Julian Paul Assange (/əˈsɑːnʒ/;[3] born 3 July 1971) is an Australian editor, publisher and activist who founded WikiLeaks in 2006. WikiLeaks came to international attention in 2010 when it published a series of leaks provided by U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.

Julian Paul Assange (/əˈsɑːnʒ/;[3] born 3 July 1971) is an Australian editor, publisher and activist who founded WikiLeaks in 2006. WikiLeaks came to international attention in 2010 when it published a series of leaks provided by U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning. These leaks included the Baghdad airstrike Collateral Murder video (April 2010),[4][5] the Afghanistan war logs (July 2010), the Iraq war logs (October 2010), and Cablegate (November 2010). After the 2010 leaks, the United States government launched a criminal investigation into WikiLeaks.[6]

In November 2010, Sweden issued an international arrest warrant for Assange over allegations of sexual misconduct.[7] Assange said the allegations were a pretext for his extradition from Sweden to the United States over his role in the publication of secret American documents.[8][9] After losing his battle against extradition to Sweden, he breached bail and took refuge in the Embassy of Ecuador in London in June 2012.[10] He was granted asylum by Ecuador in August 2012[11] on the grounds of political persecution, with the presumption that if he were extradited to Sweden, he would be eventually extradited to the US.[12] Swedish prosecutors dropped their investigation in 2019, saying their evidence had "weakened considerably due to the long period of time that has elapsed since the events in question."[13]

During the 2016 U.S. election campaign, WikiLeaks published confidential Democratic Party emails, showing that the party's national committee favoured Hillary Clinton over her rival Bernie Sanders in the primaries.[14]

On 11 April 2019, Assange's asylum was withdrawn following a series of disputes with the Ecuadorian authorities.[15] The police were invited into the embassy and he was arrested.[16] He was found guilty of breaching the Bail Act and sentenced to 50 weeks in prison.[17] The United States government unsealed an indictment against Assange, related to the leaks provided by Chelsea Manning. On 23 May 2019, the United States government further charged Assange with violating the Espionage Act of 1917. Editors from newspapers, including The Washington Post and The New York Times, as well as press freedom organisations, criticised the government's decision to charge Assange under the Espionage Act, characterising it as an attack on the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which guarantees freedom of the press.[18][19] On 4 January 2021, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled against the United States' request to extradite him and stated that doing so would be "oppressive" given his mental health.[20] On 6 January 2021, Assange was denied bail, pending an appeal by the United States.[21]

Assange has been confined in Belmarsh maximum-security prison in London since April 2019.[22]

Assange was born Julian Paul Hawkins on 3 July 1971 in Townsville, Queensland,[23][24][25] to Christine Ann Hawkins (b. 1951),[26] a visual artist,[27]: 34  and John Shipton, an anti-war activist and builder.[28] The couple separated before their son was born.[28] When Julian was a year old, his mother married Brett Assange,[29][30][31] an actor with whom she ran a small theatre company and whom Julian regards as his father (choosing Assange as his surname).[24][32] Christine and Brett Assange divorced around 1979. Christine then became involved with Leif Meynell, also known as Leif Hamilton, whom Julian Assange later described as "a member of an Australian cult" called The Family. They separated in 1982.[23][27][33]

Julian had a nomadic childhood, living in more than 30 Australian towns and cities by the time he reached his mid-teens,[34][35] when he settled with his mother and half-brother in Melbourne.[29] Assange attended many schools, including Goolmangar Primary School in New South Wales (1979–1983)[32] and Townsville State High School in Queensland[36] as well as being schooled at home.[30]

In 1987, aged 16, Assange began hacking under the name Mendax,[30][37] supposedly taken from Horace's splendide mendax (nobly lying).[38] He and two others, known as "Trax" and "Prime Suspect", formed a hacking group they called "the International Subversives".[30] According to David Leigh and Luke Harding, Assange may have been involved in the WANK (Worms Against Nuclear Killers) hack at NASA in 1989, but this has never been proven.[39][27]: 42 

In September 1991, Assange was discovered hacking into the Melbourne master terminal of Nortel, a Canadian multinational telecommunications corporation.[30] The Australian Federal Police tapped Assange's phone line (he was using a modem), raided his home at the end of October[40] and eventually charged him in 1994 with 31 counts of hacking and related crimes.[30] In December 1996, he pleaded guilty to 24 charges (the others were dropped) and was ordered to pay reparations of A$2,100 and released on a good behaviour bond.[39][41] He received a lenient penalty due to the absence of malicious or mercenary intent and his disrupted childhood.[41][42][43][44]

