How Julian Assange's arrest could end as a test for press freedom
From CNN's Brian Stelter and Hadas Gold
This debate has spanned the decade: Is Julian Assange a villainous hack working in concert with countries that regularly squash a free press? Or is he a symbol of freedom of speech and the public’s right to know?
The debate is back on now that Assange has been arrested in the UK and charged in the US – not under the Espionage Act for publishing classified material, as many press freedom advocates had feared, but under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
On Thursday morning, shortly after Assange was taken into custody, prosecutors alleged that Assange “engaged in a conspiracy with Chelsea Manning, a former intelligence analyst in the US Army, to assist Manning in cracking a password” on classified DOD computer systems. Notably, according to this timeline, Manning had already started to download information off the servers. Assange allegedly coaxed Manning to keep going.
One of Assange’s lawyers, Barry Pollack, says the charges just “boil down to encouraging a source to provide him information and taking efforts to protect the identify of that source. Journalists around the world should be deeply troubled by these unprecedented criminal charges.”
Others beg to differ. They say Assange is a tool of Russian intelligence, among other things.
Click here for an in-depth look at the still-developing story from all sides:
Ecuador spent over $6 million in expenses to house Assange at its London embassy
From CNN’s Radina Gigova and Flora Charner
Ecuador spent over $6 million in expenses to house WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, Foreign Minister José Valencia told Ecuador’s National Assembly on Thursday.
Ecuador spent more than $5,800,000 in security expenses from June 2012 to September 2018 and roughly $400,000 in medical, food, laundry and legal expenses for Assange, Valencia said.
Valencia said the embassy reduced the security expenses in 2018 from $1,000,000 a year to $600,000 a year.
Assange rode scooters indoors, played soccer and used loud speakers at night, Ecuador foreign minister says
From CNN’s Radina Gigova
Ecuador’s Foreign Minister José Valencia revealed more details about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s behavior while he lived at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.
Valencia told lawmakers that Assange’s physical and mental health were “seriously declining” after living inside the Embassy for nearly seven years and that the prospect of keeping him at the embassy indefinitely would have increased the risk of his health deteriorating further.
Valencia said Assange’s behavior was “aggressive” and he had “improper hygiene practices.”
Speaking to the country’s National Assembly today, Valencia said Assange had been riding scooters, playing soccer indoors and insulting embassy staff. He also said Assange was using loud speakers at 1:30 a.m.
Assange also tried to block security cameras inside the embassy and accused staff of spying on him on behalf of the US. He installed his own cameras and unauthorized equipment at the embassy.
He was given a Wi-Fi password to use the internet, but he declined it. He was using a cell phone that was not registered with the embassy.
Assange claimed he was kept in isolation, but he was receiving guests regularly – friends, relatives, reporters and WikiLeaks staff, Valencia said. Assange also made false claims in his naturalization application documents, according to Valencia.
Trump: "I know nothing about WikiLeaks"
From CNN's Allie Malloy
President Trump, when asked if he still “loves” WikiLeaks, told reporters in the Oval Office that he knows “nothing about Wikileaks.”
Trump added that the determination will be made by Attorney General Barr.
“I know nothing really about him,” Trump said of Assange adding, “that’s not my deal in life.”
“I don’t really have an opinion,” Trump asked when reporters continued to ask questions on Assange.
What Trump has said about WikiLeaks before:
President Trump has a history of supporting WikiLeaks before he was President, saying at one rally in 2016: “WikiLeaks, I love WikiLeaks.”
What US senators are saying about Assange's arrest
From CNN's Manu Raju and Veronica Stracqualursi
Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham spoke this morning about President Trump repeatedly praising WikiLeaks, saying: “He’s not an American citizen so he can’t be a traitor but I have absolutely no use for Julian Assange … Whatever comes his way he deserves.”
Asked again if the President should have praised WikiLeaks, “That’s up to the President.”
Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin on Thursday celebrated the arrest of the Wikileaks founder, arguing it’s “great for the American people.”
Manchin, along with nine of his Democratic colleagues, had signed a letter to Vice President Mike Pence last June, expressing concern about Ecuador providing asylum to Assange since 2012.
