For years following Wikileaks’ 2010 publication of classified material regarding the US’ conduct in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, successive US administrations have sought to punish the organisation and in particular its founder, Julian Assange. However, an investigative report published by Yahoo News claiming that the CIA plotted to assassinate Assange in recent years has shone the spotlight on the shadowy intelligence agency as well as senior figures in the Trump administration.
After Wikileaks published classified US documents in 2010 which exposed human rights abuses and unreported civilian casualties at the hands of US and western forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, successive US administrations have been eager to ensure that its founder, Julian Assange, spends the rest of his days locked up in an American prison. However, American efforts to detain Assange have been frustrated first by his year-long stay in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, and his subsequent imprisonment in the UK following his expulsion from the embassy.
Yahoo News’ report on the CIA’s assassination plot describes how senior officials in the spy organisation as well as the Trump administration sought to kidnap Assange in 2017 as he spent his fifth year in the Ecuadorian embassy. In addition, several ‘options’ were devised to kill Assange and were discussed at the highest levels of government, according to one senior official.
Far from being merely hypothetical scenarios, US spies took active measures to increase surveillance not only on Assange, but Wikileaks as a whole, “monitoring the communications and movements of numerous WikiLeaks personnel, including audio and visual surveillance of Assange himself”.
Ultimately, the plans to kidnap and/or assassinate Assange were never followed through by the Trump administration. White House lawyers objected to this course of action, expressing concern that not only would it be illegal, but it also risked undermining the US government’s criminal case against Assange in the event he is prosecuted in the US court system.
As of the time of this article’s publication, Julian Assange remains imprisoned in the UK and the British courts are considering an extradition request from the United States. Assange’s lawyer, Barry Pollack, has expressed hope that the courts will take this new report into consideration and rule against the extradition request.