Assange studied programming, mathematics and physics at Central Queensland University (1994)[45] and the University of Melbourne (2003–2006),[29][46] but did not complete a degree.[47]

In 1993, Assange used his computing skills to help the Victoria Police Child Exploitation Unit to prosecute individuals responsible for publishing and distributing child pornography.[48][49] In the same year, he was involved in starting one of the first public Internet service providers in Australia, Suburbia Public Access Network.[29][50] He began programming in 1994, authoring or co-authoring the TCP port scanner Strobe (1995),[51][52] patches to the open-source database PostgreSQL (1996),[53][54] the Usenet caching software NNTPCache (1996),[55] the Rubberhose deniable encryption system (1997)[56][57] (which reflected his growing interest in cryptography),[58] and Surfraw, a command-line interface for web-based search engines (2000).[59] During this period, he also moderated the AUCRYPTO forum,[58] ran Best of Security, a website "giving advice on computer security" that had 5,000 subscribers in 1996,[27]: 45  and contributed research to Suelette Dreyfus's Underground (1997), a book about Australian hackers, including the International Subversives.[37][60] In 1998, he co-founded the company Earthmen Technology.[44]

Assange stated that he registered the domain leaks.org in 1999, but "didn't do anything with it".[44] He did publicise a patent granted to the National Security Agency in August 1999, for voice-data harvesting technology: "This patent should worry people. Everyone's overseas phone calls are or may soon be tapped, transcribed and archived in the bowels of an unaccountable foreign spy agency."[58]

Assange and others established WikiLeaks in 2006. Assange became a member of the organisation's advisory board[61] and described himself as the editor-in-chief.[62] From 2007 to 2010, Assange travelled continuously on WikiLeaks business, visiting Africa, Asia, Europe and North America.[30][35][63][64][65] During this time the organisation published internet censorship lists, leaks,[66] and classified media from anonymous sources. These publications including revelations about drone strikes in Yemen, corruption across the Arab world,[67] extrajudicial executions by Kenyan police,[68] 2008 Tibetan unrest in China,[69] and the "Petrogate" oil scandal in Peru.[70]

WikiLeaks' international profile increased in 2008 when a Swiss bank, Julius Baer, failed to block the site's publication of bank records.[71] Assange commented that financial institutions ordinarily "operate outside the rule of law", and received extensive legal support from free-speech and civil rights groups.[72][73]

In September 2008, during the 2008 United States presidential election campaign, the contents of a Yahoo! account belonging to Sarah Palin (the running mate of Republican presidential nominee John McCain) were posted on WikiLeaks after being hacked into by members of Anonymous.[74] After briefly appearing on a blog, the membership list of the far-right British National Party was posted to WikiLeaks on 18 November 2008.[75]

WikiLeaks released a report disclosing a "serious nuclear accident" at the Iranian Natanz nuclear facility in 2009.[76] According to media reports, the accident may have been the direct result of a cyber-attack at Iran's nuclear program, carried out with the Stuxnet computer worm, a cyber-weapon built jointly by the United States and Israel.[77]

The material WikiLeaks published between 2006 and 2009 attracted various degrees of international attention,[78] but after it began publishing documents supplied by U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, WikiLeaks became a household name.

In April 2010, WikiLeaks released the Collateral Murder video,[4] which showed United States soldiers fatally shooting 18 civilians from a helicopter in Iraq,[79] including Reuters journalists Namir Noor-Eldeen and his assistant Saeed Chmagh.[5] Reuters had previously made a request to the US government for the Collateral Murder video under Freedom of Information but had been denied. Assange and others worked for a week to break the U.S. military's encryption of the video.[80][81]

In October 2010, WikiLeaks published the Iraq War logs, a collection of 391,832 United States Army field reports from the Iraq War covering the period from 2004 to 2009.[82] Assange said that he hoped the publication would "correct some of that attack on the truth that occurred before the war, during the war, and which has continued after the war".[83]

Regarding his own role within WikiLeaks he said, "We always expect tremendous criticism. It is my role to be the lightning rod ... to attract the attacks against the organization for our work, and that is a difficult role. On the other hand, I get undue credit".[84]

Other Manning material published by WikiLeaks included the Afghanistan War logs in July 2010,[85] and the Guantánamo Bay files in April 2011.[86]

