In September, Yahoo News reported, citing dozens of unnamed former US government officials, that ex-CIA boss Mike Pompeo had planned to kidnap Wikileaks founder Julian Assange from his refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London and possibly even kill him in 2017. There is a lot of truth in the explosive story, said Andy Müller-Maguhn, former spokesman for the Chaos Computer Club (CCC), on Tuesday at the remote Chaos Communication Congress (rC3). Individual parts of the report at the time, including an imminent escape of Assange with the help of Russia, were not correct.
The famous embassy resident should have been declared an Ecuadorian diplomat around Christmas 2017 in order to grant him freedom of travel and immunity, reported Müller-Maguhn. The USA knew about the plan in detail and wanted to thwart it. A silver-gray Ford Focus as an undercover police vehicle and a van stood in front of the embassy for days.
Fire extinguisher as a bug
On December 18, 2017, according to the hacker, the British company Island Fire Protection initially placed a fire extinguisher in Assange’s lounge with a black magnetic floor that contained an eavesdropping bug. Ultimately, all rooms of the diplomatic facility should have been overheard.
The British-American operation “Kudo” (friendship), which was supposed to prevent Assange from leaving, then uncovered a recording from a surveillance camera in front of the embassy from early morning on Christmas Eve, reported Müller-Maguhn and showed corresponding excerpts. It shows three men in the potential camouflaged police car, one of whom is holding a piece of paper with an inscription that is difficult to decipher.
The IT expert explained the meaning of the few visible lines when it was notes from a briefing with instructions “in the event of camera surveillance being lost”. The recipients of the orders should therefore intervene immediately in the expected escape and shoot, for example, at the tires of a possible escape vehicle. The abbreviations listed included the “MET”, ie the Metropolitan Police of London, and “GS7”, which could stand for the CIA. It did not come to that, however, since the diplomatic status campaign was called off on December 26, 2017.
Müller-Maguhn also showed a video clip in which a uniformed police officer brought eight cups of coffee to the car parked in front of the embassy. He and other Wikileaks supporters are still in the process of putting the pieces of the puzzle together with events at this time in other places. The recordings are evidence from a lawsuit against the Spanish company Undercover Global, which Assange is said to have monitored in his asylum.
Pompeo identified Wikileaks in April 2017 as a “non-state enemy secret service”, which is often fed by state actors such as Russia. The annoyance of the future US Secretary of State was great, because the creators of the disclosure platform with the “Vault-7-Leaks” pilloried the CIA for extensive state hacking programs. The US foreign intelligence service is said to have used this as an appeal and basis to take tough action against Wikileaks and its inner circle.
The spying on Assange, who later lost his asylum status and is now to be extradited to the USA after the decision of an appeals court, was part of Pompeo’s and the CIA’s plans for revenge, according to Müller-Maguhn. The representative of the Wau-Holland Foundation, which has supported Wikileaks financially and organizationally for years, complained last year on the rC3 with reference to an obvious bugging unit on his modified encrypted fixed line telephone of the type Snom 817 that he is apparently monitored by the CIA himself become. On the other hand, he has now taken “legal and technical measures”, he said. The authorities are still investigating the case.
Protect fundamental democratic values
Müller-Maguhn described it as disturbing that the fight against Wikileaks in the USA and Great Britain came under attack on fundamental democratic values. The interference on the embassy premises alone clearly violated the Vienna Convention, which was already part of the legal proceedings against Undercover Global.
Even if the case of Assange’s extradition went to the European Court of Human Rights, it was unclear whether the British would adhere to a ruling after Brexit. Since Wikileaks is also a project of the hacking community in the sense of an “informed society”, Müller-Maghun demanded greater commitment from the community to get Assange out of prison and to stop the “criminalization of the press”.