CIA under Obama may have wanted to ‘tag’ the WikiLeaks founder and other journalists as “information brokers” so it can ramp up their spying on them, but CIA under Trump was planning to kidnap or kill Julian Assange, claims a bombshell Yahoo News report published on Sunday.
The report, based on interviews with more than 30 former US officials, depicts how the US national security apparatus’ war with WikiLeaks was escalating under two consecutive US administrations and the extraordinary lengths to which the CIA under Director Mike Pompeo were prepared to go to get Assange
CIA’s plans in 2017 were allegedly involving Russian agents expected to help Assange flee the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. In such case, the plan envisaged the agency employees along with British agents to potentially starting a firefight against the Russians and to ram the Russian diplomatic vehicle that would be involved in Assange’s transport.
Agents were even planning to shoot at the tires of a Russian plane carrying Assange to prevent it from lifting off. The potential ‘escape of Assange’ was expected on Christmas Eve, according to the report.
Former senior official points that the situation was beyond comical since it got to the point where every person in a three-block radius of the embassy at the time was working for one of the intelligence services.
The report claims that CIA was also deliberating plans to kill Assange and other members of WikiLeaks or to snatch him from the Ecuadorian embassy and bring him to the US or hand him over to the British authorities that wanted Assange at the time for skipping bail in an extradition trial Sweden requested.
The case, based on alleged rape accusations, has since been dropped.
One intelligence official underlined how ridiculous was the idea of carrying out a successful rendition or assassination since we’re talking about the streets of London, not Pakistan or Egypt, apart the fact that such an operation might’ve be deemed illegal under US law, as part of the Trump administration was noting.
Though using CIA powers are meant only for spy-versus-spy activities, as far as the CIA was concerned, WikiLeaks prompted these extreme measures by exposing the cyber-offensive toolkit used by US agents with the so-called ‘Vault 7’ publications.
That was taken as a major humiliation for US intelligence that wanted vengeance on Assange for that, with Pompeo and Gina Haspel, Deputy CIA Director at the time, being loudest in demanding such actions.
He infamously -and deliberately publically- called WikiLeaks a non-state hostile intelligence service as a kind of legal maneuvering so the CIA can file its snooping under “offensive counterintelligence” activities, the agency is allowed to conduct on its own volition without having then-president Trump sign off such aggressive operations.
Pompeo’s CIA has also ramped up its war on WikiLeaks by lobbying the White House to redesignate the organization and some of its high-profile journalists, like Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, as “information brokers,” so more surveillance powers could to be deployed against them.
After Assange was dragged out of the Ecuadorian Embassy and placed in custody in a high-security British prison, UK authorities have denied US request to extradite him on charges related to hacking, which it was appealed.
According to Yahoo News, it’s the concerns that the US case against Assange could be jeopardized that, among other things, prevented the CIA’s plants from going further.