Updated at 7:37 p.m.
We now have an answer: In a statement Tuesday evening, the Ecuadorian government acknowledged it had severed Julian Assange’s internet connection, citing its “sovereign right to temporarily restrict access to some of its private communication networks within its Embassy in the United Kingdom. It’s full statement:
BREAKING: Ecuador admits it cut off Assange's internet due to his use of it to interfere in the U.S. election. pic.twitter.com/VNJ6sdHhHj— Eric Geller (@ericgeller) October 18, 2016
Our original post:
On Monday, my colleague J. Weston Phippen reported on the accusation by WikiLeaks that the government of Ecuador was behind Julian Assange’s internet connection being cut. Assange, who founded WikiLeaks, has been holed up in Ecuador’s London Embassy since 2012, and the internet is one of the few means of communication he has with the outside world.
So, did Ecuador do it?
In a statement Tuesday reacting to those claims, the government simply said it stood by its decision to grant Assange refuge.
In view of recent speculations, the Government of Ecuador reaffirms the validity of the asylum granted four years ago to Julian Assange. We also ratify that the protection given by the Ecuadorian State will continue while the circumstances that led to the granting of asylum remain.
But WikiLeaks, which has released emails, presumably hacked, belonging to John Podesta, the campaign chair for Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, had more to say Tuesday:
BREAKING: Multiple US sources tell us John Kerry asked Ecuador to stop Assange from publishing Clinton docs during FARC peace negotiations.— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) October 18, 2016
The John Kerry private meeting with Ecuador was made on the sidelines of the negotiations which took place pricipally on Sep 26 in Colombia.— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) October 18, 2016
The U.S. State Department released an unusually strong rebuttal to that claim:
NEW: State Department says reports that Sec. John Kerry was "involved in shutting down Wikileaks...are simply untrue. Period.” pic.twitter.com/ohXkDJBPsu— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) October 18, 2016
WikiLeaks and its supporters say the business with Assange’s internet connection is curious as it coincides with the group’s release of Podesta’s emails, which many critics of Clinton say are damaging to her. Clinton’s office has said the leaks are the result of state-sponsored Russian hackers trying to interfere with the U.S. election. As my colleague David Graham reported about the emails: “They capture a candidate, and a campaign, that seems in private exactly as cautious, calculating, and politically flexible as they appeared to be in public.”
And here’s the background to the Assange case from my previous reporting on the WikiLeaks founder:
Assange was arrested in 2010 under a European Arrest Warrant issued by Sweden over claims of sexual assault—claims he denies. But in 2012, while on bail, he sought asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London so he could avoid extradition. Last year, Swedish authorities dropped two cases of sexual assault against him, though the allegation of rape still stands—and it’s in connection with that case the Swedish prosecutor wants to question him. Assange says he fears that if he’s sent to Sweden he’d be extradited to the U.S., whose secret diplomatic cables were published by Wikileaks. The U.S. says there’s no sealed indictment against Assange.
As to the question of who cut Assange’s internet connection, suffice it to say there likely will be more claims and counterclaims in the coming days.