Assange in October 2014
Julian Paul Hawkins
3 July 1971
|Residence||Embassy of Ecuador|
(by right of asylum)
|Known for||Founding WikiLeaks|
|Home town||Melbourne, Victoria, Australia|
|Title||Director and or-in-chief of WikiLeaks|
(m. 1989; div. 1999)
(esp. 2009; sep. 2012)
Julian Paul Assange (//; born Julian Paul Hawkins; 3 July 1971) is an Australian computer programmer, a grantee of political asylum, a fugitive from a British arrest warrant for breaching bail conditions, and the or of WikiLeaks. Assange founded WikiLeaks in 2006, and came to international attention in 2010, when WikiLeaks published a series of leaks provided by Chelsea Manning. These leaks included the Collateral Murder video (April 2010), the Afghanistan war logs (July 2010), the Iraq war logs (October 2010), and CableGate (November 2010). Following the 2010 leaks, the federal government of the United States launched a criminal investigation into WikiLeaks and asked allied nations for assistance.
In November 2010, Sweden issued an international arrest warrant for Assange. He had been questioned there months earlier over allegations of sexual assault and rape. Assange denied the allegations, and said that he would be extradited from Sweden to the United States because of his role in publishing secret American documents. Assange surrendered to UK police on 7 December 2010 but was released on bail within 10 days. Having been unsuccessful in his challenge to the extradition proceedings, he breached his bail and absconded. He was granted asylum by Ecuador in August 2012 and has remained in the Embassy of Ecuador in London since then. Assange has held Ecuadorian citizenship since 12 December 2017.
During the 2016 Democratic Party presidential primaries, WikiLeaks hosted emails sent or received by candidate Hillary Clinton from her private email server when she was Secretary of State. After the Democratic Party, along with cybersecurity experts, claimed that Russian intelligence had hacked Clinton campaign-related e-mails and leaked them to WikiLeaks, Assange said Clinton was causing "hysteria about Russia". He consistently denied any connection to or cooperation with Russia in relation to the leaks.
On 19 May 2017, the Swedish prosecutors dropped their investigation into the rape accusation against Assange and applied to revoke the European arrest warrant. Although he is free to leave the Embassy, it is likely that he would then be arrested for the criminal offence of breaching his bail conditions. The London Metropolitan Police have indicated that an arrest warrant is still in force for Assange's failure to surrender himself to his bail. On 27 July 2018, Ecuadorian President Lenín Moreno said that he had begun talks with British authorities to withdraw the asylum for Assange. In December, Assange turned down an offer that would have allowed him to leave the embassy with the guarantee that the UK would not extradite him to any country where he could face the death penalty.
Julian Paul Hawkins was born on 3 July 1971 in Townsville, Queensland, to Christine Ann Hawkins (b. 1951), a visual artist, and John Shipton, an anti-war activist and builder. The couple separated prior to his birth.
When Julian Hawkins was a year old, his mother married Richard Brett Assange, an actor, with whom she ran a small theatre company and whom Assange regards as his father (choosing Assange as his surname). The surname Assange is an Anglicisation of the Chinese name Au Sang from a Taiwanese man who married a Torres Strait Islander woman on Thursday Island. His mother had a house in Nelly Bay on Magnetic Island where they lived from time to time until it was destroyed by fire.
Christine and Brett Assange divorced about 1979. Christine Assange then became involved with Leif Meynell, also known as Leif Hamilton, a member of Australian cult The Family, with whom she had a son before the couple broke up in 1982. Assange had a nomadic childhood, and had lived in over thirty Australian towns by the time he reached his mid-teens, when he settled with his mother and half-brother in Melbourne, Victoria.
He attended many schools, including Goolmangar Primary School in New South Wales (1979–1983) and Townsville State High School, as well as being schooled at home. He studied programming, mathematics, and physics at Central Queensland University (1994) and the University of Melbourne (2003–2006), but did not complete a degree.
While in his teens, Assange married a woman named Teresa, and in 1989 they had a son, Daniel Assange, now a software designer. The couple separated and initially disputed custody of their child. Assange was Daniel's primary caregiver for much of his childhood. Assange has other children; in an open letter to French President François Hollande, he stated that his youngest child lives in France with his mother. He also said that his family had faced death threats and harassment because of his work, forcing them to change identities and reduce contact with him.
In 1987, Assange began hacking under the name Mendax. He and two others—known as "Trax" and "Prime Suspect"—formed a hacking group they called the International Subversives. During this time, he hacked into the Pentagon and other US Department of Defense facilities, MILNET, the US Navy, NASA and Australia's Overseas Telecommunications Commission; Citibank, Lockheed Martin, Motorola, Panasonic, and Xerox; and the Australian National University, La Trobe University, and Stanford University's SRI International.[not in citation given] He is thought to have been involved in the WANK (Worms Against Nuclear Killers) hack at NASA in 1989, but he does not acknowledge this.
