Elections

Election’s over but WikiLeaks founder Assange still without internet

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange speaks via video link, during WikiLeaks' 10th anniversary news conference on Oct. 4, 2016, in Berlin.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange speaks via video link, during WikiLeaks' 10th anniversary news conference on Oct. 4, 2016, in Berlin. TNS

The U.S. election is over but the Ecuadorean Embassy in London is maintaining an internet blackout on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who sought refuge there four years ago, the anti-secrecy group said Thursday.

WikiLeaks said the White House had pressured Ecuador’s government to silence Assange, and the government in Quito agreed to “temporarily” cut off his internet during the run-up to Tuesday’s election.

“His internet hasn’t been turned back on, despite the elections being over, and we don’t know why, though it was meant to just be turned off over the elections,” the group said in an “Ask Me Anything” question-and-answer forum on Reddit, a social aggregation and discussion website.

Assange, an Australian national, founded WikiLeaks a decade ago. The nonprofit group, which posts hacked documents and emails from governments and groups that it thinks benefit the citizenry’s right to know, has played an outsize role in the campaign by publishing more than 100,000 leaked emails from the Democratic National Committee, Hillary Clinton and her campaign chairman. Many of the leaks came during the campaign’s most heated period. Assange’s internet was cut off Oct. 17.

Hillary for America communications director Jennifer Palmieri discusses the campaigns take on last week's WikiLeaks release of DNC emails. Palmieri speaks with McClatchy's political editor Steve "Buzz" Thomma on the sidelines of the Democratic Nat

The group asserts that it is nonpartisan but at times it posted tweets during the campaign, apparently written by Assange, that displayed a marked antipathy toward Clinton.

On the forum, WikiLeaks was asked about differences between the group and Edward Snowden, a former contractor for the National Security Agency who turned whistleblower and released top-secret documents to the public in 2013. Snowden last July praised WikiLeaks but tweeted that “their hostility to even modest curation is a mistake” – a reference to WikiLeaks’ practice of posting documents without editing.

An unnamed WikiLeaks representative acknowledged the group’s differences with Snowden: “Working at WikiLeaks I know we do work with our submissions a lot for validation, how to present and where and when,” the person posted on Reddit. “What we do not do is censor. We believe in full access to information and knowledge for all citizens.

We publish what we receive that is true, for you all to see. Your right to information shouldn't be controlled by others.

WikiLeaks spokesperson on Reddit

“We do not think we are the gatekeepers of information and your right to know. We publish what we receive that is true, for you all to see. Your right to information shouldn’t be controlled by others.”

The person called on Snowden, for his part, to release the entirety of secret U.S. documents in his possession.

WikiLeaks also offered an explanation for its release on Election Day of three large encrypted files that it said it was posting for “safekeeping.” On Thursday, it explained that the files contain unreleased information and that since unnamed forces, presumably the U.S. government, was exerting “high pressure on us,” it wanted to disperse the files to the public to ensure that they are not lost. It said it would eventually publish the files or the key to decrypt them.

“You will not be able to see the contents of any of our insurance files, until and unless we are in a position where we must release the key,” the WikiLeaks spokesperson wrote.

Tim Johnson: 202-383-6028, @timjohnson4

  Comments