Ecuador cut off Julian Assange’s internet, but the leaks keep coming
Julian Assange has a new problem. Holed up at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012, the WikiLeaks founder has relied on the hospitality of the staff there as he continues to run his organization. But it now appears his hosts may have run out of patience with their guest after his site’s recent series of leaks related to the U.S. presidential election.
The Ecuadorian government confirmed Tuesday that it had intentionally cut Assange’s link to the outside world Sunday out of fears that WikiLeaks’ latest releases would interfere with the U.S. election.
“The government of Ecuador respects the principle of nonintervention in the affairs of other countries, and it does not interfere in the electoral processes in support of any candidate in particular,” it said in a statement.
WikiLeaks announced Monday that Assange’s internet access at the Ecuadorian embassy had been cut off on Sunday but said the group had set in motion “contingency plans” as a result.
Julian Assange's internet link has been intentionally severed by a state party. We have activated the appropriate contingency plans.
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) October 17, 2016
WikiLeaks did not provide details on those plans, but the lack of internet access hasn’t stopped the publication from leaking more emails this week, including many from Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta, raising the question of just who is running WikiLeaks.
VICE News has asked WikiLeaks to clarify whether Assange is still running the website and publishing new information, and if so, to explain how he is doing it. It is unclear if Assange has access to a mobile phone with a data connection inside the embassy or if he can even make phone calls.
— Bobby Mair (@BobbyMair) October 19, 2016
As well as potentially impacting the day-to-day running of WikiLeaks, having his internet access removed could affect Assange personally. “I have certainly felt that having an internet connection helped alleviate the strain on Julian caused by not being able to leave the Ecuadorian embassy,” said Vaughan Smith, a friend of Assange and founder of the Frontline Club in London, where he gave Assange refuge in 2010, before moving him to his country home in Norfolk, England. Smith said he was unsure if Assange still had access to the internet but said other options were likely open to him.
I think we should all send @wikileaks some pictures to look at while he's limited to phone tethering.
— David Whitley (@mrdavidwhitley) October 19, 2016
WikiLeaks alleges that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry intervened to force the Ecuadorian government to cut Assange’s internet access, but the U.S. State Department denied the suggestion.
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
“While our concerns about WikiLeaks are longstanding, any suggestion that Secretary Kerry or the State Department were involved in shutting down WikiLeaks is false,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement to Reuters on Tuesday.
Despite this fallout, the Ecuadorian government insisted it was still committed to protecting Assange, pledging to “safeguard his life and physical integrity until he reaches a safe place.” He’s been at the embassy in political asylum to avoid extradition to Sweden on a 2010 rape allegation.
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