In September 1991, Assange was discovered hacking into the Melbourne master terminal of Nortel, a Canadian multinational telecommunications corporation. The Australian Federal Police tapped Assange's phone line (he was using a modem), raided his home at the end of October, and eventually charged him in 1994 with thirty-one counts of hacking and related crimes. In December 1996, he pleaded guilty to twenty-five charges (the other six were dropped), and was ordered to pay reparations of A$2,100 and released on a good behaviour bond. The perceived absence of malicious or mercenary intent and his disrupted childhood were cited to justify his lenient penalty.[excessive citations]
In 1993, Assange gave technical advice to the Victoria Police Child Exploitation Unit and assisted with prosecutions. In the same year, he was involved in starting one of the first public Internet service providers in Australia, Suburbia Public Access Network. He began programming in 1994, authoring or co-authoring the Transmission Control Protocol port scanner
strobe.c (1995); patches to the open-source database PostgreSQL (1996); the Usenet caching software NNTPCache (1996); the Rubberhose deniable encryption system (1997), which reflected his growing interest in cryptography; and Surfraw, a command-line interface for web-based search engines (2000). During this period, he also moderated the AUCRYPTO forum; ran Best of Security, a website "giving advice on computer security" that had 5,000 subscribers in 1996; and contributed research to Suelette Dreyfus's Underground (1997), a book about Australian hackers, including the International Subversives. In 1998, he co-founded the company Earthmen Technology.
Assange stated that he registered the domain leaks.org in 1999, but "didn't do anything with it". He did, however, publicise a patent granted to the National Security Agency in August 1999, for voice-data harvesting technology: "This patent should worry people. Everyone's overseas phone calls are or may soon be tapped, transcribed and archived in the bowels of an unaccountable foreign spy agency." Systematic abuse of technology by governments against fundamental freedoms of world citizens remained an abiding concern—more than a decade later, in the introduction to Cypherpunks (2012), Assange summarised: "the Internet, our greatest tool for emancipation, has been transformed into the most dangerous facilitator of totalitarianism we have ever seen".
After his period of study at the University of Melbourne, Assange and others established WikiLeaks in 2006. Assange is a member of the organisation's advisory board and describes himself as the or-in-chief. From 2007 to 2010, Assange travelled continuously on WikiLeaks business, visiting Africa, Asia, Europe and North America.
WikiLeaks published secret information, news leaks, and classified media from anonymous sources. By 2015, WikiLeaks had published more than 10 million documents and associated analyses, and was described by Assange as "a giant library of the world's most persecuted documents". The published material between 2006 and 2009 attracted various degrees of publicity, but it was only after it began publishing documents supplied by Chelsea Manning, that WikiLeaks became a household name. The Manning material included the Collateral Murder video (April 2010) which showed United States soldiers fatally shooting 18 people from a helicopter in Iraq, the Afghanistan war logs (July 2010), the Iraq war logs (October 2010), a quarter of a million diplomatic cables (November 2010), and the Guantánamo files (April 2011).
Opinions of Assange at this time were divided. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard described his activities as "illegal," but the police said that he had broken no Australian law. United States Vice President Joe Biden and others called him a "terrorist". Some called for his assassination or execution. Support came from people including Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, President of Ecuador Rafael Correa, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Britain's Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn (then a backbench MP), Spain's Podemos party leader Pablo Iglesias, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, Argentina's ambassador to the UK Alicia Castro, and activists and celebrities including Tariq Ali, John Perry Barlow, Daniel Ellsberg, Mary Kostakidis, John Pilger, Ai Weiwei, Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky, Vaughan Smith, and Oliver Stone.
The year 2010 culminated with the Sam Adams Award, which Assange accepted in October, and a string of distinctions in December—the Le Monde readers' choice award for person of the year, the Time readers' choice award for person of the year (he was also a runner-up in Time's overall person of the year award), a deal for his autobiography worth at least US$1.3 million, and selection by the Italian ion of Rolling Stone as "rockstar of the year".
Assange announced that he would run for the Australian Senate in March 2012 under the new WikiLeaks Party, and Cypherpunks was published in November. In 2012, Assange hosted a television show on RT (formerly known as Russia Today), a network funded by the Russian government. In the same year, he analysed the Kissinger cables held at the US National Archives and released them in searchable form. On 15 September 2014, he appeared via remote video link on Kim Dotcom's Moment of Truth town hall meeting held in Auckland.
