In the past month major events, such as a high profile suicide, a potential eviction, and an attempted robbery have casted an uncertain future for WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange.
On Tuesday Ecuador's Foreign Minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa stated that the presence of the WikiLeaks founder at their London embassy had become both “untenable,” and unsustainable and announced they were seeking third-party mediation for his handover to British authorities.
“We are also considering and exploring the possibility of mediation. … It could be a third country or a personality," Espinosa told reporters in Quito, Ecuador during a previously scheduled annual news conference. “A person cannot live in these conditions forever.”
“We will continue to protect Julian Assange,” Espinosa later added in a tweet.
The UK government applauded the announcement, saying they look forward to the five-year standoff coming to an end.
"The Government of Ecuador knows that the way to resolve this issue is for Julian Assange to leave the embassy to face justice,” UK government officials stated, likely referencing the active warrant in Britain for Mr. Assange’s arrest.
The warrant stems from the allegation that Mr. Assange jumped bail in an extradition case related to charges of sexual assault in Sweden that have since been dropped.
In response, Mr. Assange’s legal team stated their continued belief that his detention is both unlawful and a violation of a ruling by the U.N. Commission on Human Rights.
"The UN ruling, issued almost two years ago, is crystal clear in its language, Mr. Assange is unlawfully and arbitrarily detained by the UK authorities and must be released,” the legal team responded.
The lawyers added that the UK should not permit itself to be intimidated by the Trump administration's public threats to "take down" Mr. Assange.
In December, the official Wikileaks Twitter account posted an example of what they believe to be part of CIA threats against their organization, citing a mysterious break-in at the Madrid office of their chief legal counsel, former Judge Baltasar Garzon.
According to security footage, masked assailants conducted what was described by local police as a "very professional" operation which included a failed attempt to copy information from their servers.
Regarding the incident, Mr. Garzon told Catalan daily newspaper El Periodico, “they have not taken what they have been looking for.”
An employee of the firm confirmed to police that an unsuccessful attempt had been made to copy information stored on their internal servers, and added that the only thing taken from the office was a Christmas ham.
On Tuesday evening following the announcement by the Ecuadorian government, Wikileaks tweeted about the reported suicides of two key developers of the encrypted whistleblower submission system used by the organization.
The tool, now called “SecureDrop”, was developed by a team of programmers, and facilitates highly secure communication between journalists and sources, and was utilized by Wikileaks in the transmission of the emails of both Hillary Clinton and her former campaign manager, John Podesta.
The two members of that original team who have since died are Aaron Swartz, who reportedly took his life in 2013 at age of 26, as pressure mounted in a federal investigation against him that many felt was overzealous.
The second was James Dolan, a former Marine, who reportedly took his own over the holidays.
In August of 2015, Mr. Dolan left the Freedom of the Press Foundation, who inherited ownership of SecureDrop after its creation, after he felt the project was in a place where it could survive without him. According to FPF, he had since been working on the security team at Classy, a crowdfunding site for non-profit organizations located in San Diego.
In a posting about his death FPF said:
“We don’t know why James took his own life; we do know, however, he long suffered from PTSD from his time serving in the Marines during the Iraq War. It was an experience that affected him in multiple ways. He often cited the Iraq War as his inspiration for wanting to help journalists and whistleblowers; it made him realize governments needed to be much more transparent and accountable.”
U.S. lawmakers and security officials, which include current-CIA director Mike Pompeo, have demanded that Julian Assange be extradited to stand trial on the charges of espionage.
During a speech in 2016, Director Pompeo designated WikiLeaks as “a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.”
Pompeo proclaimed that “we have to recognize that we can no longer allow Assange and his colleagues the latitude to use free speech values against us.”
He also argued that while WikiLeaks “pretended that America’s First Amendment freedoms shield them from justice,” but: “they may have believed that, but they are wrong.”