“I think it’s very good for us to finally get him on US soil so we can investigate. We can basically cross-examine; we can find out the facts that only he knows and his connections and how he basically distributed his information,” Manchin said.
Sen. Roy Blunt, a member of Republican leadership who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said this when asked about Trump’s repeated praise of WikiLeaks when he was a candidate.
Ecuador's ex-President says the country's abandonment of Assange is "the biggest betrayal in Latin American history"
Ecuador’s former president Rafael Correa said the revocation of Julian Assange’s asylum is “incredible,” in an interview with CNN’s Richard Quest today.
“It’s incredible. We cannot imagine something like this. It’s against international law; it’s against the institution of asylum; it’s against the Ecuadorian constitution, especially because since last year, Julian Assange has had Ecuadorian citizenship,” Correa said.
Correa was in power when Assange requested asylum. He told CNN he agreed to shelter the Australian WikiLeaks founder “not because we agree with what he did” but because “it was very clear that he didn’t have the opportunity to have a fair lawsuit, a fair process in the US.”
Correa added that Moreno has never seen eye to eye with Assange since assuming the presidency in 2017.
In addition to allowing UK police to enter the Ecuadorian embassy to arrest Assange, Ecuador also announced his citizenship had been suspended effective from Wednesday, according to foreign minister Jose Valencia at a press conference.
How long did Assange spend in Ecuador's embassy?
File photograph of Assange peering through the balcony window of the Ecuadorian embassy in central London on February 5, 2016.
In case you’re wondering WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange stayed in his self-imposed exile at Ecuador’s London embassy for six years, nine months and 24 days.
Or 2,488 days from start to end.
He entered his diplomatic bolthole on June 19, 2012.
(Perfectly useless knowledge unless it crops up at a trivia night.)
Assange reacts to possible US extradition: "I told you so"
Speaking to journalists in a scrum outside Westminster Magistrates Court on Thursday afternoon, Jennifer Robinson, a member of Julian Assange’s legal team, said they had been proven right in regards to their previous warnings that Assange would face extradition to United States for his “publishing activities” since 2010.
Robinson added her client was formally notified his asylum would be revoked by the Ecuadorian Ambassador this morning.
More charges expected against Assange in US hacking case
From CNN's Evan Perez
US Justice Department officials expect to bring additional charges Assange, according to a US official briefed on the matter. It is unclear when officials would bring such charges.
The years-long FBI investigation into Assange transformed in recent years with the recovery of communications that prosecutors believe shows Assange had been been a more active participant in a conspiracy to hack computers and violate US law, officials say.
The Justice Department had struggled for years with the question of whether Assange and WikiLeaks should be treated as journalists and publishers. News organizations similarly published stolen classified documents, some even worked with WikiLeaks to get access to documents and publish stories.
The view among prosecutors began changing late in the Obama administration, in part due to new evidence the FBI believed showed Assange was not entitled to journalistic protections.
In 2017, the WikiLeaks publication of stolen CIA hacking codes helped propel the case against Assange, according to current and former US law enforcement officials.
Assange is facing a year in jail for skipping out on bail
From CNN's Muhammad Darwish at Westminster Magistrates Court, London
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is now facing up to 12 months behind bars after being found guilty of breaking his bail conditions when he entered the Ecuadorian embassy in 2012.
A date has yet to be set for his sentencing at London’s Southwark Crown Court.
Assange has been remanded in custody until his May 2 extradition hearing at Westminster Magistrates Court.
UK Home Secretary: Both Ecuador and the UK were increasingly concerned over Assange's health
Britain's Home Secretary Sajid Javid on April 4.
Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images
The UK’s Home Secretary Sajid Javid addressed the House of Commons on Thursday afternoon for the first time since Julian Assange was removed from the Ecuadorian embassy and arrested.
Javid told members of parliament that both the UK and Ecuadorian government had “become increasingly concerned about the state of Mr. Assange’s health.”
The first action of London’s Metropolitan Police was to have him medically assessed and deemed fit to detain, he said, adding that Assange had received access to doctors while holed up within his diplomatic shelter.
