A bombshell Yahoo News investigation published Sunday is being called the most important deep-dive exposé in years detailing the lengths the CIA and US national security state went to nab WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange while he was holed up at the Ecuadoran embassy. US officials were even having meetings discussing possible assassination of the man who exposed so many secrets of American military and clandestine actions abroad.
Dozens of US intelligence officials, including many who had served under the Trump administration, are now confirming the CIA considered "options" for kidnapping and/or assassinating Assange and that plans were mulled over at the highest levels of CIA leadership. "More than 30 former U.S. officials — eight of whom described details of the CIA’s proposals to abduct Assange," are sourced in the report, which further reveals the CIA targeted journalists who worked closely with WikiLeaks, including Glenn Greenwald.
Among the many key new revelations in the report includes that then CIA chief Mike Pompeo was itching for revenge against WikiLeaks and Assange after the "Vault 7" leaks, considered a massive embarrassment to the agency almost without parallel. This began years-running US intelligence "war" on the whistleblower organization publisher of leaked and classified materials, which had the end goal of destroying it and Assange.
WikiLeaks itself had publicized on multiple occasions reports of its legal and media team being victims of "professional operations" by CIA assets, and even provided surveillance footage of a "grab team" at various points camped outside the Ecuadorian embassy in London. We also learn that attempts to tie WikiLeaks to the Russian government was part of a CIA propaganda campaign tied to its 'dirty war' on the media entity.
Here's how the lengthy and stunning investigative report begins:
In 2017, as Julian Assange began his fifth year holed up in Ecuador’s embassy in London, the CIA plotted to kidnap the WikiLeaks founder, spurring heated debate among Trump administration officials over the legality and practicality of such an operation.
Some senior officials inside the CIA and the Trump administration even discussed killing Assange, going so far as to request "sketches" or "options" for how to assassinate him. Discussions over kidnapping or killing Assange occurred “at the highest levels” of the Trump administration, said a former senior counterintelligence official. "There seemed to be no boundaries."
The conversations were part of an unprecedented CIA campaign directed against WikiLeaks and its founder. The agency’s multipronged plans also included extensive spying on WikiLeaks associates, sowing discord among the group’s members, and stealing their electronic devices.
This was during a period of time that then CIA director Mike Pompeo began publicly calling WikiLeaks a "non-state hostile intelligence service" - which the report says was an attempt to introduce legal justification for targeting its members and close journalist associates.
But increasingly the question of 'legality' mattered less and less, as one source cited in the report highlights:
Pompeo and other top agency leaders "were completely detached from reality because they were so embarrassed about Vault 7," said a former Trump national security official. "They were seeing blood."
Below is a summary thread providing an overview of the full report by journalist Kevin Gosztola, who in the past has provided close coverage of Assange's legal saga from London for Shadowproof (emphasis ours)...
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WikiLeaks' publication of "Vault 7" materials from the CIA was hugely embarrassing. Even though the CIA had increased spying operations against WikiLeaks, they still were surprised the media organization obtained a trove of the agency's extremely sensitive files.
CIA director Mike Pompeo was afraid President Donald Trump would learn about the "Vault 7" materials and think less of him. "Don’t tell him, he doesn’t need to know." But it was too important. Trump had to be informed.
The CIA was already engaged in ramped up operations against Assange and WikiLeaks because the media organization assisted NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. We learn that US intelligence officials lobbied the White House under Obama to redefine WikiLeaks—and high-profile journalists like Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras—as "information brokers." This could help CIA argue they were "agents of a foreign power" and valid targets.
"More than 30 former U.S. officials — eight of whom described details of the CIA’s proposals to abduct Assange," were sources for the report. One of these officials professes to lobbying for a redefinition of journalists—a clear attack on principles of press freedom. Pompeo and the CIA seized on a "carveout" to authorize operations against Assange and WikiLeaks over "Vault 7" publication. They'd treat WikiLeaks as a spy service and anything conducted would be "offensive counterintelligence" activity.
Recall, CIA director Mike Pompeo's speech at CSIS, a Washington think tank, where he labeled WikiLeaks "a non-state hostile intelligence service." That was all to fuel a climate for aggressive action targeted against Assange, WikiLeaks staff, and associates.
The CIA could not prove WikiLeaks was working at the behest of the Russian government. So rather than claim authority to target WikiLeaks that way officials sought to reframe the organization as a "hostile entity." Then it wouldn't matter that they weren't working for Russia.
Here is why I've said for the past couple of years the CIA was out to destroy WikiLeaks. The "hostile entity" designation allowed them to target the media organization for disruption. This is a list of activities they believed they could engage in at any time...
Here is why I've said for the past couple of years the CIA was out to destroy WikiLeaks. The "hostile entity" designation allowed them to target the media organization for disruption.— Kevin Gosztola (@kgosztola) September 26, 2021
This is a list of activities they believed they could engage in at any time: pic.twitter.com/quW3OuVpFJ
The Yahoo! report appears to confirm Andy Müller-Maguhn, a former spokesman for Chaos Computer Club in Germany and friend of Assange, was targeted for disruption by the CIA. He is a German citizen. A key question is whether German intelligence operatives were aware.
We can now say CIA Director Mike Pompeo wanted to kidnap WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Pompeo wanted to put him on a rendition flight to the United States. The US intelligence operatives UC Global Director David Morales and others referenced worked at the highest levels. Note key detail related to the proposal of kidnapping Assange. Pompeo was not raising a fresh and crazy idea.
"...the notion of kidnapping Assange preceded Pompeo's arrival at Langley..." So under Obama there were meetings where kidnapping Assange was discussed. President Donald Trump reportedly "spitballed" on whether the CIA could kill WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
And "agency executives requested and received 'sketches' of plans for killing Assange and other Europe-based WikiLeaks members with access to Vault 7 materials." John Eisenberg, who was a top lawyer for the National Security Council under Trump, apparently opposed rendering Assange to US without criminal charges. He urged DOJ to accelerate drafting of charges and was concerned Pompeo was freezing out lawyers from Assange discussions.
This is not a spy movie. This is reality. CIA considered killing #Assange, even killing @wikileaks associates. Although it's no surprise for those of us who have been on CIA's spy list, this is huge and @POTUS should drop #Assange charges immediately.https://t.co/dF1Xvz1nEM— Srećko Horvat (@HorvatSrecko) September 26, 2021
British government agreed not to drop bail-jumping charge against Assange after Swedish investigation into sexual allegations was dropped in May 2017. This bail-jumping charge helped keep him in Belmarsh during extradition hearing and after prevailed in district court.
At the conclusion of the report, it reads: "Spy services are increasingly using a WikiLeaks-like model of posting stolen materials online." Trump administration gave the CIA "aggressive new secret authorities" for hack-and-dump operations.
To sum this all up: The Justice Department was afraid the CIA might kidnap or kill WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. They abandoned any hangup they had over "the New York Times problem" of charging a publisher and drafted an indictment.