The Civil Society Considerations of Cutting off Julian Assange’s Internet Access

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange / newsonline

October 18, 2016; The Guardian

WikiLeaks has announced that Julian Assange’s Internet access was cut off—or “temporarily restricted”—by the nation of Ecuador, which granted him asylum in 2012. WikiLeaks finds it a little suspicious that this happened right after the organization released emails from U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager. The transcripts reveal the campaign’s close ties with investment bank executives, which will certainly amplify criticisms from liberal Democrats and others that Clinton is a little too cozy with Wall Street.

It has now been confirmed that no political party within the United States, including the Democrats, were culpable in Assange being denied Wi-Fi access. Ecuador’s motivation for cutting off his Internet is still unknown, but the New York Times speculates, “It is possible that Ecuador feared that, because of its decision to give exile to Mr. Assange, it risked becoming a witting or unwitting participant in an effort at voter manipulation.”

Ecuador…said that its “temporary restriction” of Internet services to Mr. Assange “does not prevent the WikiLeaks organization from carrying out its journalistic activities.”

But it was clearly intended to keep the Ecuadorean Embassy from being the control center for that leaking operation.

“The Government of Ecuador respects the principle of nonintervention in the affairs of other countries,” it said, “and it does not interfere in the electoral processes in support of any candidate in particular.”

As a result, the statement continued, the government “has temporarily restricted access to part of its communications system in its embassy in the UK.”

On Tuesday, WikiLeaks sent another tweet out accusing Secretary of State John Kerry of pressuring Ecuador’s government to cut off Assange’s Internet access to prevent him from leaking any more documents from the Clinton campaign.

The Ecuadorian government informed the Press Association that, “We don’t respond to speculation circulating on Twitter. Ecuador will continue to protect Julian Assange and uphold the political asylum granted to him.” Julian Assange has been living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for over four years.—Aine Creedon

  • Paul Guba

    There are accusations that Assange’s internet has been cut off because he was in contact with a preteen regarding sex. The implications of election manipulation ought to be enough however. Willingly or not he is acting with at least Russian criminals but most likely their government. The actions go far beyond transparency of candidate and have much broader implications. The support of actions taken by the hackers with wikileaks opens the door to all sorts of privacy issues for all of us. I can no longer support wikileaks it is a criminal organization and needs to be treated as such.

  • ignoranceisnoexcuse

    Speaking purely on my own behalf, and not for any organization, public or private, I have little concern over the cessation of internet access for Mr. Assange. To begin with, he is a fugitive from justice in Sweden, where he is accused of rape. Running away from criminal charges does not make a strong case for membership in a civil society. More importantly, however, is the stated purpose for Ecuador’s cessation of access. There is strong evidence that the material presently being “dumped” by WikiLeaks was obtained by Russia via the hacking of private, personal computers. Note, these are not the private servers on which Secretary Clinton kept her State Department emails-these are the personal email accounts of members of her campaign staff. While I applaud the disclosure of illicit government programs, such as the NSA spying leak previously exposed by Assange’s group, I cannot condone, nor shoud NPQ, the breaching of private computers and/or servers. Further, it does appear to be one-sided in the U.S. presidential campaign, and Ecuador’s inference that it is an attempt to affect the election outcome, warrents the imposition of the limited remedy of cutting off internet access. It is reasonably tailored to curtail that specific activity, without restraining WikiLeak’s ability to communicate in other ways.