WikiLeaks Says Ecuador Cut Off Assange's Web Access

| by Zach Cohen
Julian Assange addressed a crowd from the balcony of his embassy suite at the Ecuadorian embassy in LondonJulian Assange addressed a crowd from the balcony of his embassy suite at the Ecuadorian embassy in London

On Oct. 17, WikiLeaks tweeted that internet access for founder Julian Assange had been cut off from his residence at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

The hacking group tweeted: "We can confirm Ecuador cut off Assange's internet access Saturday [Oct. 15] 5pm GMT, shortly after publication of Clinton's Goldman Sachs [speeches]."

WikiLeaks said it was executing "contingency plans" to keep its operation running, The Associated Press reports. Its site and Twitter feed were both working normally on Oct. 18.

The anti-secrecy group claimed on Oct. 18 that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry personally asked Ecuador to prevent future publications about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. WikiLeaks said Kerry approached Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa in Colombia in September, on the sidelines of unrelated negotiations. 

The State Department denied these allegations. Deputy spokesman Mark Toner said Kerry never even met with Correa. "There just was no meeting," he said. "They didn't discuss any of this stuff.

The Ecuadorian government has received questions about Assange's asylum status following reports of the country stripping his internet privileges, according to The New York Times. It replied in a statement: "In view of recent speculations, the government of Ecuador reaffirms the validity of the asylum granted four years ago to Julian Assange ... [His protection] will continue while the circumstances that led to the granting of asylum remain."

Correa has stated his support for Clinton over Republican nominee Donald Trump in the upcoming presidential election, AP reports. "For the U.S., I'd like the winner to be Hillary, whom I also know personally and appreciate very much," he recently told Russian state broadcaster RT.

Truman State University professor of Latin American history Marc Becker doubts that Correa's fondness for Clinton would cause him to act on U.S. pressure to interfere with the election, and that he probably "doesn't appreciate their guests using their resources to that end."

In the days before WikiLeaks confirmed that Assange's host had cut his internet, it released three lines of code that it called "pre-commitments," which read "John Kerry," "Ecuador" and "FCO," likely referring to Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

U.K.-based security researcher Thomas White speculates the code might be a threat, and that WikiLeaks might release something that could embarrass the Ecuadorian government if it "do[es] not continue to offer [Assange] political asylum."

Assange has been sheltered at Ecuador's embassy in London since 2012, when he sought political asylum from allegations of sexual assault, reports the BBC. He is still wanted for questioning by Swedish authorities, and will be arrested by British police and extradited to Sweden if he leaves the shelter of the embassy, according to The New York Times.

There have been tensions between Assange and the embassy staff since he took up residence there, reports BuzzFeed. In a September 2012 incident, a security guard caught him in an off-limits control room, where he was seen tampering with equipment. The two engaged in a physical altercation that left some embassy equipment damaged. A witness told embassy staff that Assange was "out of control," very upset, and was trying to provoke a reaction.

Sources: AP, BBC, The New York Times (2), BuzzFeed / Photo credit: Carl Gardner/Flickr

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