Javid then outlined how court proceedings would play out: Under UK law, following the provisional arrest, the full extradition papers must be received by the judge within 65 days. The extradition request must be certified by Home Office before going to court, Javid said.
“I am glad the situation in the Ecuadorian embassy has been brought to an end,” Javid said in closing. “It is right that we implement the judicial process fairly and consistently with due respect for equality before the law.”
How this media outlet landed the Assange arrest scoop
From CNN's Hadas Gold
Apart from the odd special appearance from the Ecuadorian embassy’s balcony, Julian Assange hadn’t been seen outside in seven years. It was a moment that global news organizations were desperate to show their audiences. In the end, the only media outlet with video of the moment was an outfit called Ruptly.
Founded in 2013, Ruptly – which has carved out a niche for itself by recording events around the world and selling the footage to other broadcasters – is a subsidiary of Russian state-backed media outlet RT.
Laura Lucchini, Ruptly’s deputy head of news, said its staff had been recording events outside the embassy 24/7 since at least April 5.
“For the last week, we closely monitored developments on this story while our team of producers worked in shifts, filming the embassy 24/7. On many of these days and nights, there were no developments. We saw camera crews come and go. But we stayed. We believe that these images hold great news value.”
According to the Guardian, after it started to seem in recent weeks that an arrest might be imminent, big UK broadcasters had formed a “pool” arrangement to take turns staking out the building. If something happened, the footage would be shared among the pool members.
That effort appeared to have been abandoned when the arrest failed to materialize. The BBC, ITN and Sky News did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Ecuador says Assange put feces on embassy walls
From CNN's Ana Melgar and Radina Gigova in Atlanta
Ecuador’s Interior Minister María Paula Romo says Julian Assange’s asylum was revoked because there was sufficient evidence that he was meddling in Ecuador’s internal affairs in an effort to destabilize the government.
Romo also reiterated President Lenin Moreno’s remarks that Assange was consistently violating embassy residency rules, and specifically called out how he would put feces on the walls.
“For several years now, one of the key members of the WikiLeaks organization and a person close to Assange has lived in Ecuador,” Romo said at a press conference Thursday.
This member “works closely and has traveled with Ricardo Patiño to Peru, Spain and Russia.”
Patiño was chancellor during the government of former president of Correa, who was in power when Assange was granted asylum.
CNN has reached out to Chancellor Patiño. Previously Patiño defended the innocence of Assange saying his fight was a “fight for freedom of expression.”
Two Russian hackers are also suspected of meddling in the attempt to destabilize the government and their information will be delivered to the Office of the Attorney General of Ecuador, Romi said.
“We are not going to allow Ecuador to become a hacking center and we cannot allow illegal activities to take place in the country in order to harm citizens or other governments,” Rome said. The authorities did not clarify whether these people have been detained or only identified.
The interior minister said that “in the next few hours” the government of Ecuador will provide additional evidence that justifies the decision to end Assange’s asylum.
During former President Correa’s government and while Patiño was chancellor, “they tolerated things like Assange putting feces on the embassy walls and other behaviors far from the minimum respect that a guest can have,” said Romo.
Here's the timeline of Assange's arrest today
From CNN's Muhammad Darwish at Westminster Magistrates Court, London
Julian Assange gives a thumbs up to onlookers from inside a police van in London on Thursday.
More details around Julian Assange’s dramatic ejection from the Ecuadorian embassy are emerging.
A lawyer for the US government revealed arrest officers went to the embassy at 9.15 a.m. local time (4.15 a.m. ET), where ambassadors met them. The ambassador then revoked Assange’s asylum and met with him at 10 a.m. (5 a.m. ET). The lawyer said officers tried to introduce themselves, but Assange barged past them in an attempt to return to a private room.
He was eventually arrested at 10.15 a.m. (5.15 a.m. ET) but resisted and had to restrained, leading to the dramatic scenes of British police hauling him by force out of the building.
After being lifted into the waiting police van, he was taken directly to a police station where he was formally arrested.
How self-imposed exile changed Assange
Analysis from CNN's Atika Shubert
Watching the video of his arrest earlier, I was shocked to see how much Assange has aged. His tall frame bent over by the police dragging him out. He looked desperate and cornered. He was not the confident, daring – and often calculating – transparency activist I once knew.
