Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, has been arrested by the Metropolitan Police after being expelled from the Ecuadorean Embassy, where he has been hiding as a fugitive for seven years.
He is currently being held at a central London police station, before being presented before Westminster Magistrates’ Court “as soon as is possible”.
Ecuador’s president Lenin Moreno said Assange had been “discourteous and aggressive” during his stay and added that he had broken multiple conditions of his asylum.
He said: “He particularly violated the norm of not intervening in the internal affairs of other states.
The most recent incident occurred in January 2019, when WikiLeaks leaked Vatican documents. Key members of that organisation visited Mr Assange before and after such illegal acts.”
He also claimed Assange had installed “distortion equipment” in the embassy, and that he had “mistreated guards”.
The 47-year-old Wikileaks founder was wanted by the UK police for breaching his bail conditions, after a saga that began in November 2010, when Sweden issued an international arrest warrant for Assange, after authorities in the country questioned him over allegations of sexual assault and rape, which he denied.
He claimed he would be extradited from Sweden to the US because of his role in publishing hundreds of thousands of US diplomatic cables.
The hacker surrendered to British police in 2012 and was released on bail within 10 days, but breached his bail conditions after an unsuccessful appeal against extradition to Sweden. He was then granted asylum by Ecuador and allowed to remain in the embassy. (Instablog)
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The South American country is looking for a third country to mediate in the case of WikiLeaks founder Mr Assange, who has sought refuge in Knightsbridge for more than five years.
Foreign minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa told media on Tuesday that notable asylum cases in recent years have sometimes required mediation by a third party.
She called the current situation “not sustainable”.
Mr Assange has been at the embassy since June 2012 to avoid being extradited to Sweden to face accusations of alleged rape.
While Sweden has temporarily dropped that investigation, British officials say they would still arrest him on charges of bail jumping.
Mr Assange also fears a possible US extradition request stemming from the leaking of classified US documents.
Ecuador’s Ms Espinosa said: “No solution will be achieved without international cooperation and the cooperation of the United Kingdom, which has also shown interest in seeking a way out.”
Last year, Ecuador’s president Lenin Moreno warned Australian-born Mr Assange, 46, against making controversial political statements after he spoke out in support of the pro-independence movement in Catalonia. (Evening Standard)
WASHINGTON, March 8 (Reuters) – CIA contractors likely breached security and handed over documents about the agency’s use of hacking tools to anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials told Reuters on Wednesday.
Two officials speaking on condition of anonymity said intelligence agencies have been aware since the end of last year of the breach, which led to WikiLeaks releasing thousands of pages on Tuesday.
According to the documents, Central Intelligence Agency hackers could get into Apple Inc iPhones, devices running Google’s Android software and other gadgets in order to capture text and voice messages before they were encrypted with sophisticated software.
The White House said on Wednesday that President Donald Trump was “extremely concerned” about the CIA security breach that led to the WikiLeaks release.
“Anybody who leaks classified information will be held to the highest degree of law,” spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters.
The two officials told Reuters they believed the published documents about CIA hacking techniques used between 2013 and 2016 were authentic.
One of the officials with knowledge of the investigation said companies that are contractors for the CIA have been checking to see which of their employees had access to the material that WikiLeaks published, and then going over their computer logs, emails and other communications for any evidence of who might be responsible.
On Tuesday in a press release, WikiLeaks itself said the CIA had “lost control” of an archive of hacking methods and it appeared to have been circulated “among former U.S. government hackers and contractors in an unauthorized manner, one of whom has provided WikiLeaks with portions of the archive.”
A U.S. government source familiar with the matter said it would be normal for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the CIA both to open investigations into such leaks. U.S. officials previously have confirmed that prosecutors in Alexandria, Virginia for years have been conducting a federal grand jury investigation of WikiLeaks and its personnel.
A spokesman for the prosecutors declined to comment on the possibility of that probe being expanded. It is not clear if the investigation of the latest CIA leaks is part of the probe.
Some cyber security experts and technology companies have criticized the government for opting to exploit rather than disclose software vulnerabilities, though an interagency review process set up under former President Barack Obama was intended to err on the side of disclosure.
Those concerns would grow if U.S. authorities did not notify companies that CIA documents describing various hacking techniques had been compromised.
Apple, Alphabet Inc’s Google, Cisco Systems Inc and Oracle Corp did not immediately respond when asked if they were notified of a CIA breach before WikiLeaks made its files public.
At Apple, none of the vulnerabilities described in the documents provoked a panic, though analysis was continuing, according to a person who spoke with engineers there.