WikiLeaks published a quarter of a million U.S. diplomatic cables,[87] known as the "Cablegate" files, in November 2010. WikiLeaks initially worked with established Western media organisations, and later with smaller regional media organisations, while also publishing the cables upon which their reporting was based.[88][89] The files showed United States espionage against the United Nations and other world leaders,[90][91][92] revealed tensions between the U.S. and its allies, and exposed corruption in countries throughout the world as documented by U.S. diplomats, helping to spark the Arab Spring.[93][94] The Cablegate and Iraq and Afghan War releases impacted diplomacy and public opinion globally, with responses varying by region.[89]

After WikiLeaks released the Manning material, United States authorities began investigating WikiLeaks and Assange personally to prosecute them under the Espionage Act of 1917.[95] In November 2010, US Attorney-General Eric Holder said there was "an active, ongoing criminal investigation" into WikiLeaks.[6] It emerged from legal documents leaked over the ensuing months that Assange and others were being investigated by a federal grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia.[96]

In August 2011, WikiLeaks volunteer Sigurdur Thordarson, working in his home country Iceland, contacted the FBI and, after presenting a copy of Assange's passport at the American embassy, became the first informant to work for the FBI from inside WikiLeaks. In November 2011, WikiLeaks dismissed Thordarson due to what the organization said was his embezzlement of $50,000, to which charge (along with several other offences) he later pleaded guilty in an Icelandic court.[97] According to Thordarson, a few months after his dismissal by WikiLeaks the FBI agreed to pay him $5,000 as compensation for work missed while meeting with agents.[98]

In December 2011, prosecutors in the Chelsea Manning case revealed the existence of chat logs between Manning and an interlocutor they claimed was Assange.[99][100] Assange said that WikiLeaks has no way of knowing the identity of its sources and that chats with sources, including user-names, were anonymous.[101][102][103] In January 2011, Assange described the allegation that WikiLeaks had conspired with Manning as "absolute nonsense".[104] The logs were presented as evidence during Manning's court-martial in June–July 2013.[105] The prosecution argued that they showed WikiLeaks helping Manning reverse-engineer a password.[106] During her trial, Manning said she acted on her own to send documents to WikiLeaks and no one associated with WikiLeaks pressured her into giving more information.[107]

In 2013, US officials said that it was unlikely that the Justice Department would indict Assange for publishing classified documents because it would also have to prosecute the news organisations and writers who published classified material.[108]

In June 2013, The New York Times said that court and other documents suggested that Assange was being examined by a grand jury and "several government agencies", including by the FBI.[109] Court documents published in May 2014 suggest that Assange was under "active and ongoing" investigation at that time.[110]

Some Snowden documents published in 2014 showed that the U.S. government had put Assange on its 2010 "Manhunting Timeline", an annual account of efforts to capture or kill alleged terrorists and others,[111] and in the same period urged allies to open criminal investigations into Assange.[112] In the same documents, there was a proposal by the National Security Agency (NSA) to designate WikiLeaks a "malicious foreign actor", thus increasing the surveillance against it.[111]

In January 2015, WikiLeaks issued a statement saying that three members of the organisation had received notice from Google that Google had complied with a federal warrant by a US District Court to turn over their emails and metadata on 5 April 2012.[113] In July 2015, Assange called himself a "wanted journalist" in an open letter to the French president published in Le Monde.[114] In a December 2015 court submission, the US government confirmed its "sensitive, ongoing law enforcement proceeding into the Wikileaks matter".[115][non-primary source needed]

Under the Obama Administration, the Department of Justice did not indict Assange because it was unable to find any evidence that his actions differed from those of a journalist.[116] However, after President Donald Trump took office, CIA director Mike Pompeo and Attorney General Jeff Sessions stepped up pursuit of Assange.[117]

In April 2017, US officials were preparing to file formal charges against Assange.[118] Legal scholar Steve Vladeck said prosecutors accelerated the case in 2019 due to the impending statute of limitations on Assange's largest leaks.[119]

Assange visited Sweden in August 2010. During his visit, he became the subject of sexual assault allegations from two women.[120] Assange denied the allegations and said he was happy to face questions in Britain.[121][122]

On 20 November 2010, the Swedish police issued an international arrest warrant. Later that day, Assange told journalist Raffi Khatchadourian that Sweden has a "very, very poor judicial system" and a culture of "crazed radical feminist ideology". He commented that, more importantly, his case involved international politics, and that "Sweden is a U.S. satrapy."[123] In a later interview he described Sweden as "the Saudi Arabia of feminism."[124] On 8 December 2010, Assange gave himself up to British police and attended his first extradition hearing, where he was remanded in custody. On 16 December 2010, at the second hearing, he was granted bail by the High Court of Justice and released after his supporters paid £240,000 in cash and sureties. A further hearing on 24 February 2011 ruled that Assange should be extradited to Sweden. This decision was upheld by the High Court on 2 November and by the Supreme Court on 30 May the next year.[125]

