On Monday we reported that Julian Assange’s internet connection had been severed within the confines of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. And while WikiLeaks originally accused a “state actor,” the organization has now laid the blame on the Ecuadorian Embassy itself.
“We can confirm Ecuador cut off Assange’s Internet access Saturday, 5pm GMT, shortly after publication of Clinton’s Goldman Sachs (speeches),” the group announced in a message posted to Twitter Monday. The group continued their accusations Tuesday with follow-up messages that pointed the finger at U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who WikiLeaks claims had personally requested Ecuador to stop Assange from continuing to leak documents regarding Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Kerry was said to have cited unidentified “multiple US sources.” WikiLeaks believes the request was made last month in Colombia during sideline negotiations.
The State Department denied the claims, however. “While our concerns about WikiLeaks are longstanding, any suggestion that Secretary Kerry or the State Department were involved in shutting down Wikileaks is false,” said U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby. “Reports that Secretary Kerry had conversations with Ecuadorian officials about this are simply untrue. Period.”
Ecuador’s Foreign Ministry took a different approach to the allegations by simply avoiding a straightforward answer altogether. “Faced with the speculation of the last few hours, the Government of Ecuador ratifies the validity of the asylum granted to Julian Assange four years ago,” the Foreign Ministry announced. “We reaffirm that his protection by the Ecuadorean state will continue while the circumstances that led to the granting of asylum remain.”
There seems to be ongoing confusion about what is actually going on, since if a “state actor” like the U.S. had shut off Assange’s internet access, one would assume there would be political and legal consequences. However, if the deed had been done by the Ecuadorian Embassy, then that would be entirely legal. And if Ecuador truly is at fault, it seems the focus is now on the impending pressure the country’s government faces from the U.S. as a result of the ongoing controversy of WikiLeaks and their leaked documents on the Clinton campaign.
If Assange’s internet has been severed for diplomatic reasons, this may be connected to the politics of Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, who said he favoured Clinton over Trump. “For the US it would certainly be better if Hillary won. I know her personally and have a great deal of respect for her,” Correa announced.
Regardless, we must wait to see how Assange will respond.
WikiLeaks released three lines of code it called “pre-commitments” labelled “John Kerry,” ”Ecuador,” and “FCO” — a clear reference to Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Pre-commitments refer to cryptographic functions that can be used to verify the trustworthiness of material released later on.
According to Thomas White, a U.K.-based security researcher and transparency activist, the posts were a signal from Assange to the named parties that his organization had detrimental material left to expose “in the event Ecuador do not continue to offer him political asylum.”
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