The last time I saw Assange was just after he claimed asylum in the embassy, nearly seven years ago. He was in good health then and fairly optimistic that he could still run WikiLeaks from the embassy.
He told me it was like living on a space ship. His friends worried about his health and bought him an exercise machine. Celebrity guests would sometimes visit and that would make a big splash in the news. But it was a lonely existence, and friends brought him a kitten to keep him company.
And then there was the 24-hour police surveillance outside the embassy. I cannot fathom the toll it must have had on his physical and mental health.
Assange had always maintained that he was not afraid of facing allegations of sexual assault in Sweden, which is what the original arrest warrant was for. He was more concerned that it was a ploy – he called it once a “honey trap” – to get him extradited to the US on charges of espionage.
Remember that – before the DNC leaks, before allegations of Russia collusion, before Trump’s declarations of “I love WikiLeaks!” – Assange and WikiLeaks published hundreds of thousands of classified documents leaked to him by former Army private and whistleblower, Chelsea Manning.
That was unprecedented. It made WikiLeaks what it is today. And Assange was convinced that the US government was coming after him, that a grand jury had issued a sealed indictment charging him with criminal acts.
Today, it seems, Assange was right.
An Interpol "red notice" for Assange was issued at least 8 years ago, diplomatic source says
From CNN's Nina dos Santos in London
An Interpol “red notice” issued by the US Department of Homeland Security in the name of Julian Assange has been in circulation since at least March 2011, according to a diplomatic source with first-hand knowledge of the document.
The source said the red notice did not mention any charges in particular at the time.
What is a red notice? It is a request to law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender, or similar legal action, according to Interpol. It is not an arrest warrant.
Judge finds Assange guilty of breaking bail conditions, orders him to appear in court on May 2
From CNN's Muhammad Darwish at Westminster Magistrates Court, London
Back inside the courtroom, one of Assange’s lawyers argued that he did not surrender for bail back in 2012 because he would never have received a fair trial and was thus forced to seek asylum in the Ecuadorean embassy.
The judge appeared to dispute this and called the Australian WikiLeaks founder a “narcissist who cannot get beyond his own selfish interest.”
The judge found Assange guilty of breaking his bail conditions and ordered him to appear on May 2 for an extradition hearing. Until then, he said Assange would remain in custody.
The hearing has now ended.
Assange was clutching a Gore Vidal book as he was dragged from Ecuador's embassy
When 47-year-old WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange finally left the Ecuadorian embassy after seven years, the focus was largely on his appearance and what he was screaming as he was bundled into a police van.
But eagle-eyed observers noticed that as he was hauled away, he was clutching a book titled “Gore Vidal: History of the National Security State.” According to the Amazon listing, it’s a collection of interviews with the American literary legend, who chronicled major cultural shifts in the United States.
The book, according to Amazon, details “the historical events that led to the establishment of the massive military-industrial-security complex and the political culture that gave us the ‘Imperial Presidency.’”
When Assange sat down in a London court in the past hour or so, he still had the book with him, and made a show to the media of reading from it.
Assange in court, gives thumbs up to press
From CNN's Muhammad Darwish at Westminster Magistrates Court, London
Assange has appeared inside the courtroom at London’s Westminster Magistrates Court. Wearing a dark suit with his hair tied back and crisp white beard, he gave a thumbs up to the press.
He appeared calm and confident as the judge asked him where his lawyers were.
US confirms charges against Assange
The US Department of Justice has confirmed Julian Assange has been indicted on conspiracy with Chelsea Manning to commit computer intrusion in 2010.
“The indictment alleges that in March 2010, Assange engaged in a conspiracy with Chelsea Manning, a former intelligence analyst in the US Army, to assist Manning in cracking a password” on classified DoD [US Department of Defense] computer systems, according to a Justice Department press release.
The indictment – unsealed Thursday – was signed last year on March 6.
Earlier Manning’s lawyer expressed hope that Assange’s arrest on Thursday in London could open the door to Manning’s release from incarceration.