LARGER NUMBER OF CONTRACTORS
One reason the investigation is focused on a potential leak by contractors rather than for example a hack by Russian intelligence, another official said, is that so far there is no evidence that Russian intelligence agencies tried to exploit any of the leaked material before it was published.
One European official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the WikiLeaks material could in fact lead to closer cooperation between European intelligence agencies and U.S. counterparts, which share concerns about Russian intelligence operations.
U.S. intelligence agencies have accused Russia of seeking to tilt last year’s U.S. presidential election in Trump’s favor, including by hacking into Democratic Party emails. Moscow has denied the allegation.
One major security problem was that the number of contractors with access to information with the highest secrecy classification has “exploded” because of federal budget constraints, the first U.S. official said.
U.S. intelligence agencies have been unable to hire additional permanent staff needed to keep pace with technological advances such as the “internet of things” that connects cars, home security and heating systems and other devices to computer networks, or to pay salaries competitive with the private sector, the official said.
Reuters could not immediately verify the contents of the published documents. On Tuesday, several contractors and private cyber security experts said the materials appeared to be legitimate.
A person familiar with WikiLeaks’ activities said the group has had the CIA hacking material for months, and that the release of the material was in the works “for a long time.”
Both U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives intelligence committees have either opened or are expected to open inquiries into the CIA breach, congressional officials said.
In Germany on Wednesday, the chief federal prosecutor’s office said that it would review the WikiLeaks documents because some suggested that the CIA ran a hacking hub from the U.S. consulate in Frankfurt.
“We will initiate an investigation if we see evidence of concrete criminal acts or specific perpetrators,” a spokesman for the federal prosecutor’s office told Reuters.
Chancellor Angela Merkel is scheduled to visit Washington on March 14 for her first meeting with Trump, who has sharply criticized Berlin for everything from its trade policy to what he considers inadequate levels of military spending.
The WikiLeaks documents may also complicate intelligence ties that have just begun to recover after a series of scandals, including news in 2013 that the U.S. National Security Agency had bugged Merkel’s cellphone. The Frankfurt consulate was investigated by German lawmakers after that incident.
Merkel told lawmakers last month she did not know how closely Germany’s spies cooperated with their U.S. counterparts until 2015 when former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed the BND spy agency had for years passed on information to the NSA about European companies and politicians.
Germany reduced the level of cooperation with the NSA after those revelations.
U.S. officials have acknowledged that the consulate in Frankfurt is home to a CIA base. A facility adjacent to the city’s airport and the Rhein-Main Air Base has for many years been home to the CIA’s “Tefran” station, a U.S. center for collecting intelligence on Iranian activities in Europe, maintaining surveillance on Iranian officials and targeting potential defectors working in Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
Foreign ministry spokesman Sebastian Fischer told a regular government news conference that Germany took the issue seriously, but more work needed to be done to verify the authenticity of the documents. Berlin was in close touch with Washington about the case and such matters generally, he said.
Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said Germany’s domestic intelligence agency had the job of uncovering espionage activities in Germany, and carried out its work comprehensively.
WikiLeaks reported that CIA employees had been given diplomatic passports and State Department identities to carry out their work in Frankfurt, focused on targets in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The documents included advice for CIA experts about life in Germany, noting that shops are closed on Sundays, and to have “your cover-for-action story down pat” when they were asked by German authorities when entering the country. (REUTERS)
Corrections & Clarifications: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified to whom Edward Snowden released classified government information in 2013. Snowden gave the documents to multiple media outlets.
The crusading website WikiLeaks published thousands of documents Tuesday it says detail CIA tools for hacking into web servers, computers, smartphones and even TVs that can be turned into covert microphones.
The website claims the CIA Center for Cyber Intelligence “lost control of the majority of its hacking arsenal,” more than several hundred million lines of code that provide “the entire hacking capacity of the CIA.”
Jake Williams, a security expert with the Georgia-based security firm Rendition Infosec, said the information will be used within days or weeks by hackers and the security firms that combat them.
“My first thought was ‘Wow!’ quickly followed by the realization that this is a treasure trove of information,” he said. “We are regularly dealing with corporations being attacked by nation-state hacking groups. This gives us a lot of insight into how they do it.”
White House spokesman Sean Spicer, questioned at a press briefing, declined to comment on the release.
“These (leaks) appear to be very, very serious,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., told reporters at a briefing. “We are extremely concerned, and we are following it closely.” The documents indicate developers created programs in homage to popular culture, such as an implant for computers running Microsoft Windows dubbed “RickyBobby” after the Will Ferrell character in the 2006 film Talladega Nights. A trojan spread via thumb drives was named Fight Club, a reference to the 1996 novel and 1999 movie with Brad Pitt. A smart TV project was called Weeping Angel — recurring villains in the Doctor Who series who only move when no one is watching.
