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Der Spiegel asks: “Is the CIA hunting Assange’s supporters?”

This campaign is inextricably tied to war. Assange is being persecuted for exposing war crimes, under conditions where the US and its allies are preparing even greater horrors through their proxy war against Russia in Ukraine and their confrontation with China.

WSWS, Oscar GrenfellSEP candidate for NSW Legislative Council, 27 February 2023

In a feature article published last Thursday, the well-known German weekly magazine Der Spiegel pointedly asked whether the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was “hunting” associates and supporters of Julian Assange.

The persecuted WikiLeaks publisher remains in Britain’s maximum-security Belmarsh Prison while the UK authorities seek to facilitate his extradition to the US. There, Assange faces 175 years’ imprisonment for exposing the war crimes committed by American imperialism and its allies in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Over recent years, a wealth of material has been published laying bare the scope of the US campaign against Assange and its gross illegality. In October 2021, Yahoo! News issued an article, based on the statements of 30 former and current US officials. It asserted that the CIA and the Trump administration had plotted to kidnap or assassinate Assange while he was an internationally-recognised political refugee in Ecuador’s London embassy.

There are well-documented allegations that UC Global, the security company contracted by the Ecuadorian authorities to provide security to the embassy, was secretly collaborating with the US authorities. UC Global whistleblowers have attested to this, and the unlawful surveillance material, including videos of Assange’s privileged discussions with his lawyers, has been publicly released.

The Der Spiegel article provides additional information. It paints a picture of a global dragnet established by the US government and its agencies to target not only Assange, but also his collaborators. Much of the material is anecdotal, but the standing of those providing it, together with the context of established US state operations against WikiLeaks, makes for a persuasive case.

Summarising the material it collected, Der Spiegel writes: “At one point, a lawyer in London lost her laptop; at another, a journalist researching Assange’s case had medical data stolen. The office of Assange’s Spanish defence lawyers was broken into in a bizarre way. In Ecuador, a Swedish software developer has been held in the country for nearly four years on flimsy grounds. Elsewhere, Assange supporters who prefer to remain anonymous reported similar spooky incidents.

“That they are connected cannot be proven. Nor has it been possible to determine the authors beyond doubt in any case so far. It could be a matter of coincidences. ‘But who is to believe that?’ asks Assange’s lawyer Aitor Martínez, who is certain that it is a concerted campaign by U.S. authorities, whose often dubious methods WikiLeaks has exposed quite a few times. ‘It’s a vendetta against Julian Assange,’ says the Spaniard. And the focus is not only on companions and family members of Assange, but also on lawyers and journalists, who by law should be particularly protected from wiretapping.”

everal case studies are provided.

One concerns Andy Müller-Maguhn, a German collaborator of Assange and a computer expert. In addition to having met frequently with Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy, Müller-Maguhn plays a pivotal role in WikiLeaks’ operations by managing funds for the organisation donated through the German Wau Holland Foundation.

The Der Spiegel report recounts that Müller-Maguhn discovered in March 2018 a high-powered spying device in a Southeast Asian apartment where he sometimes resides. The small surveillance implant had been expertly soldered into one of Müller-Maguhn’s secure mobile phones. Der Spiegel commented: “It is equipped with U.S. made chips and cannot be detected with a normal frequency locator.”

Other incidents followed, with Müller-Maguhn describing the situation as the “edge of surreality.” In one instance, “in June 2019, he was waiting for his wife in Milan when he spotted an ‘unkempt guy’ across the street pointing a telephoto lens at him through a plastic bag. ‘When he sees me looking at him,’ he takes off.”

In another incident…………………………….

The German citizen has filed a legal case against the spying in the German federal courts. His account is lent substantial credence by the fact that the US government has openly admitted to targeting him.

The US Federal Bureau of Investigations named Müller-Maguhn as a potential WikiLeaks courier in the 2016 Mueller report…………………………..

Lawyer targeted

Aitor Martínez, one of Assange’s Spanish lawyers, also appears to have been targeted. Der Spiegel pointedly notes: “For him, too, the series of oddities apparently began in the spring of 2017, when CIA chief Pompeo declared WikiLeaks an enemy intelligence agency.”

Pompeo made that declaration in response to WikiLeaks’ publication of Vault 7, a trove of CIA documents proving that the agency was running a global hacking operation aimed at gaining access to smartphones, televisions and even electric vehicles. The agency was also developing technologies to falsely ascribe its own illegal actions to other nations, such as Russia and Iran. The clear implication of Pompeo’s assertion was that WikiLeaks would be treated as an enemy state or a terrorist organisation.

…………………………………………..

In the most serious attack, masked men broke into Martínez’s Spanish legal office on the night of December 16, 2017. They appeared to be looking for something, which the lawyer suspects was a computer server that they did not find.

The timing suggests coordination with UC Global, along with the US authorities………………………………………………………………….

…………….the Justice Department, which is now overseeing Assange’s attempted extradition, was potentially tag-teaming with spying agencies in criminal operations such as attempted burglaries.

Significantly, Martinez stated that his apartment was broken into last year, but nothing was stolen. That would suggest that this gangster campaign against Assange’s associates continues, despite his imprisonment and the extradition proceedings.

Another individual whose story is recounted by Der Spiegel is Ola Bini, a Swedish computer expert. He was arrested in Ecuador, where he was working, almost simultaneously with the Ecuadorian government’s expulsion of Assange from its London embassy on April 11, 2019. Bini, who says he has never worked for WikiLeaks, but did meet with Assange at the embassy, was accused of hacking into Ecuadorian government communications and attempting to destabilise its government.

Bini has been subjected to a years-long legal ordeal. While an Ecuadorian court acquitted him in January, prosecutors have filed an appeal, so he cannot leave the country.

Der Spiegel recounted some of his experiences with surveillance:………………………………………..

Reports since 2019 have indicated that the Ecuadorian campaign against Bini has been coordinated with US officials.

The spying and dirty tricks perpetrated against WikiLeaks’ associates, including lawyers, underscores the fact that the persecution of Assange is the spearhead of a broader assault on democratic rights, with global implications.

This campaign is inextricably tied to war. Assange is being persecuted for exposing war crimes, under conditions where the US and its allies are preparing even greater horrors through their proxy war against Russia in Ukraine and their confrontation with China. As in the 20th century, war is incompatible with fundamental civil liberties, which governments erode in a bid to suppress widespread opposition to militarism among workers and young people.

The lawless campaign against WikiLeaks is yet another exposure of the fraud of Washington’s claims to be defending “democracy” and “human rights” in Ukraine or anywhere else. What emerges is an imperialist regime that will use all methods, including criminal, to stamp out opposition to its illegal wars and interventions.

The full Der Spiegel article can be read in German hereInvestigative journalist Tareq Haddad has provided an English translation here.  https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2023/02/27/wydb-f27.html?pk_campaign=assange-newsletter&pk_kwd=wsws

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March 6, 2023 - Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA

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