Moira Meltzer-Cohen, an attorney for Chelsea Manning, said: “Were he to be extradited [to the US] we hope it would signal her release but that is not, unfortunately, a foregone conclusion.”
Manning served about seven years in prison for her disclosure of US military and diplomatic secrets to WikiLeaks in 2010, before being released in May 2017.
But Manning was jailed again in early March of this year, when a judge held her in contempt for refusing to testify before a grand jury about those disclosures.
Her testimony appeared to be part of an effort by federal prosecutors investigating Assange.
This post has been updated to correct the date the indictment was signed.
Theresa May on Assange: "No one is above the law"
May addresses the House on Thursday.
House of Commons/parliament.tv
While we wait for proceedings to get underway at Westminster Magistrates Court, over at the UK House of Commons, British Prime Minister Theresa May has opened her appearance by welcoming the arrest of Julian Assange.
She said that he was “arrested for breach of bail after nearly seven years in the Ecuadorian embassy. He has also been arrested in relation to an extradition request from the US.”
“I would like to thank the Metropolitan Police for carrying out their duties with great professionalism and to welcome the cooperation of the Ecuadorian government in bringing this matter to a resolution. Mr Speaker this goes to show in the UK, no one is above the law,” the Prime Minister said.
HAPPENING NOW: Julian Assange arrives at the Westminster Magistrates Court
From CNN's Muhammad Darwish at Westminster Magistrates Court, London
Julian Assange has arrived at Westminster Magistrates Court, a CNN producer at the court has confirmed. He is now inside the building but the courtroom is yet to open.
His lawyers will be Liam Walker (for the breach of bail charges) and Ben Cooper (for the US extradition request), the law firm Doughty Street Chambers tweeted. Jennifer Robinson will also appear with him, they said.
Julian Assange gestures to the media from a police vehicle on his arrival at Westminster Magistrates court on Thursday in London, England.
Assange "was holding Ecuador hostage," UK foreign secretary says
From CNN’s Lindsay Isaac in London
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Thursday that Julian Assange is “not above the law” and that he is “no hero.”
“What we’ve shown today is that no one is above the law. Julian Assange is no hero. He has hidden from the truth for years and years and it is right that his future should be decided in the British judicial system,” Hunt said.
He praised Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno’s “very courageous decision … to resolve this situation that has been going on for nearly seven years.”
And he challenged Assange’s long-standing claim that he was being held in the embassy against his will, saying: “I mean it’s not so much Julian Assange being held hostage in the Ecuadorian Embassy, it’s actually Julian Assange holding the Ecuadorian Embassy hostage in a situation that was absolutely intolerable for them.”
Sweden could re-open sex assault probe into Assange
Sweden’s Prosecution Authority may re-open its sexual assault probe into Julian Assange, prosecutor Ingrid Isgren said in a statement Thursday.
The statute of limitations for the alleged crimes does not expire until August 2020, she said.
Isgren said Swedish officials “are following the developments.”
Julian Assange has always feared extradition to the United States in connection to his work with WikiLeaks. That concern has been a key reason he remained holed up in the relative safety of Ecuador’s central London embassy.
The nearly-decade long battle between the US Justice Department and Assange and WikiLeaks dates back to at least 2010, when the site posted thousands of files stolen by the former US Army intelligence analyst now known as Chelsea Manning.
Then in 2013, US investigators also 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.
More recently, WikiLeaks had been a focus of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of any links between President Donald Trump’s associates and Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. WikiLeaks posted thousands of emails stolen from Democrats by Russian agents during the election.
On Thursday, one of Assange’s lawyers confirmed the WikiLeaks founder had been arrested on behalf of the US.
BREAKING: Assange arrested "on behalf of United States"
UK police confirmed Thursday that Assange has been arrested “on behalf of the United States authorities” who are seeking his extradition.
He was initially arrested this morning for skipping out on a UK arrest warrant issued in 2012; once he arrived at the police station this morning, he was then “further” arrested under an extradition request by the US.
Here’s the full police statement:
Julian Assange, 47, has today, Thursday 11 April, been further arrested on behalf of the United States authorities, at 10:53hrs after his arrival at a central London police station. This is an extradition warrant under Section 73 of the Extradition Act. He will appear in custody at Westminster Magistrates’ Court as soon as possible.
