"It's time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is: A non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia" - CIA Director Mike Pompeo
The recent presidential elections in Ecuador held a personal significance for this author for two reasons.
First, as a native of that small, beautiful South American country, I remain interested in its social, political and economic progress and future -- so much of it dependent on the newly elected president.
Second, as an American, indignant at the damage that one man -- holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London -- has inflicted upon our national security and democracy, I was rooting for a particular candidate to emerge victorious from the run-off presidential elections there.
On the first issue, Ecuador’s social, economic and democratic future, I wanted conservative, pro-business Guillermo Lasso to defeat leftist leaning Lenín Moreno, who -- if elected -- would certainly continue the corrupt, undemocratic, “iron-fisted rule” of the outgoing leftist president, Rafael Correa, a vocal critic of the United States.
On the second issue (WikiLeaks Julian Assange’s continued refuge in the Ecuadorean Embassy), Moreno’s victory would mean Ecuador continuing to provide asylum in its London Embassy -- perhaps with some conditions -- to a man facing extradition to Sweden to fight allegations of sexual assault and also wanted by the U.S. on suspicion of espionage for his organization’s disclosure of massive amounts of classified information.
Assange leaked hundreds of thousands of secret US military and diplomatic documents in 2010 and released thousands of hacked emails from presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party during the 2016 elections, possibly influencing the outcome of that election. Most recently, Assange’s WikiLeaks claimed it had obtained CIA “hacking tools” and threatened to provide technology companies access to them.
On the other hand, Lasso’s election would certainly result in Assange’s eviction from the embassy. “Ecuador has no business spending a single cent protecting someone who definitely leaked confidential information…I will take on the responsibility of inviting [Señor] Assange to leave the Ecuadorean embassy at the latest 30 days after the start of our government,” Lasso promised.
Alas, although most of the exit polls had shown Lasso winning the elections, Ecuador’s National Electoral Council (NEC) determined that Lenín Moreno was the winner by a small margin shortly after the April 2 elections.
Lasso and his supporters challenged the outcome and demanded a recount. However, a recent recount of the disputed votes “ratified the results,” according to the NEC, and, having exhausted all avenues for challenging the elections results, Assange’s continued protector is expected to assume Ecuador’s presidency on May 24.
Of course, Assange celebrated the results of Ecuador’s elections.
However, the celebration may be short-lived as the U.S. Justice Department under the same man who, during our own presidential elections, declared how much he loved WikiLeaks, has announced that the arrest of Mr. Assange is now a “priority” for U.S. prosecutors.
At a news conference Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said:
We are going to step up our effort and already are stepping up our efforts on all leaks. This is a matter that's gone beyond anything I'm aware of. We have professionals that have been in the security business of the United States for many years that are shocked by the number of leaks and some of them are quite serious. So yes, it is a priority. We've already begun to step up our efforts and whenever a case can be made, we will seek to put some people in jail.
Additionally, CNN reports:
The US view of WikiLeaks and Assange began to change after investigators found what they believe was proof that WikiLeaks played an active role in helping Edward Snowden, a former NSA analyst, disclose a massive cache of classified documents. :: Last week in a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, CIA Director Mike Pompeo went further than any US government official in describing a role by WikiLeaks that went beyond First Amendment activity. He said WikiLeaks "directed Chelsea Manning to intercept specific secret information, and it overwhelmingly focuses on the United States." "It's time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is: A non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia," Pompeo said. US intelligence agencies have also determined that Russian intelligence used WikiLeaks to publish emails aimed at undermining the campaign of Hillary Clinton, as part of a broader operation to meddle in the US 2016 presidential election. Hackers working for Russian intelligence agencies stole thousands of emails from the Democratic National Committee and officials in the Clinton campaign and used intermediaries to pass along the documents to WikiLeaks, according to a public assessment by US intelligence agencies.
However, “Still, the move could be viewed as political, since Assange is untouchable as long as he remains in the Ecuadorian embassy, and Ecuador has not changed its stance on Assange's extradition,” CNN cautiously adds.
Lead image: Department of Justice