The following February, he won the Sydney Peace Foundation Gold Medal for Peace with Justice, previously awarded to only three people—Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, and Buddhist spiritual leader Daisaku Ikeda. Two weeks later, he filed for the trademark "Julian Assange" in Europe, which was to be used for "Public speaking services; news reporter services; journalism; publication of texts other than publicity texts; education services; entertainment services." For several years a member of the Australian journalists' union and still an honorary member, he was awarded the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism in June, having earlier won the Amnesty International UK Media Award (New Media) in 2009.
After WikiLeaks released the Manning material, United States authorities began investigating WikiLeaks and Assange personally with a view to prosecuting them under the Espionage Act of 1917. In November 2010 US Attorney-General Eric Holder said there was "an active, ongoing criminal investigation" into WikiLeaks. It emerged from legal documents leaked over the ensuing months that Assange and others were being investigated by a federal grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia. An email from an employee of intelligence consultancy Strategic Forecasting, Inc. (Stratfor) leaked in 2012 said, "We have a sealed indictment on Assange." The US government denies the existence of such an indictment.
In December 2011 prosecutors in the Chelsea Manning case revealed the existence of chat logs between Manning and an alleged WikiLeaks interlocutor they claimed to be Assange; he denied this, dismissing the alleged connection as "absolute nonsense". The logs were presented as evidence during Manning's court-martial in June–July 2013. The prosecution argued that they showed WikiLeaks helping Manning reverse-engineer a password, but evidence that the interlocutor was Assange was circumstantial, and Manning insisted she acted alone.
Assange was being examined separately by "several government agencies" in addition to the grand jury, most notably the FBI. Court documents published in May 2014 suggest that Assange was still under "active and ongoing" investigation at that time.
Moreover, some Snowden documents published in 2014 show that the United States government put Assange on the "2010 Manhunting Timeline", and in the same period they urged their allies to open criminal investigations into the or-in-chief of WikiLeaks. In the same documents there was a proposal by the National Security Agency (NSA) to designate WikiLeaks as a "malicious foreign actor", thus increasing the surveillance against it.
On 26 January 2015, WikiLeaks reported that three members of the organisation had received notice from Google that Google had complied with a federal warrant by a US District Court to turn over their emails and metadata on 5 April 2012. At the time, Google had been prohibited by the court's order from disclosing the existence of the warrant, but a subsequent order by the court gave Google permission to notify WikiLeaks regarding the warrant's existence and that Google had complied with the order. The warrants cited 18 USC 371, 641, 793(d), 793(g), and 1030, which include espionage, conspiracy to commit espionage, theft or conversion of property belonging to the United States government, violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and general conspiracy. According to the statement by WikiLeaks, the alleged offenses could add up to a total of 45 years of imprisonment each for Assange and other WikiLeaks staff.
In a 15 December 2015 court submission, the United States confirmed its "sensitive, ongoing law enforcement proceeding into the Wikileaks matter."
United States prosecutors accidentally revealed the existence of criminal charges against Assange in an unrelated ongoing sex crime case in the Eastern District of Virginia. Seamus Hughes, deputy director of George Washington University's Program on Extremism wrote that he initially ignored Assange's name, thinking it was a typo.
Assange visited Sweden in August 2010. During his visit, he became the subject of sexual assault allegations from two women with whom he had sex. He was questioned, the case was initially closed, and he was told he could leave the country. In November 2010, however, the case was re-opened by a special prosecutor who said that she wanted to question Assange over two counts of sexual molestation, one count of unlawful coercion and one count of "lesser-degree rape" (mindre grov våldtäkt). Assange denied the allegations and said he was happy to face questions in Britain.
In 2010, the prosecutor said Swedish law prevented her from questioning anyone by video link or in the London embassy. In March 2015, after public criticism from other Swedish law practitioners, she changed her mind and agreed to interrogate Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, with interviews finally beginning on 14 November 2016. These interviews involved police, Swedish prosecutors and Ecuadorian officials and were eventually published online. By this time, the statute of limitations had expired on all three of the less serious allegations. Since the Swedish prosecutor had not interviewed Assange by 18 August 2015, the questioning pertained only to the open investigation of "lesser degree rape", whose statute of limitations is due to expire in 2020.
On 19 May 2017, the Swedish authorities dropped their investigation against Assange, claiming they could not expect the Ecuadorian Embassy to communicate reliably with Assange with respect to the case. Chief prosecutor Marianne Ny officially revoked his arrest warrant, but said the investigation could still be resumed if Assange visited Sweden before August 2020. "We are not making any pronouncement about guilt", she said.
