Was Julian Assange using the facilities at the Ecuadorian embassy in London to engage in espionage, spying on his hosts and people from other countries? That’s the accusation being leveled by the president of Ecuador, and it could potentially be one of the reasons that Assange’s asylum was abruptly revoked, followed by an invitation to cool his heels in a British jail cell for a while. (Reuters)
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange repeatedly violated his asylum conditions and tried to use the Ecuadorian embassy in London as a center for spying, Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno told Britain’s Guardian newspaper…
Moreno denied to the Guardian that he had acted as a reprisal for the way in which documents about his family had been leaked. He said he regretted that Assange had used the embassy to interfere in other country’s democracies.
“Any attempt to destabilize is a reprehensible act for Ecuador, because we are a sovereign nation and respectful of the politics of each country,” Moreno told the Guardian by email. “We cannot allow our house, the house that opened its doors, to become a center for spying,” the Guardian quoted Moreno as saying.
At first glance, you might think to yourself that of course Assange was spying. He’s the Wikileaks guy, right? That’s sort of their calling card after a fashion. And I suppose we can’t rule it out entirely, but I’m going to hold off judgment on that question, at least for now.
First of all, the word “spying” might be a bit of an exaggeration here. Unless some other, more official leaked documents come to light, Moreno’s denials about what upset him seem suspicious. While he’s claiming it wasn’t the case, other journalists suspect that what truly angered Moreno was the leak of a large trove of personal emails and photographs of the president and his family. One showed Moreno lounging in bed and feasting on a huge meal of lobsters and other delicacies. Others depicted his wife and children dancing and partying on expensive vacations to Europe.
With Ecuador facing a serious financial crisis at the moment, that’s not exactly the image their president would want to see splattered all over the newspapers. It was a serious embarrassment for him, but can he really pin it on Assange? That would have required the Wikileaks founder to use the wifi in the embassy and his own laptop to crack into Moreno’s private data. Even if Assange has the skills to pull that off, it would have been quite the feat to not leave his fingerprints all over it. The idea strikes me as unlikely. And even if it turns out to be true, that’s not exactly “spying” in the classical sense of the word.
I suppose somebody else in the Wikileaks roster could have done it, but unless they’ve been tracking Assange’s own emails to see if he ordered the hack, how could they pin it on him? This might just be a case of Moreno growing angry over this exposure and lashing out in search of a suspect to blame. Of course, he was already on record saying that he wanted Assange out of the embassy, so perhaps this was just a convenient excuse?
Either way, the end result is a win. Assange is out and the extradition process has begun. Now Sweden is suggesting they still might want another crack at Assange, but they previously dropped the rape charges against him. It sounds like America should have first dibs.