UK High Court: Extradition Removes CIA's 'Rationale' For Assassinating Assange

The British High Court of Justice refused to consider “fresh evidence” involving the CIA's alleged plans to kidnap or kill WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange

UK High Court: Extradition Removes CIA's 'Rationale' For Assassinating Assange

While recognizing that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had valid grounds to appeal extradition to the United States, the British High Court of Justice refused to consider “fresh evidence” involving the CIA.

On March 26, the High Court granted Assange a limited appeal but adjourned the decision so that the U.S. government could submit "assurances" related to the court's concerns.

The High Court astonishingly stated [PDF] that the “extreme measures” considered by the CIA were intended to keep Assange from fleeing to Russia. If he was “lawfully” in U.S. custody after extradition, there would no longer be a risk that the agency would kidnap or assassinate him. 

By drawing such a wild and erroneous conclusion, the High Court showed why they should have admitted the fresh evidence. Assange’s legal team could have helped the judges better understand the chain of alleged events, but the court justified the “serious” allegations in order to avoid proceedings that would negatively impact the United Kingdom's relationship with a close ally.

Assange’s attorneys had argued that extradition should be blocked because a Yahoo News report from September 2021 revealed that the CIA allegedly plotted to kidnap, poison, or kill Assange while he was living under diplomatic asylum in Ecuador’s London embassy. Allowing extradition would violate his right to life and right to be free from torture or cruel and inhuman treatment.

“Based on conversations with more than 30 former U.S. officials—eight of whom described details of the CIA’s proposals to abduct Assange,” Yahoo News revealed that CIA director Mike Pompeo had allegedly “championed” proposals to abduct Assange after WikiLeaks published the Vault 7 materials in 2017. 

Pompeo favored a rendition operation that would involve breaking into the Ecuador embassy to drag Assange out and bring him to the U.S. “via a third country.” “A less extreme version of the proposal involved U.S. operatives snatching Assange from the embassy and turning him over to British authorities,” according to Yahoo News.

The High Court contended that the allegations against the CIA were similar to evidence that was previously before District Judge Vanessa Baraitser when she reviewed the extradition request. And if Baraitser had known any of the details that were revealed, the court said that the district judge would not have ruled differently.

Extradition Can Save Assange From CIA Assassination

The High Court declared, “The original allegations were (by some margin) serious enough to bar extradition, if the alleged misconduct was in any way connected to the extradition proceedings. The judge’s critical finding however is that there was nothing to show that the conduct in relation to the Embassy was connected to the extradition proceedings. The new evidence does not change that.”

“On the face of the allegations (on the evidence before the judge and the fresh evidence), the contemplation of extreme measures against the applicant (whether poisoning for example or rendition) were a response to the fear that the applicant might flee to Russia.”

“The short answer to this, is that the rationale for such conduct is removed if the applicant is extradited. Extradition would result in [Assange] being lawfully in the custody of the United States authorities, and the reasons (if they can be called that) for rendition or kidnap or assassination then fall away,” the High Court of Justice added. 

It is hard to believe that any requesting state other than the United States would be allowed to extradite an individual if that state’s intelligence or security service was accused of plotting to kidnap or kill that person.

The High Court ignored the part of the Yahoo News report, where it described CIA discussions about putting Assange on a rendition flight that had stirred panic among U.S. Justice Department officials.

Prosecutors had not charged Assange, and they were afraid that if the WikiLeaks founder was abducted, he would arrive in the U.S. with no “legal basis” for a trial. So the Justice Department accelerated the drafting of charges, and a sealed indictment was filed by December 2017. 

Or, to put it more explicitly, the U.S. government reportedly sought Assange’s extradition because the CIA developed plans to kidnap or assassinate Assange. The extradition request was a response to state criminality.

Incorrectly Linking the CIA's 'Extreme Measures' To Assange's Plans To Leave The Embassy

A significant part of the Yahoo News report dealt with the “fear” shared by U.S. officials that Assange “might flee to Russia.” Yet the report never invoked this fear to justify the CIA’s illegal proposals, which is what the High Court did. 

“In late 2017, in the midst of the debate over kidnapping and other extreme measures, the agency’s plans were upended when U.S. officials picked up what they viewed as alarming reports that Russian intelligence operatives were preparing to sneak Assange out of the United Kingdom and spirit him away to Moscow,” according to the Yahoo News report.

“The intelligence reporting about a possible breakout was viewed as credible at the highest levels of the U.S. government,” the report declared. “At the time, Ecuadorian officials had begun efforts to grant Assange diplomatic status as part of a scheme to give him cover to leave the embassy and fly to Moscow to serve in the country’s Russian mission.”