On 19 June 2012, Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño announced that Assange had applied for political asylum, that his government was considering the request, and that Assange was at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
Wikileaks insiders stated that Assange made the decision to seek asylum because he felt abandoned by the Australian government. The Australian Attorney-General at the time Nicola Roxon had written a letter to Assange’s legal representative Jennifer Robinson in which she wrote that Australia would not seek to involve itself in any international exchanges about Assange’s future. She also wrote that "should Mr Assange be convicted of any offence in the United States and a sentence of imprisonment imposed, he may apply for an international prisoner transfer to Australia". Assange’s lawyers described the letter as a "declaration of abandonment".
Assange and his supporters state he is concerned not about any proceedings in Sweden as such, but believe that his deportation to Sweden could lead to politically motivated deportation to the United States, where he could face severe penalties, up to the death sentence, for his activities related to WikiLeaks.
On 16 August 2012, Foreign Minister Patiño announced that Ecuador was granting Assange political asylum because of the threat represented by the United States secret investigation against him and several calls for assassination from many American politicians. In its formal statement, Ecuador reasoned that "as a consequence of [Assange's] determined defense to freedom of expression and freedom of press… in any given moment, a situation may come where his life, safety or personal integrity will be in danger". Latin American states expressed support for Ecuador. Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa confirmed on 18 August that Assange could stay at the embassy indefinitely, and the following day Assange gave his first speech from the balcony. Assange's supporters forfeited £293,500 in bail and sureties. His home since then has been an office converted into a studio apartment, equipped with a bed, telephone, sun lamp, computer, shower, treadmill, and kitchenette.
Just before Assange was granted asylum, the UK Government wrote to Foreign Minister Patiño stating that the police were entitled to enter the embassy and arrest Assange under UK law. Patiño criticised what he said was an implied threat, stating that "such actions would be a blatant disregard of the Vienna Convention". Officers of the Metropolitan Police Service were stationed outside the building from June 2012 to October 2015 in order to arrest Assange for extradition and for breach of bail, should he leave the embassy. The police guard was withdrawn on grounds of cost in October 2015, but the police said they would still deploy "a number of overt and covert tactics to arrest him". The cost of the policing for the period was reported to have been £12.6 million.
In April 2015, during a video conference to promote the documentary Terminal F about Edward Snowden, Bolivia's ambassador to Russia, María Luisa Ramos Urzagaste, accused Assange of putting the life of Bolivian president Evo Morales at risk by intentionally providing the United States with false rumours that Snowden was on the president's plane when it was forced to land in Vienna in July 2013. "It is possible that in this wide-ranging game that you began my president did not play a crucial role, but what you did was not important to my president, but it was to me and the citizens of our country. And I have faith that when you planned this game you took into consideration the consequences", the ambassador told Assange. Assange stated that the plan "was not completely honest, but we did consider that the final result would have justified our actions. We weren't expecting this outcome. The result was caused by the United States' intervention. We can only regret what happened." Later, in an interview with Democracy Now!, Assange explained the story of the grounding of Morales' plane, saying that after the United States cancelled Snowden's passport, WikiLeaks thought about other strategies to take him to Latin America, and they considered private presidential jets of those countries which offered support. The appointed jet was that of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, but Assange stated that "our code language that we used deliberately swapped the presidential jet that we were considering for the Bolivian jet [...] and in some of our communications, we deliberately spoke about that on open lines to lawyers in the United States. And we didn't think much more of it. [...] We didn't think this was anything more than just distracting." Eventually, the plan was not pursued and, under Assange's advice, Snowden sought asylum in Russia.
Paris newspaper Le Monde, in its ion of 3 July 2015, published an open letter from Assange to French President François Hollande in which Assange urged the French government to grant him refugee status. Assange wrote that "only France now has the ability to offer me the necessary protection against, and exclusively against, the political persecution that I am currently the object of." In the letter Assange wrote, "By welcoming me, France would fulfill a humanitarian but also probably symbolic gesture, sending an encouragement to all journalists and whistleblowers ... Only France is now able to offer me the necessary protection ... France can, if it wishes, act."
In a statement issued by the Élysée Palace on 3 July 2015 in response to this letter, the French President said: "France cannot act on his request. The situation of Mr Assange does not present an immediate danger."
On 4 July 2015, in response to the denial of asylum by France, a spokesman for Assange denied that Assange had actually "filed" a request for asylum in France. Speaking on behalf of Assange, Baltasar Garzón, head of his legal team, said that Assange had sent the open letter to French president François Hollande; but Assange had only expressed his willingness "to be hosted in France if and only if an initiative was taken by the competent authorities".