The CIA issued a statement declining comment on the “purported” documents. USA TODAY has not yet been able to confirm the authenticity of the documents nor seen anything in them thus far to indicate the tools were used in the U.S. – or at all.
Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., called for a congressional investigation in to the details contained in the files. “The potential privacy concerns are mind-boggling,” said Lieu, who has a degree in computer science. “We need to know if the CIA lost control of its hacking tools, who may have those tools, and how do we now protect the privacy of Americans.”
WikiLeaks says the archive appears to have been circulated among former government hackers and contractors, one of whom provided WikiLeaks with portions of it. The website says the CIA hacking division involved “more than 5,000 registered users and had produced more than a thousand hacking systems, trojans, viruses, and other ‘weaponized’ malware.”
“Such is the scale of the CIA’s undertaking that by 2016, its hackers had utilized more code than that used to run Facebook,” WikiLeaks claims. “The CIA had created, in effect, its ‘own NSA’ with even less accountability and without publicly answering the question as to whether such a massive budgetary spend on duplicating the capacities of a rival agency could be justified.”
The source of the information, which WikiLeaks did not name, hopes the document dump will initiate “a public debate about the security, creation, use, proliferation and democratic control of cyberweapons,” the website says.
According to WikiLeaks, Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android, Microsoft’s Windows and Samsung smart TVs were among CIA targets. The TVs can be placed in a “fake off” mode, so the owner falsely believes the TV is off when it is on, the documents say. “In ‘fake off’ mode the TV operates as a bug, recording conversations in the room and sending them over the Internet to a covert CIA server,” WikiLeaks says.
The notes indicate one of the developers’ major challenges was maintaining an internet connection for long periods of time after the TVs were shut off by owners. There are notes indicating the teams hoped to extend that recording-and-sending time period to last as long as 24 to 72 hours.
At the other end of the technological spectrum, a project appropriately named Pterodactyl set as its goal giving agents a tool to “rapidly copy 3.5 inch floppy disks in a covert manner.” The project appeared to be aimed at a small, easily-concealable device that someone could carry into a space, copy many disks at once and leave with the captured data without the target knowing the disks had been copied.
Microsoft, Google and WhatsApp were among tech firms saying they were looking into the WikiLeaks report. Scott Vernick, a partner with the data security law firm of Fox Rothschild in Philadelphia, said the documents raise the question of whether the CIA shared its tools with the FBI for use in domestic investigations.
Nathan White, senior legislative manager at the nonprofit advocacy group Access Now, said the documents show the need for limits on government hacking and protection of human rights.
“Our digital security has been compromised because the CIA has been stockpiling vulnerabilities rather than working with companies to patch them,” White said.
Wikileaks released thousands of hacked Democratic National Committee emails ahead of last year’s presidential election, in a cyber attack the U.S. intelligence community concluded was carried out by Russia in an attempt to interfere in the race. Wikileaks has denied getting the emails from Russia, which also refuted any involvement in the hacking.
Edward Snowden, who was granted asylum in Russia after his own release of classified government documents to multiple media outlets in 2013, tweeted the documents show the government developed vulnerabilities in U.S. products and left them there. “Reckless beyond words,” Snowden added.
Timothy Carone, a Notre Dame professor who specializes in data science, says the release reinforces the idea that all information in our lives can be acquired and leveraged in ways most people don’t even think about.
“Probably the most disturbing part of the story was that this information was being shared between former U.S. government hackers and contractors with no oversights and no authorization,” he said.
WikiLeaks has conducted a global crusade to expose government secrets through a series of controversial and sometimes embarrassing document dumps in recent years. Chelsea Manning, who leaked hundreds of thousands of classified documents through the WikiLeaks website, is scheduled for release in May after more than six years in prison.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he has been accused of sexual assault, and the United States, where he fears possible espionage charges.
Contributing: Nick Penzenstadler, Elizabeth Weise, Brad Heath and John Kelly
WikiLeaks published thousands of documents Tuesday it described as the CIA’s hacking arsenal in what the website called the “largest ever publication of confidential documents on the agency.”
Wikileaks said the document dump from the CIA Center for Cyber Intelligence represents a new series of leaks it had code-named “Vault 7.” The website says the CIA “lost control of the majority of its hacking arsenal,” more than several hundred million lines of code, providing “the entire hacking capacity of the CIA.”
