Ecuador’s President: Assange Turned His Shelter at Our Mission Into a Spying Den

By Patrick Goodenough | July 22, 2019 | 4:25am EDT
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with Ecuador's President Lenin Moreno on Saturday. (Photo: State Department/Ron Przysucha)

(CNSNews.com) – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange turned his shelter at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London into a “center for espionage,” Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno said at the weekend.

Speaking alongside visiting Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Moreno told reporters his government has obtained evidence showing that the room where Assange was living at the diplomatic mission “had become a center for espionage, from where it was possible to observe and to detect through hacking elements of the defense and economic policies of brother and sister countries.”

Moreno said conditions of asylum include a prohibition of interfering in other countries policies.

British police arrested Assange in April after Moreno’s government withdrew the offer of asylum made by his leftist predecessor, Rafael Correa, in 2012.

The 48-year-old Australian national was sentenced in May to 50 weeks’ imprisonment for breaching his bail conditions by not surrendering to a court in 2012. At the time he was facing the possibility of extradition to Sweden over sexual assault allegations, which he denies.

Beyond the 50-week prison term, however, he awaits the considerably more serious decision on his possible extradition to the United States. A hearing on that is scheduled to begin next February.

Assange has been indicted in the U.S. on 18 counts relating to his alleged role in what the Department of Justice calls “one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States.”

Moreno on Saturday called into question the portrayal of Assange as a journalist – as his supporters maintain – saying he had been very selective in the information he chose to release through WikiLeaks.

“A journalist he never was – he was just a hacker.”

Supporters of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange demonstrate at the Westminster Magistrates Court in London last month. . (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Moreno said it was “strange” that WikiLeaks never released anything harmful to Ecuador’s previous president, Correa, but had leaked information damaging to him and his family. (Moreno was referring to reports early this year claiming that he and family members had benefited improperly from an offshore account in Panama. He has denied wrongdoing.)

Moreno said the rescinding of asylum has led to improved ties between his country and both the U.S. and Britain. Ecuador’s only request of the British was that Assange not be extradited to any country where his life may be in jeopardy, he said. “That was the only condition we set forth.”

Pompeo did not comment on Assange during the press availability, but in an interview with the Ecuador daily Diario El Universo he was asked about the issue.

“We think it is absolutely essential that Julian Assange face justice,” Pompeo said, noting that the U.S. has requested his extradition to face trial.

“We have an ongoing process – I can’t say much more than that – but we think it’s important that this man, who presented a risk to the world and created a risk to soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines in the United States, be held to account in the justice system.”

‘Grave and imminent risk to their lives and liberty’

In May a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia returned an 18-count superseding indictment against Assange, alleging that he was complicit with the former U.S. Army intelligence analyst now known as Chelsea Manning in unlawfully obtaining and making public classified documents related to U.S. national defense.

Although Assange has been accused of releasing via WikiLeaks hundreds of thousands of stolen classified documents, U.S. officials have made clear that he is not being charged for that.

He is, however, being charged for posting classified documents online that allegedly identified sensitive human sources, including Iraqis and Afghans who helped U.S. forces in those countries, as well as other individuals – such as human rights advocates, dissidents and religious leaders – living under repressive regimes.

“Assange thereby is alleged to have created grave and imminent risk to their lives and liberty,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers said on the day the indictment was released.

“These alleged actions disclosed our sensitive, classified information in a manner that made it available to every terrorist group, hostile foreign intelligence service and opposing military.”

Demers noted that documents relating to the leaks had even been found in the compound where the fugitive al-Qaeda terrorist Osama bin Laden had sheltered in Pakistan until found and killed by U.S. Navy SEALS in May 2011.

“This release made our adversaries stronger and more knowledgeable and the United States less secure,” he said.

“Julian Assange is no journalist,” Demers asserted. “[N]o responsible actor – journalist or otherwise – would purposely publish the names of individuals he or she knew to be confidential human sources in war zones, exposing them to the gravest of dangers.”

None of the charges in the indictment relate to WikiLeaks’ role in releasing information obtained by the Russian government by hacking into the computer servers of the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton 2016 presidential campaign.

Based on findings in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation relating to the hacking, a grand jury in D.C. returned an indictment a year ago against 12 Russian military intelligence officers suspected of trying to interfere in the election.

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