After previously stating that she could not question a suspect by video link or in the Swedish embassy, prosecutor Marianne Ny wrote to the English Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in 2013. Her letter advised that she intended to lift the detention order and withdraw the European arrest warrant as the actions were not proportionate to the costs and seriousness of the crime. In response, the CPS tried to dissuade Ny from doing so.[126]

In March 2015, after public criticism from other Swedish law practitioners, Ny changed her mind about interrogating Assange, who had taken refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.[127] These interviews, which began on 14 November 2016, involved the British police, Swedish prosecutors and Ecuadorian officials, and were eventually published online.[128] By that time, the statute of limitations had expired on all three of the less serious allegations. Since the Swedish prosecutor had not interviewed Assange by 18 August 2015, the questioning pertained only to the open investigation of "lesser degree rape".[129][130][121][131]

On 19 May 2017, the Swedish authorities suspended their investigation, saying they could not expect the Ecuadorian Embassy to communicate reliably with Assange with respect to the case. Chief prosecutor Marianne Ny officially revoked his arrest warrant, but said the investigation could still be resumed if Assange visited Sweden before August 2020.[132][133][134]

Following Assange's arrest on 11 April 2019, the case was reopened, in May 2019, under prosecutor Eva-Marie Persson.[135] On 19 November, she announced that she had discontinued her investigation, saying that the evidence was not strong enough. She added that although she was confident in the complainant, "the evidence has weakened considerably due to the long period of time that has elapsed".[13]

On 19 June 2012, the Ecuadorian foreign minister, Ricardo Patiño, announced that Assange had applied for political asylum, that the Ecuadorian government was considering his request, and that Assange was at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.[136]

Assange and his supporters said he was not concerned about any proceedings in Sweden as such, but said that the Swedish allegations were designed to discredit him and were a pretext for his extradition from Sweden to the United States.[137][138][139]

British Foreign Secretary William Hague gave a news conference in response. "We will not allow Mr Assange safe passage out of the United Kingdom, nor is there any legal basis for us to do so," he said. "The United Kingdom does not recognise the principle of diplomatic asylum."[140]

Assange breached his bail conditions by taking up residence in the embassy rather than appearing in court, and faced arrest if he left. Assange's supporters, including journalist Jemima Goldsmith, journalist John Pilger, and filmmaker Ken Loach, forfeited £200,000 in bail.[141] Goldsmith said she was surprised at his asylum bid and had expected him to face the Swedish allegations.[142]

The UK government wrote Patiño that the police were entitled to enter the embassy and arrest Assange under UK law.[143] Patiño said it was an implied threat, stating that "such actions would be a blatant disregard of the Vienna Convention". Officers of the Metropolitan Police Service were stationed outside the embassy from June 2012 to October 2015 to arrest Assange if he left the embassy, and compel him to attend the extradition appeal hearing. The police officers were withdrawn on grounds of cost in October 2015, but the police said they would still deploy "several overt and covert tactics to arrest him". The Metropolitan Police Service said the cost of the policing for the period was £12.6 million.[144]

WikiLeaks insiders stated that Assange decided to seek asylum because he felt abandoned by the Australian government.[139] The Australian attorney-general, Nicola Roxon, had written to Assange's lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, saying that Australia would not seek to involve itself in any international exchanges about Assange's future. She suggested that if Assange was imprisoned in the US, he could apply for an international prisoner transfer to Australia. Assange's lawyers described the letter as a "declaration of abandonment".[139]

On 16 August 2012, Patiño announced that Ecuador was granting Assange political asylum because of the threat represented by the United States secret investigation against him.[145][146][147][148] In its formal statement, Ecuador said that "as a consequence of Assange's determined defense to freedom of expression and freedom of press… in any given moment, a situation may come where his life, safety or personal integrity will be in danger".[149] Latin American states expressed support for Ecuador.[150][151][152][153] Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa confirmed on 18 August that Assange could stay at the embassy indefinitely,[154][155][156] and the following day Assange gave his first speech from the balcony.[157][158] An office converted into a studio apartment, equipped with a bed, telephone, sun lamp, computer, shower, treadmill, and kitchenette, became his home until 11 April 2019.[159][160][161][162]

