If you follow @AnonScan you probably noticed last night that they posted a screenshot of an eleven-second video they had privately uploaded to Youtube entitled, “Important announcement.” It’s clear that when they posted it last evening they were aware that Julian Assange’s internet had been cut earlier in the day because as news swirled on Twitter this morning they released the video with the statement, “On 27th March approximately at 4:35 PM London Time Mr. Julian Assange once again found himself in a situation, with no access via the Internet.” In the video’s description box it also reads the above message along with,
“Mr. Assange is safe and still in full command despite reduced communications with staff and operations of WikiLeaks are not affected in any way.”
These are two incredibly important points. Like previous Black PR campaigns and general anti-Assange propaganda, Ecuador’s decision has the potential to stir up the usual conspiracy theories and mass hysteria which in the past have included: Assange is dead, Assange is missing, or Assange was kidnapped by the CIA. Or aliens. Or both. Buying into this nonsense is not only counterproductive to Julian’s wellbeing and impending freedom (because it’s going to happen, dammit), those in power who fear WikiLeaks’ publications are hoping whistleblowers and leakers will think twice before sending documents to WikiLeaks. So please, keep this in mind during the ensuing days and weeks.
The National Secretariat of Communications (SECOM) acknowledged that Ecuador had “suspended the systems” that allow Assange contact with the outside world in a statement they issued earlier today (translation by Google):
“The Government of Ecuador suspended the systems that allow Julian Assange to communicate with the outside world from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where the citizen has remained in international protection for six years due to the risk to his life and integrity.
The measure was adopted in the face of Assange’s failure to comply with the written commitment it assumed with the Government at the end of 2017, for which it was obliged not to issue messages that implied interference in relations to other States.
The Government of Ecuador warns that the behavior of Assange, with its messages through social networks, puts at risk the good relations that the country maintains with the United Kingdom, with the rest of the States of the European Union and other nations. Therefore, to prevent potential harm, the embassy in London interrupted this March 27 communications abroad to which Assange access [has] access.
The Executive also keeps open the way to adoption of new measures in the face of breach of commitment from Assange.”
As to which “systems” the Ecuadorian government is referring to, WikiLeaks released a statement that Assange is no longer allowed to “tweet, speak to the press, receive visitors or make telephone calls.” Folks, outside of his actual detention, this is insane. Even prisoners get to make phone calls and receive visitors! Julian Assange has literally been cut off entirely from his family, friends, and the outside world.
I guess the good news is that he can still get a little sunlight mixed with a dash of assassination on his balcony as Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot so nicely pointed out not so long ago. And yes, insert eye roll. The bottom line here is that Ecuador has obviously been pressured into accusing Assange of breaching an agreement he reached with them last year—an agreement which whole handedly throttled his freedom of speech. But, before you buy into this so-called “agreement,” WikiLeaks pointed out that the claim is “perhaps unsurprisingly, entirely false.”
Why Is This Happening?
The most obvious reason this is happening is due to pressure the United States and Spain are applying on Ecuador because of Assange’s tweets regarding Catalonia and more specifically Catalonia’s exiled president, Carles Puigdemont. In case you missed it, Puigdemont was arrested in Germany this week (after Germany surveilled him and then alerted the German intelligence agency, BKA) on a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) after traveling to Finland for business. Assange has been openly critical of the situation. He’s also been outspoken about Catalonia’s struggle for independence in general and Spain’s fascist crackdown on anyone not willing to toe the line. Recently, he also commented on the absurdities surrounding an EAW which was used against him in 2010. Whether or not that plays into Ecuador’s decision remains to be seen. Either way, my advice to Assange supporters is to retweet the shiz out of the events occurring in Spain, Catalonia, and now Germany where Puigdemont is currently being detained.
If you follow the link I provided above you can see that this tweet was never removed nor should it be because as Caitlin Johnson pointed out,
“Assange is a political prisoner explicitly because he speaks truth to power using the internet. Cutting off his internet access for doing the very thing for which he was granted asylum contradicts the reason he was granted that asylum in the first place.”