On 16 August 2016, Assange's lawyer in the UK, John Jones, was found dead, according to the first reports after being hit by a train in an apparent suicide. An inquest into his death found that the lawyer was accepted since March to a private psychiatric hospital with several issues of mental health, including bipolar disorder, and closed-circuit television cameras showed no-one was near him when he jumped before the train. Coupled with the death of WikiLeaks lawyer Michael Ratner from cancer in May, the death of both lawyers in such a short time span sparked conspiracy theories, and a tweet by WikiLeaks on 21 August said that an inquest ruled it was not suicide. Some Twitter users took this to imply assassination, but the linked article explained that the inquest found culpability on the part of the hospital for letting Jones outside since suicide requires mental competence.
The next day, on 22 August, a man scaled the embassy's walls, but was caught by the embassy's security.
In September 2016, Assange said he would agree to US prison in exchange for President Obama granting Chelsea Manning clemency. Obama commuted Manning's sentence on 17 January 2017. The next day, at his final presidential news conference, Obama stated, "I don't pay a lot of attention to Mr. Assange's tweets, so that wasn't a consideration in this instance." The same day, Assange's US-based attorney Barry Pollack asserted (without saying when or where) that Assange "had called for Chelsea Manning to receive clemency and be released immediately". Accordingly, Pollack maintained, the commutation—which specified Manning would be freed four months thence—did not meet Assange's conditions. On 17 May 2017, Manning was released from prison. Two days later, Assange emerged on the embassy's balcony and told a crowd that, despite no longer facing a Swedish sex investigation, he would remain inside the embassy in order to avoid extradition to the United States.
On 17 October 2016, WikiLeaks announced that a "state party" had severed Assange's Internet connection at the Ecuadorian embassy. The Ecuadorian government stated that it had "temporarily" severed Assange's Internet connection because of WikiLeaks' release of documents "impacting on the U.S. election campaign". In an interview published on 29 December, Assange said, "The Internet has been returned".
In the run-up to 2017 Ecuador's general elections, conservative candidate Guillermo Lasso promised that he would "cordially ask Señor Assange to leave" within 30 days of assuming office, should he be elected. The pro-business candidate said the country's London embassy "isn't a hotel" and that Ecuador is in no position to finance the Australian's stay there. After preliminary results in the second round of Ecuador's presidential election showed that Lasso is poised to lose – the WikiLeaks founder responded using the same language. "I cordially invite Lasso to leave Ecuador within 30 days (with or without his tax haven millions)", Assange tweeted, referring to the revelations made shortly before the vote.
On 6 June 2017, Assange tweeted his support for NSA leaker Reality Winner, offering a $10,000 reward for information about a reporter for The Intercept who had allegedly helped the US government to identify Winner as the leaker. Assange posted on Twitter: "Reality Leight [sic] Winner is no Clapper or Petraeus with 'elite immunity'. She's a young woman against the wall for talking to the press."
On 28 March 2018, Ecuador cut Assange's Internet connection at its London embassy "in order to prevent any potential harm". Officials said that Assange's recent social media posts denouncing the arrest of a Catalonian separatist leader "put at risk" Ecuador's relations with European nations. Assange is now silent on social media.
In May 2018, a team of Guardian journalists, including Luke Harding, reported that over a five-year span, Ecuador spent at least $5 million (£3.7m) through a secret intelligence budget to protect Assange at its London embassy, "employing an international security company and undercover agents to monitor his visitors, embassy staff and even the British police". Visitors included "individuals linked to the Kremlin". Ecuadorian officials had reportedly also devised plans to help Assange escape should British authorities use force to enter the embassy and seize him. The Guardian also reported that documents and "a source who wished to remain anonymous" had indicated that by 2014, Assange had "compromised" the embassy's communications system and arranged his own satellite Internet hookup. "By penetrating the embassy's firewall", Assange was allegedly able to "access and intercept the official and personal communications of staff". According to The Guardian, this claim was denied by WikiLeaks as an "anonymous libel aligned with the current UK–US government onslaught against Mr Assange".
On 21 July 2018, Glenn Greenwald reported that the Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry was finalising an agreement to release Assange into the custody of the British government. In a press conference the following week, President Lenín Moreno confirmed that he wanted Assange out of the embassy but also "for his life not to be in danger". This prompted wide speculation that Moreno aimed to strengthen Ecuador's relations with the United States and assist their extradition efforts.
In September 2018, Reuters reported that Ecuador had, in December 2017, granted Assange a "special designation" diplomatic post in Russia – and the cover to leave the embassy and England – but the British Foreign Office did not recognise diplomatic immunity for Assange, and the effort was dropped.
On 16 October 2018, congressmen from the United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs wrote an open letter to Lenin Moreno which described Assange as a dangerous criminal and stated that progress between the US and Ecuador in the areas of economic cooperation, counternarcotics assistance and the return of a USAID mission to Ecuador depended on Assange being “handed over to the proper authorities”.