On 24 April 2011, WikiLeaks began publishing the Guantanamo Bay files leak, 779 classified reports on prisoners, past and present, held by the U.S. at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba. The documents, dated from 2002 to 2008, revealed prisoners, some of whom were coerced to confess, included children, the elderly and mentally disabled.[163][86]

In July 2012, WikiLeaks began publishing the Syria Files, a collection of more than two million emails from Syrian political figures, government ministries and companies. Assange said the "Syria Files" collection .mw-parser-output .templatequote{overflow:hidden;margin:1em 0;padding:0 40px}.mw-parser-output .templatequote .templatequotecite{line-height:1.5em;text-align:left;padding-left:1.6em;margin-top:0}

"helps us not merely to criticize one group or another, but to understand their interests, actions and thoughts. It is only through understanding this conflict that we can hope to resolve it".[164]

In 2013, Assange analysed the Kissinger cables held at the US National Archives and released them in searchable form.[165]

By 2015, WikiLeaks had published more than ten million documents and associated analyses, and was described by Assange as "a giant library of the world's most persecuted documents".[166]

In June 2015, WikiLeaks began publishing confidential and secret Saudi Arabian government documents.[167]

On 25 November 2016, WikiLeaks released emails and internal documents that provided details on U.S. military operations in Yemen from 2009 to March 2015. In a statement accompanying the release of the "Yemen Files", Assange said about the U.S. involvement in the Yemen war: "The war in Yemen has produced 3.15 million internally displaced persons. Although the United States government has provided most of the bombs and is deeply involved in the conduct of the war itself, reportage on the war in English is conspicuously rare."[168]

In December 2016, WikiLeaks published emails from the Turkish government in response to Erdoğan's post-coup purges in Turkey. The emails covered the period from 2010 to July 2016. In response, Turkey blocked access to the WikiLeaks site.[169][170][171]

Assange stood for the Australian Senate in the 2013 Australian federal election for the newly formed WikiLeaks Party but failed to win a seat.[172] The party experienced internal dissent over its governance and electoral tactics and was deregistered due to low membership numbers in 2015.[173][174]

In 2013, Assange and others in WikiLeaks helped whistleblower Edward Snowden flee from US law enforcement. After the United States cancelled Snowden's passport, stranding him in Russia, they considered transporting him to Latin America on the presidential jet of a sympathetic Latin American leader. In order to throw the US off the scent, they spoke about the jet of the Bolivian president Evo Morales, instead of the jet they were considering.[175] In July 2013, Morales' jet was forced to land in Austria after the US pressured Italy, France, and Spain to deny the jet access to their airspace over false rumours Snowden was on board.[176][177] Assange said the grounding "reveals the true nature of the relationship between Western Europe and the United States" as "a phone call from U.S. intelligence was enough to close the airspace to a booked presidential flight, which has immunity". Assange advised Snowden that he would be safest in Russia which was better able to protect its borders than Venezuela, Brazil or Ecuador.[175][178] In 2015, Maria Luisa Ramos, the Bolivian ambassador to Russia, accused Assange of putting Morales' life at risk. Assange stated that he regretted what happened but that "[w]e can't predict that other countries engage in some ... unprecedented criminal operation".[175]

Documents provided by Edward Snowden showed that in 2012 and 2013 the NZ government worked to establish a secret mass surveillance programme which it called "Operation Speargun". On 15 September 2014, Assange appeared via remote video link on Kim Dotcom's Moment of Truth town hall meeting[179] held in Auckland, which discussed the programme. Assange said the Snowden documents showed that he had been a target of the programme and that "Operation Speargun" represented "an extreme, bizarre, Orwellian future that is being constructed secretly in New Zealand".[180]

On 3 July 2015, Paris newspaper Le Monde published an open letter from Assange to French President François Hollande in which Assange urged the French government to grant him refugee status.[114] In response to this letter, Hollande said: "France cannot act on his request. The situation of Mr Assange does not present an immediate danger."[181]

In 2015, La Repubblica stated that it had evidence of the UK's role via the English Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in creating the "legal and diplomatic quagmire" which prevented Assange from leaving the Ecuadorian embassy. La Repubblica sued the CPS in 2017 to obtain further information but its case was rejected with the judge saying "the need for the British authorities to protect the confidentiality of the extradition process outweighs the public interest of the press to know".[182] A further appeal was rejected in September 2019.[182][183]