And as Glenn Greenwald put it,
“It’s bizarre for a country to grant someone political asylum, then condition it on being barred from communicating with the outside world. Makes a mockery of asylum…”
The most interesting thing about all of this is that this extreme reaction on Ecuador’s part apparently occurred over a single tweet. According to WikiLeaks, Ecuador sent an email on March 27, 2018, demanding that the above tweet be removed and that “the Ecuadorian foreign ministry referenced no other matter.” They later stated,
“A well known editor, publisher and journalist tweeting about a foreign political prisoner is not ‘interfering in a state’–such a conception risks setting a precedent that would outlaw millions of Twitter users, all journalists and most human rights workers.”
One more point to add to this is @AnonScan’s earlier tweet that stated they had reason to believe Ecuador’s President, Lenin Moreno, had been speaking with both “a certain Todd” at the U.S. embassy in Ecuador and the Prime Minister of Spain, Marian Rajoy Brey. I’m assuming they are referring to U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador Todd C. Chapman who previously served as the acting assistant secretary of the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs during the Obama administration but no quotes there.
Who’s Behind This?
First and foremost, there’s no taking Ecuador out of this equation despite the fact that they have been protecting Assange for over six years. They are active participants in this and they issued a statement stating as much. However, it cannot be emphasized enough that the U.S. and Spain are applying pressure on Ecuador because of Assange’s tweets regarding the situation in Catalonia and with Puigdemont. And let’s get real. The U.S. has probably been trying to strong arm Ecuador ever since they gave Assange asylum back in 2012.
The situation regarding Assange doesn’t appear to be in response to anything WikiLeaks has published meaning that this isn’t about some dirty little government secrets that were recently exposed. Rather, this is concerning pressure from both the United States and Spain on Ecuador which, in turn, is affecting Assange’s situation.
Additionally, in Ecuador’s statement they said that they would be willing to take further steps to, essentially, silence Julian. What exactly does this mean? You may recall that the last time this happened with Assange’s internet connection in October, 2016, it was reported that the disconnection occurred shortly after then Secretary of State John Kerry paid Ecuador a visit. There’s been no reporting that Mike Pompeo, the former head of the CIA who likes to spread such douchebaggery as “WikiLeaks is a hostile non-state intelligence agency” and is slated to become the next Secretary of State, had a role in this but it’s hard to imagine that he didn’t. Is this another desperate and sick attempt by the U.S. to bring Assange to Guantanam—er, I mean, the United States?
Lastly, it should be pointed out that this situation as stated by numerous accounts does not appear to have anything to do with Assange’s statements on the Skripal poisoning. Rather, again, this is about Spain, Cantalonia, and the arrest of Puigdemont. However, it has been suggested that Assange’s possible testimony before the UK’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sports Committee regarding the scandal surrounding Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica may have played a role in yesterday’s events although so far there has been nothing confirming this.
What Can You Do?
A live stream video of the embassy was posted earlier today which, I don’t know about you, relieved my anxiety and cut my day drinking in half. Kidding, but no seriously, if you want to check it out go here. In the video you’ll see WikiLeaks supporters like @greekemmy lining the sidewalk by mid-afternoon because they’re awesome and rock and I seriously love them for their steadfast support and sacrifice.
If you can’t make it to London but still want to be proactive, consider signing DiEM25’s petition to the government of Ecuador:
“It is with great concern that we heard that Julian Assange has lost access to the internet and the right to receive visitors at the Ecuadorian London Embassy. Only extraordinary pressure from the US and the Spanish governments can explain why Ecuador’s authorities should have taken such appalling steps in isolating Julian.”
We demand that Julian Assange’s isolation ends NOW!”
You can sign the petition here. If you are in the London area please consider telling your boss to bugger off tomorrow and join a planned vigil to support Assange outside the Ecuadorian Embassy from 10am onwards. Lastly, you can easily support Julian Assange online by following recent events, tweeting about him, and using the hashtags #ReconnectJulian, #Ecuador, and #FreeAssange. Awareness is key. And remember, donations always help so head over to the WikiLeaks shop to show your support. And yes, pick up a bumper sticker while you’re there (sheesh, haven’t you already?).