On 19 October 2018, BBC News reported that Assange was starting legal action against the government of Ecuador, accusing it of violating his "fundamental rights and freedoms". Later that month, an Ecuadorian judge ruled against him, saying that a requirement for Assange to pay for his Internet use and clean up after his cat did not violate his right to asylum.
Pamela Anderson, a close friend and regular visitor of Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy, gave an interview with 60 Minutes Australia in November 2018 in which she asked the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to “defend your friend, and get Julian his passport back, and take him back to Australia and be proud of him”. Morrison rejected the request but his response was described as “smutty” and “lewd” by Anderson who wrote in an open letter to Morrison that “[y]ou trivialised and laughed about the suffering of an Australian and his family. You followed it with smutty, unnecessary comments about a woman voicing her political opinion”. She further advised Morrison that “[r]ather than making lewd suggestions about me, perhaps you should instead think about what you are going to say to millions of Australians when one of their own is marched in an orange jumpsuit to Guantanamo Bay – for publishing the truth. You can prevent this”.
On 15 November 2018, news broke that Assange has been charged in a sealed indictment, the secret accidentally revealed in a document unrelated to Assange. One former U.S. attorney speculated that the text from one case landed in another unrelated document due to a simple cut-and-paste mistake. Edward Snowden condemned the indictment stating that a judgement against Assange would be "narrowing the basic rights every newspaper relies on."
In December of 2018, President Moreno reached an agreement to have Assange leave the embassy in what he called "near liberty". According to a radio interview by Moreno, British sources told him that Assange would be free to live in the United Kingdom without extradition after serving a prison sentence of at most six months. The formal offer was less explicit, simply stating that he would not be extradited to a country with the death penalty. Assange's lawyers declined citing a need for further protection.
In February 2019, the parliament of Geneva passed a motion demanding that the Swiss government extend asylum to Assange. The move was proposed by the Swiss People's Party and supported by the Social Democratic Party of Switzerland.
On 12 July 2018, The Inter-American Court of Human Rights published its opinion on Assange's asylum in a press statement that had been requested by Rafael Correa's government. According to Doughty Street, the ruling was made shortly after US Vice President Mike Pence raised the issue of Assange while on a visit to Ecuador. The ruling upheld the principle of non-refoulement, which prohibits signatories of the American Convention on Human Rights from deporting foreign individuals when such a deportation would likely lead to their persecution "on account of race, nationality, religion, social status or political opinions". It concluded that the principle applies equally to diplomatic and territorial asylum.
The decision, according to multiple reporting outlets, in respect to Assange's status, outlines the necessity for "third countries" to allow for "safe passage" out of an embassy. Commentators have noted the near absence of this ruling from the American media. There have been inaccurate reports claiming the opinion does not mention Assange specifically, however there have also been accurate reports that recognise Assange's case is in fact mentioned by name. Among these is an article published by the VIPS Steering Group which concludes "It is imperative[...] that Assange is allowed to make the safe passage to Ecuador demanded by the Court". Jennifer Robinson, along with Spanish jurist Baltasar Garzon and other members of Assange’s defence team, had already submitted an amicus brief to ensure that "the relevant principles would be considered by the Court."
On 5 February 2016, the UN's Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded that Assange had been subject to arbitrary detention by the UK and Swedish Governments since 7 December 2010, including his time in prison, on conditional bail and in the Ecuadorian embassy. According to the group, Assange should be allowed to walk free and be given compensation.
The UK and Swedish governments rejected the claim. UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Philip Hammond, said the claim was "ridiculous" and that the group was "made up of lay people", and called Assange a "fugitive from justice" who "can come out any time he chooses". UK and Swedish prosecutors called the group's claims irrelevant. The UK said it would arrest Assange should he leave the Ecuadorian embassy. Mark Ellis, executive director of the International Bar Association, stated that the finding is "not binding on British law". Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, has said that the finding is based on binding international law.
On 21 December 2018, the Working Group again urged the UK to let Assange leave the Ecuador embassy in London freely. It said that the "Swedish investigations have been closed for over 18 months now, and the only ground remaining for Mr. Assange’s continued deprivation of liberty is a bail violation in the UK, which is, objectively, a minor offense that cannot post facto justify the more than 6 years confinement that he has been subjected to".
Assange wrote on WikiLeaks in February 2016: "I have had years of experience in dealing with Hillary Clinton and have read thousands of her cables. Hillary lacks judgment and will push the United States into endless, stupid wars which spread terrorism. ... she certainly should not become president of the United States." On 25 July, following the Republican National Convention (RNC), during an interview by Amy Goodman, Assange said that choosing between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is like choosing between cholera or gonorrhea. "Personally, I would prefer neither." WikiLeaks or, Sarah Harrison, has stated that the site is not choosing which damaging publications to release, rather releasing information that is available to them. In an Election Day statement, Assange criticized both Clinton and Trump, saying that "The Democratic and Republican candidates have both expressed hostility towards whistleblowers."