Lawyer for woman who accused Assange of assault tweets on his arrest
From Gianluca Mezzofiore in London
Elisabeth Massi Fritz, a lawyer for a Swedish woman who accused Julian Assange of sex crimes, tweeted Thursday that she and her client were shocked by his arrest, but said they had been hoping for it since 2012.
“My client and I have just recieved (sic) the news that Assange has been arrested in London. It did understandably come as a shock to my client that what we have been waiting and hoping for since 2012 has now finally happened.”
Assange first sought asylum in connection with Swedish prosecutors’ attempt to question him about allegations from two women against him.
How Assange ended up at the embassy in the first place
Assangee leaves the UK Supreme Court in February 2012. In May of that year, the court denied his appeal against extradition to Sweden.
It’s been seven years, so let’s remind ourselves how Assange got himself in this predicament.
Assange sought refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in central London on June 19, 2012, days after the UK’s Supreme Court upheld a decision to extradite him to Sweden for questioning over claims of sexual assault.
The Australian national claimed asylum at the embassy because he believed Sweden would have sent him onward to the US, where he could theoretically face the death penalty if convicted of publishing government secrets through WikiLeaks. Assange has never been charged by Swedish authorities and has repeatedly denied the assault allegations.
Assange had handed himself over to London authorities in 2010. That same year, he was released on bail and placed under house arrest. His legal battle against extradition ended with the May 2012 decision.
The actress Pamela Anderson, who visited Assange several times in the Ecuadorian embassy during his time there, said she was “in shock” over his arrest and ripped into the UK for their morning raid on the embassy.
“I am in shock.. I couldn’t hear clearly what he said? He looks very bad. How could you Equador (sic) ? (Because he exposed you). How could you UK. ?” Anderson tweeted Thursday, before accusing Britain of arresting Assange to distract from the country’s never-ending Brexit debacle.
Snowden: This is a dark moment for press freedom
From CNN's James Griffiths
Debate is emerging on social media over the press freedom implications of Assange’s forced removal from the Ecuadorian embassy on Thursday morning.
Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who leaked classified documents on US surveillance programs around the world in 2013, reacted to news of Assange’s arrested quickly on Thursday.
In a second, tweet Snowden also highlighted a UN panel’s judgment that Assange had been “arbitrarily detained.”
Source: Unclear if Assange will make it to court today
From CNN's Nick Paton Walsh
Assange will now be booked at a central London police station and might need a medical assessment owing to his appearance, a source with knowledge of police procedures told CNN.
The source said Assange would have to make it to court by 2 p.m. for the afternoon sitting, so it’ll be tight for him to appear today, but possible.
Ecuador president explains Assange decision
From CNN’s Max Ramsay in London
File photograph of Ecuador's President Lenin Moreno on March 22.
Claudio Reyes/AFP/Getty Images
Shortly after the arrest, Lenin Moreno, the President of Ecuador, released a video statement explaining his government’s decision to withdraw the Australian activist’s asylum.
“Today I announce that the discourteous and aggressive behavior of Mr. Julian Assange; the hostile and threatening declarations of his allied organization against Ecuador, and especially the transgression of international treaties, have led the situation to a point where the asylum of Mr. Assange is unsustainable and no longer viable.”
He said Assange had provoked the decision and that Ecuador’s patience had “reached its limit,” adding that Assange had repeatedly broken the embassy’s house rules by installing electronic and distortion equipment and blocking security cameras.
Moreno also confirmed that he had sought legal guidance that Ecuador’s position was lawful and “in line with our strong commitment to human rights.”
Russia weighs in on Assange's arrest
From CNN's Nathan Hodge and Mary Ilyushina in Moscow
In a conference call, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was asked if Russia would give him asylum. Here’s his response:
Watch: Moment Assange was hauled out of the embassy
Video footage captured the dramatic moment Julian Assange was hauled out of the Ecuadorian embassy after seven years inside.
Police officers could be seen carrying the 47-year-old Australian out of the embassy as he gesticulated and shouted, though it was difficult to make out what he said. Officers then made a beeline for the waiting police van.