By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News
An attempted break-in at Julian Assange’s residence inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London on Oct. 29, and the absence of a security detail, have increased fears about the safety of the WikiLeak’s publisher.
Lawyers for Assange have confirmed to activist and journalist Suzie Dawson that Assange was awoken in the early morning hours by the break-in attempt. They confirmed to Dawson that the attempt was to enter a front window of the embassy. A booby-trap Assange had set up woke him, the lawyers said.
There was a previous break-in attempt at the embassy in August 2016.
Scaffolding has appeared against the embassy building in the Knightsbridge section in London, which “obscures the embassy’s security cameras,” the lawyers said.
On the scaffolding electronic devices, presumably to conduct surveillance, can be seen, just feet from the embassy windows.
Later on the day of the break-in, Sean O’Brien, a lecturer at Yale University Law School and a cyber-security expert, was able to enter the embassy through the front door, which was left open. Inside he found no security present. Someone from the embassy emerged to tell him to send an email to set up an appointment with Assange. After emailing the embassy, personnel inside refused to check whether it had been received or not.
O’Brien then noticed more scaffolding being erected and observed the devices, which he photographed. Though a cyber-security expert, O’Brien said he could not identify what the devices are.
“I’ve never seen devices quite like this, and I take photos of surveillance equipment often,” O’Brien said. “There were curious plastic tubes with yellow-orange caps, zip-tied to the front. I have no idea what these are but they seem to have equipment inside them.”
The devices are pointed towards the embassy, where all the blinds were open, and not the street, he said. “The surveillance devices in the photos reveals no manufacturer branding, serial numbers or visible device information,” Dawson said. “The combination of the obscuring of the street-facing surveillance cameras and the installation of surveillance equipment pointed into instead of away from the Embassy, is alarming.”
The Ecuadorean government had to have given permission for the devices to be installed as they are flush up against the embassy walls on government sovereign territory, Dawson said.
O’Brien said that previous visitors had described to him “closed and locked doors. Security guards manning the desk at all times. Privacy drapes, dark rooms with shuttered blinds. For such a reversal of position to have occurred, there is only one conclusion: the Ecuadorian Embassy is open for business. Wide open.”
In May the Ecuadorian government of President Lenin Moreno shut off Assange’s electronic communications and denied him all visitors except his mother and his lawyers. Last month the government offered Assange a deal: his access to the world could be restored if he agreed not to comment on politics. Assange reportedly refused.
On Thursday the government suddenly barred all access to Assange visitors, including his legal team until next Monday, raising fears that no witnesses could be present should there be an attempt to abduct Assange over the weekend.
The break-in attempt last Monday occurred on the morning that Assange was due to testify via video-link to a court in Quito regarding Assange’s conditions of asylum. Technical problems interrupted Assange’s testimony. The court ruled against his lawyer’s petition for protections for Assange.
The new Ecuadorian government indicated in the Spring that Assange would eventually have to leave the embassy. Assange fears that if he leaves the British government will arrest him on a minor charge of skipping bail when he legally sought asylum inside the embassy in June of 2012.
Assange and his lawyers fear that if he is detained by British authorities he would be extradited to the United States where they believe there is a sealed indictment against him possibly on espionage charges for simply publishing classified documents that he has not been accused of stealing.
Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, Sunday Times of London and numerous other newspapers. He can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @unjoe .
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NY Times ramps up smear campaign against Julian Assange
6 November 2018
A pair of blaring headlines appearing in Friday’s edition of the New York Times purported to show that the newspaper had obtained damning new evidence of collusion between WikiLeaks, the Trump campaign and the Russian government to damage the campaign of Hillary Clinton in 2016.
The latest round of smears appearing in the Times, the journalistic mouthpiece of the Democratic Party and sections of the military-intelligence apparatus opposed to Trump, is aimed at preparing public opinion for an eventual indictment on espionage charges of WikiLeaks founder and publisher Julian Assange, preparations for which are already in full swing. The Times articles appeared amid widespread media speculation that special counsel Robert Mueller could begin handing down indictments soon.
The government of Ecuador, eager to curry favor with Washington, is rapidly moving to expel Assange from its embassy in London, where he has been trapped since he first sought political asylum there in 2011. Assange would be arrested by British police immediately upon setting foot outside the embassy, after which he could be extradited to the United States, where a secret grand jury has reportedly long been convened to hear charges against him.
Consortium News reported on Saturday that Assange was the target of a failed break-in two weeks ago. The incident has been totally unreported in the American press more than two days after the story broke.
Last month, a bipartisan group of lawmakers headed by Democrat Eliot Engel published an open letter to the Ecuadorian government demanding that President Lenin Moreno hand over Assange, branding the WikiLeaks publisher “a dangerous criminal and a threat to global security,” who “should be brought to justice.”