Wikileaks says the archive appears to have been circulated among former government hackers and contractors, one of whom has provided WikiLeaks with portions of the archive.The covert hacking program taps into Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows and even Samsung TVs, which can be turned into covert microphones, the website says.
“By the end of 2016, the CIA’s hacking division, which formally falls under the agency’s Center for Cyber Intelligence had over 5000 registered users and had produced more than a thousand hacking systems, trojans, viruses, and other “weaponized” malware,” Wikileaks said in a statement on its website. “Such is the scale of the CIA’s undertaking that by 2016, its hackers had utilized more code than that used to run Facebook.
“The CIA had created, in effect, its ‘own NSA’ with even less accountability and without publicly answering the question as to whether such a massive budgetary spend on duplicating the capacities of a rival agency could be justified.”
The CIA did not immediately return a call for comment from USA TODAY.
Wikileaks has conducted a global crusade to expose government secrets through a series of controversial document dumps in recent years. One led to the imprisonment of Chelsea Manning, who has spent six years behind bars or leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents through the WikiLeaks website.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he has been accused of sexual assault, and the United States, where he fears possible espionage charges. (USA Today)
WikiLeaks also blasted the president for declining to release his tax returns himself.
“Trump’s breach of promise over the release of his tax returns is even more gratuitous than [Hillary] Clinton concealing her Goldman Sachs transcripts,” the organization tweeted.
Kellyanne Conway, on Sunday said the president would not release his tax returns.
“We litigated this all through the election. People didn’t care,” Conway, a top Trump adviser, said on ABC’s “This Week.”
“They voted for him, and let me make this very clear: most Americans are – are very focused on what their tax returns will look like while President Trump is in office, not what his look like.”
A White House petition calling for the president to release his tax returns has received more than 100,000 signatures, the number it needs to warrant a response from the administration.
The petition was created Friday, shortly after Trump took the oath of office. It pushes the White House to “immediately release Donald Trump’s full tax returns, with all information needed to verify emoluments clause compliance.” (The Hill)
WASHINGTON — President Obama on Tuesday largely commuted the remaining prison sentence of Chelsea Manning, the army intelligence analyst convicted of an enormous 2010 leak that revealed American military and diplomatic activities across the world, disrupted the administration and made WikiLeaks, the recipient of those disclosures, famous.
The decision by Mr. Obama rescued Ms. Manning, who twice tried to kill herself last year, from an uncertain future as a transgender woman incarcerated at the men’s military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. She has been jailed for nearly seven years, and her 35-year sentence was by far the longest punishment ever imposed in the United States for a leak conviction.
The act of clemency could be seen as a reversal, at least in part, of the Obama administration’s unprecedented criminal crackdown on leaking: The administration has brought charges in about nine cases, about twice as many as under all previous presidents combined.
At the same time that Mr. Obama commuted the sentence of Ms. Manning, a low-ranking enlisted soldier at the time of her leaks, he also granted a pardon to Gen. James E. Cartwright, the former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and one of the highest-ranking officials ensnared in the leak crackdown.
General Cartwright had pleaded guilty to lying about his conversations with reporters when questioned by F.B.I. agents in an investigation into leaks of classified information about cyberattacks on Iran’s nuclear program.
In addition, Mr. Obama commuted the sentence of Oscar López Rivera, who was part of a Puerto Rican nationalist group that carried out a string of bombings in the late 1970s and early 1980s; the other members of that group had long since been freed. Mr. Obama also granted 63 other pardons and 207 other commutations — mostly of drug offenders.
Over the years, presidents have granted pardons and commutations to almost 30,000 criminals. A pardon will completely forgive a person accused of a crime, and it will not appear on their record. Commuting one’s sentence cuts the sentence shorter but the original conviction is not wiped clean.
After being in jail for close to seven years, President Obama has commuted Chelsea Manning’s sentence and she will be released May 17, 2017 instead of her scheduled 2045 release. Manning was convicted of stealing and disseminating 750,000 pages of documents and videos to WikiLeaks. We take a look at some other high-profile pardons and commutations made by presidents over the years.
Under the terms of Mr. Obama’s commutation announced by the White House on Tuesday, Ms. Manning is set to be freed on May 17 of this year rather than in 2045. A senior administration official said the 120-day delay was part of a standard transition period for commutations to time served, and was designed to allow for such steps as finding a place to live after her release.
The commutation also relieved the Department of Defense of the difficult responsibility of Ms. Manning’s incarceration as she pushes for treatment for her gender dysphoria — including sex reassignment surgery — that the military has no experience providing.
