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Julian Assange

A wild CIA assassination plan

Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

In 2017 senior CIA officials considered some outlandish plots to assassinate or kidnap Julian Assange in central London. “Nothing’s off limits,” CIA boss Mike Pompeo is alleged to have told agents. “Don’t self-censor.” The Australian Wikileaks founder had been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in Knightsbridge for five years, trying to avoid rape charges in Sweden that were later dropped, reports Yahoo! News. A former intelligence official says that when Wikileaks began publishing a tranche of CIA hacking tools, Pompeo wanted “to break into the embassy and drag [Assange] out”.

The British were having none of it. But the Americans weren’t alone: the Russians also wanted to extract Assange and offer him sanctuary. So the streets around the embassy were teeming with spies. “It was beyond comical,” said a former US official. “Every human being in a three-block radius was working for one of the intelligence services, whether they were street sweepers or police officers.”

The CIA’s plans for thwarting Russia’s attempts to extract Assange – in a laundry basket, it was thought – ranged from a fistfight or gunfight to a car crash. Should the 50-year-old have made it to a plane, agents were going to shoot out its tires or hover over it in a helicopter. Trump was even said to have considered assassinating Assange via “kinetic options” or poisoning.

In the end, legal avenues prevailed over covert action. In 2019 Ecuador’s new government evicted Assange, and he was arrested by British police and sent to Belmarsh prison. The US is now trying to extradite him.

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