On 5 February 2016, the UN's Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded that Assange had been subject to arbitrary detention by the UK and Swedish Governments since 7 December 2010, including his time in prison, on conditional bail and in the Ecuadorian embassy. The Working Group said Assange should be allowed to walk free and be given compensation.[184][185] The UK and Swedish governments denied the charge of detaining Assange arbitrarily.[186] The UK Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, said the charge was "ridiculous" and that the group was "made up of lay people", and called Assange a "fugitive from justice" who "can come out any time he chooses",[187] and called the panel's ruling "flawed in law".[188] Swedish prosecutors called the group's charge irrelevant.[189] The UK said it would arrest Assange should he leave the embassy.[190] Mark Ellis, executive director of the International Bar Association, stated that the finding is "not binding on British law".[191] US legal scholar Noah Feldman described the Working Group's conclusion as astonishing, summarising it as "Assange might be charged with a crime in the US. Ecuador thinks charging him with violating national security law would amount to 'political persecution' or worse. Therefore Sweden must give up on its claims to try him for rape, and Britain must ignore the Swedes' arrest warrant and let him leave the country."[192]

In September 2016[193] and again on 12 January 2017,[194] WikiLeaks tweeted that Assange would agree to US prison in exchange for President Obama granting Chelsea Manning clemency. After commuting Manning's sentence on 17 January 2017, Obama stated that Assange's offer had not been a consideration.[195]

On 19 May 2017, Assange emerged on the embassy's balcony and told a crowd that, despite no longer facing a Swedish sex investigation, he would remain inside the embassy to avoid extradition to the United States.[196]

During the 2016 US Democratic Party presidential primaries, WikiLeaks hosted a searchable database of emails sent or received by presidential candidate Hillary Clinton while she was Secretary of State. The emails had been released by the US State Department under a Freedom of information request in February 2016.[197][198] The emails were a major point of discussion during the presidential election and prompted an FBI investigation of Clinton for using a private email server for classified documents while she was US Secretary of State.[199]

In February 2016, Assange wrote: "I have had years of experience in dealing with Hillary Clinton and have read thousands of her cables. Hillary lacks judgment and will push the United States into endless, stupid wars which spread terrorism. ... she certainly should not become president of the United States."[200] On 25 July, following the Republican National Convention, Assange said that choosing between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is like choosing between cholera or gonorrhea. "Personally, I would prefer neither."[201][202][203] In an Election Day statement, Assange criticised both Clinton and Trump, saying that "The Democratic and Republican candidates have both expressed hostility towards whistleblowers."[204]

On 22 July 2016, WikiLeaks released emails and documents from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in which the DNC seemingly presented ways of undercutting Clinton's competitor Bernie Sanders and showed apparent favouritism towards Clinton. The release led to the resignation of DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and an apology to Sanders from the DNC.[205][206] The New York Times wrote that Assange had timed the release to coincide with the 2016 Democratic National Convention because he believed Clinton had pushed for his indictment and he regarded her as a "liberal war hawk".[207]

On 7 October, The Washington Post published a story on the Access Hollywood tape, a recording of a Trump interview conducted by television host Billy Bush in 2005, in which, said The Post, Trump "bragged in vulgar terms about kissing, groping and trying to have sex with women."[208] Also on 7 October, shortly after the Post article was released, Assange posted a press release on WikiLeaks exposing a second batch of emails with over 2,000 mails from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.[209] Podesta, in an interview with CNN, stated "On October 7, the Access Hollywood tapes comes out. One hour later, WikiLeaks starts dropping my emails into the public. One could say that those things might not have been a coincidence."[210]

In mid-October, the Ecuadorian government severed Assange's Internet connection because of the leaks.[211] In December, Assange said the connection had been restored.[212]

Cybersecurity experts attributed the attack to the Russian government.[213] The Central Intelligence Agency, together with several other agencies, concluded that Russian intelligence agencies hacked the DNC servers, as well as Podesta's email account, and provided the information to WikiLeaks to bolster Trump's election campaign.[214] As a result of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections, 12 Russian GRU military intelligence agents were indicted on 13 July 2018 for the attack on the DNC mail-server. According to the Mueller report, this group shared these mails using the pseudonym Guccifer 2.0 with WikiLeaks and other entities.[215] The investigation also unearthed communications between Guccifer 2.0, WikiLeaks and the Trump campaign, in which they coordinated the release of the material.[209]

