Escalation Of Security Presence At Ecuadorian Embassy Raises Concern After DOJ Jet Lingers In London
Elisabeth Lea Vos
23 March, 2019
This article is my own intellectual property.
In just a few days, it will have been a full year since WikiLeaks's Julian Assange was severed from contact with the outside world.
Amidst the approach to this disturbing anniversary, concerns were heightened after a United States Department of Justice jet previously used for the rendition of an accused Russian hacker landed in London on Tuesday and remained there for days, only to return to the US on Saturday. The flight reportedly departed initially from Manassas, Virginia.
WikiLeaks stated viaTwitter regarding the flight: “What is US Department of Justice jet "N996GA" doing in London? The jet arrived on Tuesday from DC and was last noted rendering alleged Russian hacker Yevgeniy Nikulin to the US last year from the Czech Republic, causing a diplomatic incident with Russia.”
Julian Assange's Twitter account, currently run by members of his legal team, also Tweeted: "Note that the Edward Snowden DoJ grab team plane N977GA also departed from Manassas, Virginia."
In response to the news, Christine Assange wrote via social media: “This is of urgent and real concern! Under cover of the 24/7 media frenzy on the NZ Mosque shootings. Is the US planning to snatch my son Julian from the London Ecuador Embassy they have been trying to force him from, for a CIA rendition flight?”
While the jet remained in London, WikiLeaks reported the statements of Assange's lawyers, who described an increase in the presence of plainclothes British police officers on the ground surrounding Ecuador's London embassy, saying:
“A build up of plain clothes ear-piece wearing operatives around the Ecuador embassy in London in the last two days has been sighted by Julian Assange's lawyers. There are normally 2-4 plainclothes British operatives present. The reason for the increase is not publicly known.”
The jet arrived in London on March 19th - the same day that Twitter imposed a restriction on the account of Christine Assange which would last for more than 24 hours, followed shortly afterward by the placement of an identical restriction on the Twitter account of Telesur English, a rare beacon of accurate reportage about Latin America for an English-speaking audience. The restriction, and the subsequent lifting of the measure, was never explained by the social media website.
A subsequent report by Consortium News noted that: "Ms. Assange told Consortium News by phone that she has had no contact with Twitter and still does not know why her account was restricted or precisely why it was restored. She was unable to post new Tweets or read anyone else’s while the restriction was in place. On Thursday, Telesur English, the Venezuelan state broadcaster’s English service, was hit with the same restrictions by Twitter as had affected Ms. Assange, who Tweeted a complaint about it."
That the voices of advocates and journalists who have consistently reported on Julian Assange would be censored in rapid succession is cause enough for concern. That these unexplained restrictions coincided with of the arrival of a US Department of Justice jet in London adds to a growing sense of urgency surrounding WikiLeaks and its arbitrarily confinedfounder.
Adding to the seriousness of the situation was the overall context in which it took place. At the time of the plane's arrival, Ecuador was set to hold mid-term elections that could see what Bloomberg called the "beginning of a comeback" for former President Raphael Correa. Under Correa, Ecuador extended vigorous support towards Assange. In contrast, under Lenin Moreno's leadership, Assange's asylum has been transformed into a state of torturous and near-solitary confinement.
In the United States, all eyes this week were fixed on the final chapter of the Mueller investigation coming to a close, and the establishment fall-out from the lack of indictments in Mueller's highly anticipated report.
Meanwhile, the UK's looming Brexit crisis raised the possibility that opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn might become Prime Minister. Corbyn's stance towards WikiLeaks and Assange has been substantially friendlier than that of current UK Prime Minister Theresa May.
Since 2010, the global power structure has made no secret of its animosity towards Assange and WikiLeaks. Trump's administration has likewise made its desire to capture and prosecute Assange well known. Chelsea Manning is again in solitary confinement due to her refusal to cooperate with a Grand Jury regarding Assange.
Though the jet in question departed from the UK earlier today, Met police have been photographed outside the Ecuadorian embassy in addition to the plainclothes police described earlier this week by Assange's lawyers.
In light of these latest developments, inevitable questions arise: were the US and UK essentially on standby to fast-track the extradition of Julian Assange within a shrinking window of opportunity, perhaps using the Temporary Surrender clauses that UK legislation contains, as was thought might also happen in Sweden? Were these plans scuttled after the flight, and the increased security presence at the Ecuadorian embassy, received worldwide attention?
This author will continue to report on this rapidly changing story as it develops.