It was revealed in October 2017 that during the United States presidential election, 2016, Cambridge Analytica funder and substantial GOP donor Rebekah Mercer had proposed creating a searchable database for Hillary Clinton emails in the public domain and then forwarded this suggestion to several people, including Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix, who personally emailed a request to Assange for Clinton's emails. Assange responded to the report by saying he denied Nix's request.
In July 2016, Assange implied that Seth Rich, a DNC staffer who was murdered earlier that year, was the source behind the DNC emails that WikiLeaks published and that Seth Rich was killed for doing so. WikiLeaks offered a $20,000 reward for information about Rich’s murder. Assange spoke about sources bringing information to WikiLeaks in the context of Seth Rich, and stated that whistleblowers are at risk. When an interviewer said that Rich died as a result of "just a robbery", Assange said "No. There's no finding."
According to a study by Yochai Benkler, Robert Faris, and Hal Roberts of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, Assange's claims set off a spike in attention to the Seth Rich murder. According to the scholars, Assange’s claims lent credibility and visibility to what had at that point been a conspiracy theory in the fringe parts of the Internet. The July 2018 indictment of 12 Russian officers by Special Counsel Robert Mueller which laid out how the DNC emails were hacked by Russian intelligence and disseminated to WikiLeaks put, in the words of the Associated Press, to rest the "conspiracy theory, carefully nurtured by Assange and his supporters, that slain DNC staffer Seth Rich was at the origin of the leaks."
On 4 July 2016, during the Democratic Party presidential primaries, WikiLeaks hosted information and content of emails sent or received by candidate Hillary Clinton from her private email server when she was Secretary of State, as originally released by the State Department in February 2016, based on a FOIA request.
On 22 July 2016, WikiLeaks released emails and documents from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) seemingly presenting ways to undercut Bernie Sanders and showing apparent favouritism towards Clinton, leading to the resignation of party chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. The New York Times reported that "Assange accused Mrs. Clinton of having been among those pushing to indict him..." and that he had timed the release to coincide with the 2016 Democratic National Convention. In an interview with Robert Peston of ITV News Assange suggested that he saw Hillary Clinton as a personal foe.
On 26 August 2016, Assange spoke to Fox News and said that Clinton was causing "hysteria about Russia" after the Democratic Party, along with a number of cybersecurity experts and cybersecurity firms, claimed that Russian intelligence had hacked the e-mails and leaked them to WikiLeaks. This statement was repeated in the Russian media outlet RT.
On 4 October 2016, in a WikiLeaks anniversary meeting in Berlin with Assange teleconferencing from his refuge in the Ecuador embassy in London, reporters spoke of a supposed promise to reveal further information against Hillary Clinton which would bring her candidacy down, calling this information "The October Surprise". On 7 October, Assange posted a press release on WikiLeaks exposing over 2,000 emails from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. The emails, ranging from 2007–2016, revealed excerpts of Clinton's paid Goldman Sachs speech in 2013. In the emails, she explained her relationship to Wall Street and how she had previously represented the community: "even though I represented [people in finance] and did all I could to make sure they continued to prosper, I called for closing the carried interest loophole and addressing skyrocketing CEO pay. So when I raised early warnings about subprime mortgages and called for regulating derivatives and over complex financial products, I didn't get some big arguments, because people sort of said, no, that makes sense."
According to Harvard political scientist Matthew Baum and College of the Canyons political scientist Phil Gussin, WikiLeaks strategically released e-mails related to the Clinton campaign whenever Clinton's lead expanded in the polls. On the eve of the general presidential election, Assange wrote a press release addressing the criticism around publishing Clinton material on WikiLeaks."We publish material given to us if it is of political, diplomatic, historical or ethical importance and which has not been published elsewhere. When we have material that fulfills this criteria, we publish." He explains that the website received pertinent information related to the DNC leaks and Clinton political campaign, but never received any information on Trump, Jill Stein, or Gary Johnson's campaign, and therefore could not publish what they did not have. Assange has consistently denied any connection to or cooperation with Russia in relation to the leaks damaging to Clinton and the Democratic Party.
Several parties have pointed out a strong pro-Russian bias in Assange's public comments and stated that the materials released by WikiLeaks "never seems able to leak anything damaging to the interests of the Russian". Assange's claim that the Guccifer 2.0 emails were not provided to WikiLeaks by the GRU has led to further accusations that he is working in line with Russian propaganda.