In interviews, Assange repeatedly said that the Russian government was not the source of the DNC and Podesta emails,[216][217][218] and accused the Clinton campaign of "a kind of neo-McCarthy hysteria" about Russian involvement.[219] On the eve of the election, Assange addressed the criticism he had received for publishing Clinton material, saying that WikiLeaks publishes "material given to us if it is of political, diplomatic, historical or ethical importance and which has not been published elsewhere," that it had never received any information on Trump, Jill Stein, or Gary Johnson's campaign.[220][221] Political scientists Matthew Baum and Phil Gussin wrote that WikiLeaks may have released more emails whenever Clinton's lead expanded in the polls.[222]

A 2017 article in Foreign Policy said that WikiLeaks turned down leaks on the Russian government, focusing instead on hacks relating to the US presidential election.[223] WikiLeaks said that, as far as it could recall, the material was already public.[223]

In April 2018, the DNC sued WikiLeaks for the theft of the DNC's information under various Virginia and US federal statutes. It accused WikiLeaks and Russia of a "brazen attack on American democracy".[224] The Committee to Protect Journalists said that the lawsuit raised several important press freedom questions.[225] The suit was dismissed with prejudice in July 2019. Judge John Koeltl said that WikiLeaks "did not participate in any wrongdoing in obtaining the materials in the first place" and were therefore within the law in publishing the information.[226]

In a July 2016 interview on Dutch television, Assange hinted that DNC staffer Seth Rich was the source of the DNC emails and that Rich had been killed as a result. Seeking clarification, the interviewer asked Assange whether Rich's killing was "simply a murder," to which Assange answered, "No. There's no finding. So, I'm suggesting that our sources take risks, and they become concerned to see things occurring like that."[227][228] WikiLeaks offered a $20,000 reward for information about his murder and wrote:[229] "We treat threats toward any suspected source of WikiLeaks with extreme gravity. This should not be taken to imply that Seth Rich was a source to WikiLeaks or to imply that his murder is connected to our publications."

Assange's comments were highlighted by right-wing outlets such as Fox News, The Washington Times and conspiracy website InfoWars[229][230][231] and set off a spike in attention to the murder. Assange's statements lent credibility and visibility to what had at that point been a conspiracy theory in the fringe parts of the Internet.[232] According to the Mueller investigation, Assange "implied falsely" that Rich was the source to obscure the fact that Russia was the source.[233][234][235] Assange received the emails when Rich was already dead and continued to confer with the Russian hackers to coordinate the release of the material.[209][233]

In March 2017, WikiLeaks began releasing the largest leak of CIA documents in history, codenamed Vault 7. The documents included details of the CIA's hacking capabilities and software tools used to break into smartphones, computers and other Internet-connected devices.[236] In April, CIA director Mike Pompeo called WikiLeaks "a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia".[237] Assange accused the CIA of trying to "subvert" his right to freedom of speech.[238] According to former intelligence officials, in the wake of the Vault 7 leaks, the CIA plotted to kidnap Assange from Ecuador's London embassy, and some senior officials discussed his potential assassination. Yahoo! News found "no indication that the most extreme measures targeting Assange were ever approved." Some of its sources stated that they had alerted House and Senate intelligence committees to the plans that Pompeo was suggesting.[239][240][241][242] In October 2021, Assange's lawyers introduced the alleged plot during a hearing of the High Court of Justice in London as it considered the U.S. appeal of a lower court's ruling that Assange could not be extradited to face charges in the U.S.[243][244][245]

On 6 June 2017, Assange tweeted his support for NSA leaker Reality Winner, who had been arrested three days earlier.[246] Winner had been identified in part because a reporter from The Intercept showed a leaked document to the government without removing possibly incriminating evidence about its leaker. WikiLeaks later offered a $10,000 reward for information about the reporter responsible.[247]

On 16 August 2017, US Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher visited Assange and told him that Trump would pardon him on condition that he said Russia was not involved in the 2016 Democratic National Committee email leaks.[248][249] At his extradition hearings in 2020, Assange's lawyers told the court that Rohrabacher had said the offer was made "on instructions from the president". Trump and Rohrabacher said they had never spoken about the offer and Rohrabacher said he had made the offer on his own initiative.[248][249][250]

In August 2017, in the midst of the Qatar diplomatic crisis, Dubai-based Al Arabiya said Assange had refrained from publishing two cables about Qatar after negotiations between WikiLeaks and Qatar. Assange said Al Arabiya had been publishing "increasingly absurd fabrications" during the dispute.[251] In September 2017, Assange released "Spy Files Russia," revealing "how a St. Petersburg-based technology company called Peter-Service helped Russian state entities gather detailed data on Russian cellphone users, part of a national system of online surveillance called System for Operative Investigative Activities (SORM)." According to Moscow-based journalist Fred Weir, "experts say it casts a timely spotlight on the vast surveillance operations mounted by Russian security services."[252]

