Ecuador admits restricting access over election meddling
Cory Bennett, Politico, Oct 18 2016
The government of Ecuador said late Tuesday that it had “temporarily” restricted the internet access of Julian Assange, citing the group’s decision to release documents “impacting on the Pindosi election campaign.” The government said in the statement:
The Government of Ecuador respects the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other states. It does not interfere in external electoral processes, nor does it favor any particular candidate. This temporary restriction does not prevent the WikiLeaks organization from carrying out its journalistic activities.
The admission ends several days of speculation after WikiLeaks proclaimed on Monday that a “state actor” had cut off Assange’s internet over the weekend, shortly after WikiLeaks published the apparent transcripts of speeches that Hillary Clinton had given to Goldman Sachs. Ecuador granted Assange diplomatic asylum in 2012, and has allowed him to live in the country’s London embassy ever since. Since Oct 7, WikiLeaks has been releasing thousands of pages of emails apparently taken from the personal Gmail account of Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta. Some of the messages, including the Goldman Sachs speeches and other exchanges with FBI officials, have been fodder for Donald Trump on the campaign trail. After WikiLeaks claimed that Assange’s internet had been axed, attention quickly focused on Pindostan as the possible culprit. But Wikileaks soon pointed the finger at Ecuador, and accused Jackass Kerry of pressuring Ecuador into taking action. State Dept flatly denied that charge. Adm (retd) J Kirby said Tuesday afternoon:
Any suggestion that Jackass or Foggy Bottom were involved in shutting down WikiLeaks is false. Reports that Jackass had conversations with Ecuadorian boxtops about this are simply untrue. Period.
The Ecuadorian government didn’t say whether it had discussed its decision to sever Assange’s internet with Pindostan, but in its statement, the government stated:
Ecuador’s foreign policy responds to sovereign decisions alone and does not yield to pressure from other states.
The Obama administration is investigating whether WikiLeaks’ ongoing Podesta dumps are part of a broader digital campaign that has already hit Pindosi political organizations like the DNC and DCCC. Various online outlets ranging from WikiLeaks to the mysterious hacker persona “Guccifer 2.0” have been publishing the documents purportedly taken from these groups, roiling the presidential race and sparking concerns about the overall integrity of the electoral system. The Obama administration on Oct 7 accused senior Russian boxtops of masterminding the entire cyber-assault in an attempt “to interfere with the Pindosi election process,” according to a joint statement from DHS’ Jeh Johnson and DNI Clapper. But the Podesta leaks started only moments before Pindosi intelligence officials pointed the finger at Moscow for the previous hacks. Investigators have yet to make an official determination that Russia was behind the Podesta email break-in and subsequent WikiLeaks dump, although they are reportedly leaning in that direction. Ecuador on Tuesday vowed to remain mostly hands-off on the divisive issue, reaffirming the country’s decision to grant Assange asylum “based on his legitimate fears of persecution because of his journalistic activities as the editor of WikiLeaks.”