA, under Donald Trump, had discussed detailed plans at the highest level in 2017 to kidnap or assassinate WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange who had taken refuge in Ecuador’s embassy in London five years earlier. Sources for the story included a senior U.S. counter-intelligence official and more than 30 other U.S. officials – eight of whom confirmed details of the abduction plan.
According to these officials, the plan discussed breaking into Ecuador’s embassy, which is protected by diplomatic immunity and forcibly taking Assange out. One informant recounted a meeting in the spring of 2017 at which President Trump had asked if the CIA could assassinate Assange and provide “options” about how this could be done. Trump has denied the story.
Mike Pompeo, whom Trump appointed CIA director in January 2017, said publicly that targeting Julian Assange and WikiLeaks was the equivalent of taking action against “a hostile intelligence service”. Top U.S. intelligence officials wanted to grant themselves the power to determine who is, and who is not a journalist – and label some reporters they believed were agents of a foreign power as “information brokers.” Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Kevin Gosztola, managing editor of the news website ShadowProof.com who discusses the significance of this story on the CIA plot targeting Assange and the ominous threat to press freedom.
KEVIN GOSZTOLA: What’s important to say now — more than a week after this story was published — is there’s not a single report you can point to pushing back on the things that these government officials, former government officials said to the Yahoo News reporters, which is that all the way up to the highest levels, there were discussions about extreme measures that could be employed against Julian Assange and other staff within WikiLeaks, as well as associates who may have been working on publication and materials.
There’s over 30 former intelligence officials, as well as Trump administration officials. And it even says eight of them describe the kind of plots that were being discussed within the CIA to these Yahoo News reporters. Just to say, this is a fairly solidly reported article, making significant allegations against former CIA Director Mike Pompeo that he was entertaining discussions about plotting to assassinate Julian Assange, seeking to find out if there was any legal authority for which he could order such an assassination operation.
But then I think more plausibly, trying to figure out if they could conduct a kidnapping or a rendition operation to snatch Julian Assange from the Ecuador embassy and put him on a plane and bring him back to the United States. Then it discusses how they could take offensive operations against WikiLeaks or the way they categorized WikiLeaks as a hostile entity, which we knew that was something that the CIA had wanted to do. We just didn’t know what that label meant because in his first public remarks, CIA Director Mike Pompeo said to the world that they considered WikiLeaks a non-state hostile intelligence agency. But again, we didn’t know what kind of policy or what that meant.
SCOTT HARRIS: The CIA and the U.S. government had differentiated between journalism and Julian Assange, calling him an information broker. Also in that category was Glenn Greenwald, one of the founders of the Intercept. (Also,) former Guardian columnist Laura Poitras, award-winning film documentary maker. What is the threat to journalism here as this CIA plot to kidnap or kill Julian Assange is exposed?
KEVIN GOSZTOLA: I think the threat is very severe, first off, because we aren’t seeing any political outrage. I mean, we haven’t really heard a peep from any representative or senator in Congress who read this report. I mean, where’s the alarm, where’s the shock that this is what is being considered? I mean, think about, we read a report that says agents of the CIA were plotting to kill a journalist or seriously ask themselves, would this be legal to kill a journalist? Which you know, is not a question that should even be contemplated.
There’s no outrage. So what does that say? Does that give a green light to the security services of other countries to plot their own operations against journalists? I mean, we’re always quick to condemn the countries we see as adversaries for how they mistreat and abuse journalists. But do we really have any credibility to lecture any other country when this is what we did to Julian Assange and he’s, you know, he’s still in jail and these charges have not been dropped by the Biden administration?
I mean, I think what’s really at stake here is, is the fact that there are tremendous problems in countries around the world with press freedom and the U.S. can’t really speak to them right now without authoritarians or tyrants saying, “Well, I don’t have to listen to you. Julian Assange is in jail. He’s being held in a British jail cell.”
Leaving aside the excuses for the moment. The fact is these are secrecy laws that apply to U.S. citizens — typically, people who sign nondisclosure agreements who work for the U.S. government and none of that applies to Julian Assange. He’s never worked at a U.S. government agency. He’s never been a contractor for a U.S. government agency. He’s not a U.S. citizen, so he should not have to follow any of these “espionage laws.” Yet, here we are. We’re still talking about this.
For more information, visit Shadow Proof News website at ShadowProof.com.
Kevin Gosztola is also co-host of the weekly podcast, “Unauthorized Disclosure, at shadowproof.com/