Assange was named as a defendant in the 20 April 2018 lawsuit filed by the Democratic National Committee with regard to the hacking of its emails in 2016. The DNC's filing called this a "brazen attack on American democracy", referring to the alleged activities of WikiLeaks and Russian agents together. The WikiLeaks or in chief Kristinn Hrafnsson stated that "The DNC lawsuit is a litmus test for press freedoms. The suit claims that the scandalous emails of powerful political operatives are 'trade secrets' and cannot be published. If this precedent is set it will be the end of serious journalism as we know it."
Critics of the lawsuit have pointed to potential damage that it could do to freedom of the press. The Committee to Protect Journalists questioned the legal basis for targeting Assange and compared the suit to attempts to suppress the Pentagon Papers.
On 27 November 2018, The Guardian claimed that Donald Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort visited Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy in 2013, 2015 and 2016. It said the last visit in March 2016 could be related to WikiLeaks' publication later in 2016 of DNC documents. It also claimed that in June 2016 WikiLeaks emailed the GRU via an intermediary seeking the DNC material and that the GRU sent the documents to WikiLeaks in mid-July 2016 as an encrypted attachment. Other news agencies were unable to immediately corroborate the story. Manafort described the story as "totally false and deliberately libelous" and said that he has never met Assange or anyone connected to him. Fernando Villavicencio was listed as a co-author in the print ion but not the web ion of the story. WikiLeaks described him as a serial fabricator whom The Guardian had permitted to totally destroy the paper's reputation. Glenn Greenwald said that if Manafort had entered the Ecuadorian consulate there would be "mountains of evidence" from the surrounding cameras.
Assange is an advocate of information transparency and market libertarianism. He has written a few short pieces, including "State and terrorist conspiracies" (2006), "Conspiracy as governance" (2006), "The hidden curse of Thomas Paine" (2008), "What's new about WikiLeaks?" (2011), and the foreword to Cypherpunks (2012). He also contributed research to Suelette Dreyfus's Underground (1997), and received a co-writer cr for the Calle 13 song "Multi_Viral" (2013).
Assange's book, When Google Met WikiLeaks, was published by OR Books on 18 September 2014. The book recounts when Google CEO Eric Schmidt requested a meeting with Assange, while he was on bail in rural Norfolk, UK. Schmidt was accompanied by Jared Cohen, director of Google Ideas; Lisa Shields, vice-president of the Council on Foreign Relations; and Scott Malcomson, the communications director for the International Crisis Group. Excerpts were published on the Newsweek website, while Assange participated in a Q&A event that was facilitated by the Reddit website and agreed to an interview with Vogue magazine.
Some of Assange's writings have been criticised for alleging conspiracies involving other journalists. In her 2017 documentary on Assange, Laura Poitras included a scene of him calling the Swedish sexual assault allegations a "radical feminist conspiracy"—a comment which she says led them to part ways. In 2011, Assange criticised a Private Eye article for portraying WikiLeaks contributor Israel Shamir as anti-Semitic. According to or Ian Hislop, Assange called the article "an obvious attempt to deprive [WikiLeaks] of Jewish support and donations" and went on to point out that several journalists involved were Jewish. On 1 March 2011, Assange released a statement in which he said, "Hislop has distorted, invented or misremembered almost every significant claim and phrase. In particular, 'Jewish conspiracy' is completely false, in spirit and in word. It is serious and upsetting. We treasure our strong Jewish support and staff, just as we treasure the support from pan-Arab democracy activists and others who share our hope for a just world."
By the time he was addressing audiences worldwide, his 'father'—which Assange informed me is an amalgam of Brett Assange and John Shipton, created to protect their identities
Mr. Hughes, the terrorism expert, who is the deputy director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, posted a screenshot of the court filing on Twitter shortly after The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that the Justice Department was preparing to prosecute Mr. Assange.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
But the Journal’s report made clear that Hughes had stumbled upon something quite remarkable: a major government secret that was hidden in plain sight.
Seamus Hughes, deputy director for George Washington University’s Program on Extremism and former senior counterterrorism advisor for the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, came across the name “Assange” in an unsealed federal court motion seemingly unrelated to Assange and tweeted a copy of the filing.
The three-page filing itself dates back to August, originating from the court of the Eastern District of Virginia. It was unsealed the following month, but hadn’t received much attention until now, when George Washington University faculty member Seamus Hughes stumbled upon an odd passage in the filing.
Hours before the inadvertent disclosure was discovered by Seamus Hughes on Twitter, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Justice Department is preparing to prosecute Assange, and is “optimistic” that it will be able to successfully extradite him to face trial in the US.