Assange was granted Ecuadorian citizenship in December 2017.[253]

In February 2018, after Sweden had suspended its investigation, Assange brought two legal actions, arguing that Britain should drop its arrest warrant for him as it was "no longer right or proportionate to pursue him" and the arrest warrant for breaching bail had lost its "purpose and its function". In both cases, Senior District Judge Emma Arbuthnot ruled that the arrest warrant should remain in place.[254][255]

In March 2018, Assange used social media to criticise Germany's arrest of Catalonian separatist leader Carles Puigdemont. On 28 March 2018, Ecuador responded by cutting Assange's internet connection because his social media posts put at risk Ecuador's relations with European nations.[256] In May 2018, The Guardian reported that over five years Ecuador had spent at least $5 million (£3.7m) to protect Assange, employing a security company and undercover agents to monitor his visitors, embassy staff and the British police. Ecuador reportedly also devised plans to help Assange escape should British police forcibly enter the embassy to seize him. The Guardian reported that by 2014 Assange had compromised the embassy's communications system. WikiLeaks described the allegation as "an anonymous libel aligned with the current UK-US government onslaught against Mr Assange".[257] In July 2018, President Moreno said that he wanted Assange out of the embassy provided that Assange's life was not in danger.[258] By October 2018, Assange's communications were partially restored.[259]

On 16 October 2018, congressmen from the United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs wrote an open letter to President Moreno which described Assange as a dangerous criminal and stated that progress between the US and Ecuador in the areas of economic co-operation, counter-narcotics assistance and the return of a USAID mission to Ecuador depended on Assange being handed over to the authorities.[260][261]

In October 2018, Assange sued the government of Ecuador for violating his "fundamental rights and freedoms" by threatening to remove his protection and cut off his access to the outside world, refusing him visits from journalists and human rights organisations and installing signal jammers to prevent phone calls and internet access.[262][263] An Ecuadorian judge ruled against him, saying that requiring Assange to pay for his Internet use and clean up after his cat did not violate his right to asylum.[264]

In November 2018, Pamela Anderson, a close friend and regular visitor of Assange, gave an interview in which she asked the Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, to defend Assange.[265] Morrison rejected the request with a response Anderson considered "smutty". Anderson responded that "[r]ather than making lewd suggestions about me, perhaps you should instead think about what you are going to say to millions of Australians when one of their own is marched in an orange jumpsuit to Guantanamo Bay – for publishing the truth. You can prevent this."[266]

On 21 December 2018, the UN's Working Group on Arbitrary Detention urged the UK to let Assange leave the embassy freely. In a statement, the organisation said that the "Swedish investigations have been closed for over 18 months now, and the only ground remaining for Mr Assange's continued deprivation of liberty is a bail violation in the UK, which is, objectively, a minor offense that cannot post-facto justify the more than six years' confinement that he has been subjected to".[267]

In February 2019, the parliament of Geneva passed a motion demanding that the Swiss government extend asylum to Assange.[268] In January 2020, the Catalan Dignity Commission awarded Assange its 2019 Dignity Prize for supporting the Catalan people during the 2017 Catalan independence referendum.[269]

In March 2019, Assange submitted a complaint to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights asking the Ecuadorian government to "ease the conditions that it had imposed on his residence" at the embassy and to protect him from extradition to the US. It also requested US prosecutors unseal criminal charges that had been filed against him. Assange said the Ecuadorian embassy was trying to end his asylum by spying on him and restricting his visitors. The commission rejected his complaint.[270]

On 10 April 2019, WikiLeaks said it had uncovered an extensive surveillance operation against Assange from within the embassy. WikiLeaks said that "material including video, audio, copies of private legal documents and a medical report" had surfaced in Spain and that unnamed individuals in Madrid had made an extortion attempt.[271][272]

On 26 September 2019, the Spanish newspaper El País reported that the Spanish defence and security company Undercover Global S.L. (UC Global) had spied on Assange for the CIA during his time in the embassy. UC Global had been contracted to protect the embassy during this time. According to the report UC Global's owner David Morales had provided the CIA with audio and video of meetings Assange held with his lawyers and colleagues. Morales also arranged for the US to have direct access to the stream from video cameras installed in the embassy at the beginning of December 2017. The evidence was part of a secret investigation by Spain's High Court, the Audiencia Nacional, into Morales and his relationship with US intelligence. The investigation was precipitated by a complaint by Assange that accused UC Global of violating his privacy and client-attorney