The Democratic National Committee (DNC) also filed a lawsuit against the Russian government, Trump campaign officials and Assange, alleging collusion between them to sabotage Clinton’s election campaign. The frivolous lawsuit, which was summarily dismissed, argued against longstanding US laws and court precedent protecting whistleblowers and investigative journalists by declaring that Assange, by publishing information that the DNC alleged was illegally obtained, was criminally liable.
Both WikiLeaks and Russia have vehemently denied the charges that Russia was the source of e-mails, published by WikiLeaks in the months before the November election, from the DNC and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. These e-mails contained verification of Clinton’s corrupt relationships with Wall Street, as well as collusion by the DNC, which had effectively been taken over by the Clinton campaign, to fix the party’s primary race in her favor.
A key element in the Democratic Party’s narrative of Trump’s “collusion” with WikiLeaks, which is the subject of the Times’s articles, is the role of Republican political consultant Roger Stone, who made public statements supportive of WikiLeaks’ publication of thousands of Clinton’s private e-mails in the month before the election, and who reached out to figures close to the Trump campaign over the leaked e-mails before they were officially released.
The Democrats and the Times allege that Stone functioned as a go-between for the Trump campaign with Assange, and by extension the Russian government, who they claim was the source of the leaked Clinton e-mails, a charge both WikiLeaks and Russia have vehemently denied. Establishing a connection between Roger Stone, or more accurately fabricating one, is thus critically important for the campaign against WikiLeaks. Stone himself has repeatedly denied all of the accusations.
The Times articles center on e-mail correspondence obtained by the newspaper between Stone and Steven Bannon, then editor of the right-wing Breitbart News website and close political adviser to Trump, weeks before the official release of the Clinton e-mails by WikiLeaks. The emails, the newspaper alleges, “show how the political operative Roger J. Stone Jr. sold himself to Trump campaign advisers as a potential conduit to WikiLeaks.”
The carefully hedged language used by the authors, to the effect that Stone “sold himself” as a WikiLeaks confidante rather than actually being one, is an implicit admission that the Times ’s supposedly bombshell revelations amount to nothing. All of the information that Stone passed on to Bannon about WikiLeaks was already publicly available at the time, a fact the authors are compelled to admit parenthetically halfway through their commentary providing “context” for the e-mails.
Stone also related vague, secondhand observations about Assange’s security concerns in the Ecuadorian embassy, which are alleged to have come from comedian and WikiLeaks supporter Randy Credico (allegations that Credico has also denied). However, there is no evidence at all that Stone had backchannel access to WikiLeaks representatives, let alone that he was reaching out to Bannon with the authorization of WikiLeaks.
To the extent that there is any substance to the published e-mail exchanges, they suggest the opposite of the core argument that the authors are driving at—that the Trump campaign was colluding through Stone with WikiLeaks. Significantly, the response from Bannon to Stone’s overtures was noticeably cool, with Stone complaining to one of Bannon’s subordinates, “I’d tell Bannon but he doesn’t call me back.” When this subordinate reached out to Bannon on Stone’s behalf, Bannon responded curtly, “I’ve got important stuff to worry about.”
As with every other article published by the Times and the rest of the American media on the allegations of Russian “meddling” in the 2016 elections, last Friday’s articles are a travesty of journalism. They are articles written to justify a headline, pieced together through innuendo and parroting the propaganda lies of the Democrats and sections of the intelligence agencies.
The newspaper repeats, as though it was beyond any shadow of a doubt, the unproven allegations that the Russian government was WikiLeaks’ source for the Podesta e-mails, and brands the publication of the leaked documents as an act of political sabotage. “When WikiLeaks published a trove of emails stolen from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman a month before the 2016 election, it was widely viewed as an attempt to damage her standing. … We have since learned that the emails were originally hacked by Russian intelligence operatives.”
The authors of the “analysis” article state, “This article is based on interviews with people familiar with the Russia investigation and the inner workings of the Trump campaign.” In other words, the article was written with the collaboration and consent of figures in the FBI and the CIA.
By now, a familiar pattern has arisen in the “reporting” on the allegations of Russian hacking. The New York Times, the Washington Post and other major media outlets publish articles with provocative, semi-hysterical headlines that contain zero evidence or are based entirely on the unfounded assertions or “high levels of confidence” of anonymous intelligence officials, in the course of which the authors themselves sometimes even quietly admit that nothing has been proven. These unfounded allegations, nonetheless, are continually repeated again and again by the compliant, corporate-controlled US media as though they were unvarnished fact, cynically assuming (largely incorrectly, as public opinion polls have shown) that the public will be accustomed to accept them as fact as long as they continually assert them to be so.
Taken in context, the Times’s articles point to the immediate danger that Julian Assange finds himself in.