In recent days, the White House had signaled that Mr. Obama was seriously considering granting Ms. Manning’s commutation application, in contrast to a pardon application submitted on behalf of the other large-scale leaker of the era, Edward J. Snowden, the former intelligence contractor who disclosed archives of top-secret surveillance files and is living as a fugitive in Russia.
Asked about the two clemency applications on Friday, the White House spokesman, Josh Earnest, discussed the “pretty stark difference” between Ms. Manning’s case for mercy and Mr. Snowden’s. While their offenses were similar, he said, there were “some important differences.”
“Chelsea Manning is somebody who went through the military criminal justice process, was exposed to due process, was found guilty, was sentenced for her crimes, and she acknowledged wrongdoing,” he said. “Mr. Snowden fled into the arms of an adversary and has sought refuge in a country that most recently made a concerted effort to undermine confidence in our democracy.”
He also noted that while the documents Ms. Manning provided to WikiLeaks were “damaging to national security,” the ones Mr. Snowden disclosed were “far more serious and far more dangerous.” (None of the documents Ms. Manning disclosed were classified above the merely “secret” level.)
Ms. Manning was still known as Bradley Manning when she deployed with her unit to Iraq in late 2009. There, she worked as a low-level intelligence analyst helping her unit assess insurgent activity in the area it was patrolling, a role that gave her access to a classified computer network.
She copied hundreds of thousands of military incident logs from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, which, among other things, exposed abuses of detainees by Iraqi military officers working with American forces and showed that civilian deaths in the Iraq war were probably much higher than official estimates.
The files she copied also included about 250,000 diplomatic cables from American embassies around the world showing sensitive deals and conversations, dossiers detailing intelligence assessments of Guantánamo detainees held without trial, and a video of an American helicopter attack in Baghdad in which two Reuters journalists were killed, among others.
She decided to make all these files public, as she wrote at the time, in the hope that they would incite “worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms.” WikiLeaks disclosed them — working with traditional news organizations including The New York Times — bringing notoriety to the group and its founder, Julian Assange.
The disclosures set off a frantic scramble as Obama administration officials sought to minimize any potential harm, including getting to safety some foreigners in dangerous countries who were identified as having helped American troops or diplomats. Prosecutors, however, presented no evidence that anyone was killed because of the leaks.
At her court-martial, Ms. Manning confessed in detail to her actions and apologized, saying she had not intended to put anyone at risk and noting that she had been “dealing with a lot of issues” at the time she made her decision.
Testimony at the trial showed that she had been in a mental and emotional crisis as she came to grips, amid the stress of a war zone, with the fact that she was not merely gay but had gender dysphoria. She had been behaving erratically, including angry outbursts and lapsing into catatonia midsentence. At one point she had emailed a photograph of herself in a woman’s wig to her supervisor.
Prosecutors said that because the secret material was made available for publication on the internet, anyone — including Al Qaeda — could read it. And they accused Ms. Manning of treason, charging her with multiple counts of the Espionage Act as well as with “aiding the enemy,” a potential capital offense, although they said they would not seek her execution.
Ms. Manning confessed and pleaded guilty to a lesser version of those charges without any deal to cap her sentence. But prosecutors pressed forward with a trial and won convictions on the more serious versions of those charges; a military judge acquitted her of “aiding the enemy.”
In her commutation application, Ms. Manning said she had not imagined that she would be sentenced to the “extreme” term of 35 years, a term for which there was “no historical precedent.” (There have been only a handful of leak cases, and most sentence are in the range of one to three years.)
“I take full and complete responsibility for my decision to disclose these materials to the public,” she wrote. “I have never made any excuses for what I did. I pleaded guilty without the protection of a plea agreement because I believed the military justice system would understand my motivation for the disclosure and sentence me fairly. I was wrong.”
After her sentencing, Ms. Manning announced that she was transgender and changed her name to Chelsea.
The military, under pressure from a lawsuit filed on her behalf by Chase Strangio of the American Civil Liberties Union, has permitted her to partly transition to life as a woman, including giving her cross-sex hormones and letting her wear women’s undergarments and light cosmetics.
But it has not let her grow her hair longer than male military standards, citing security risks, and Ms. Manning said she had yet to be permitted to see a surgeon about the possibility of sex reassignment surgery.
Until recently the military discharged transgender soldiers. In June, Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter changed that policy and said the military would instead provide treatment for them, eventually including such surgery if doctors said it was necessary.
But President-elect Donald J. Trump mocked that change as excessively “politically correct,” raising the possibility that he will rescind it.
Even if he does, Ms. Manning will soon no longer be subject to the military’s control.