Both the CIA and the White House developed “scenarios” that were right out of a Jack Ryan novel. Officials allegedly planned for “gun battles with Kremlin operatives on the streets of London, crashing a car into a Russian diplomatic vehicle transporting Assange and then grabbing him, and shooting out the tires of a Russian plane carrying Assange before it could take off for Moscow. (U.S. officials asked their British counterparts to do the shooting if gunfire was required, and the British agreed, according to a former senior administration official.)”

Importantly, the report did not claim that the CIA plotted to kidnap or kill Assange because officials were afraid that he would flee to Russia. In fact, it clearly stated that officials were already discussing “kidnapping and other extreme measures” when “intelligence” related to a “possible breakout” was obtained.

But the High Court’s misreading of the Yahoo News report did not end there. “Intelligence” showing Assange would flee to Russia was apparently obtained through a Spanish security company named UC Global that was engaged in a CIA-backed spying operation against Assange.

UC Global contractors learned that Assange would “receive a diplomatic passport from Ecuadorian authorities, with the aim of leaving the embassy to transit to a third state.” María Fernanda Espinosa, who was Ecuador’s foreign minister, attempted to assign Assange to Ecuador’s Moscow embassy

However, according to Yahoo News, Assange was never asked if he wanted to go to Russia and he refused the “assignment.” 

“Aitor Martínez, a Spanish lawyer for Assange who worked closely with Ecuador on getting Assange his diplomat status,” told Yahoo News that “the Ecuadorian foreign minister presented the Russia assignment to Assange as [if he had no choice]—and that Assange, when he heard about it, immediately rejected the idea.”

A couple of months after the Yahoo News report was published, Martínez said to MintPress News that U.S. intelligence agencies had pressured UC Global to link Assange with Russia.

“UC Global drafted exaggerated and faked reports for the Americans,” Martinez stated. “[A UC Global whistleblower] claimed before a court that they had drafted exaggerated reports just to feed the Americans with information and to show that UC Global is very important for them at the embassy. If you check UC Global reports, it’s very funny; they make up everything.”

Assange considered obtaining a diplomatic passport that would allow him to escape to Bolivia, China, Cuba, Serbia, or Venezuela.

“Of course, they were the countries that don’t have good relations with the U.S. and could accept the appointment. Russia was never, ever on that list. There was a huge conspiracy theory in the U.S. with Russiagate; it didn’t make sense,” Martinez told MintPress News.

As noted in the Yahoo News report, U.S. government officials were unable to find evidence that WikiLeaks was working at the behest of the Russian government. That led the CIA to “reframe” the media organization as a “hostile intelligence service” so that it could still target Assange and anyone associated with WikiLeaks. 

Excusing CIA Plans To Kill A Journalist

Unfortunately, this was not the first time that a British court twisted itself to dismiss evidence involving state criminality. District Judge Vanessa Baraitser rejected the well-founded argument that Assange has been subjected to a “politically motivated prosecution” by pointing to the “perception” among U.S. officials that Assange “remained a risk to their national security.” 

Baraitser referred to a CNN report from July 15, 2019, that relied on UC Global security reports that Martínez said were exaggerated and faked. CNN accused Assange of turning Ecuador’s London embassy into a “command post for election meddling.” 

“Despite being confined to the embassy while seeking safe passage to Ecuador, Assange met with Russians and world-class hackers at critical moments, frequently for hours at a time, the report claimed, with scant evidence. “He also acquired powerful new computing and network hardware to facilitate data transfers just weeks before WikiLeaks received hacked materials from Russian operatives.”

The media malpractice was amplified by CNN’s unproven assertion that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation had "cataloged how WikiLeaks helped the Russians undermine the U.S. election.” In fact, Mueller lacked evidence to charge Assange and other WikiLeaks associates with crimes for publishing truthful information about Hillary Clinton’s Democratic presidential campaign. 

Following the release of High Court’s appeal decision, Stella Assange said the court would not admit evidence that the CIA plotted to kill her husband because “if it acknowledges that, then of course, he can’t be sent to the United States.” 

What the High Court did may be more sinister. A court that supposedly is part of the rules-based order concluded that the allegations were serious but do not matter. In the court's opinion, if U.S. intelligence or government officials plot to kill a journalist, who may try to escape persecution, it may be acceptable if that journalist is planning to flee to a country that has been designated a U.S. adversary.