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The CIA pitched Trump officials plans to assassinate Julian Assange while he was hiding in a London embassy in 2017, report says

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assange
Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, at the Embassy of Ecuador in London. AP

The CIA in 2017 pitched senior Trump administration officials plans to kidnap or assassinate the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who was holed up in a London embassy, a Yahoo News investigation found.

The report, which Yahoo News said was based on interviews with more than 30 former US officials, said the CIA was enraged by WikiLeaks' publication in 2017 of thousands of documents detailing the agency's hacking and covert surveillance techniques, known as the Vault 7 leak.

The Yahoo News report said senior officials inquired about "options" for what to do about Assange, including the feasibility of assassinating or kidnapping him.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo - who later became secretary of state - was determined to take revenge on Assange after the leak, Yahoo News reported.

In 2017, Pompeo designated WikiLeaks a "non-state hostile intelligence service," meaning it could be targeted with the same aggressive actions used against foreign states' intelligence agencies.

A former senior counterintelligence official told Yahoo News that "there seemed to be no boundaries" during discussions with the Trump administration about Assange in 2017.

Pompeo and other senior officials "were completely detached from reality because they were so embarrassed about Vault 7," a former national security official told the publication. "They were seeing blood."

Yahoo News said it could not confirm whether the discussions were escalated to the Trump White House. The CIA and Pompeo did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

In 2017, Assange was living in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. He had been taking refuge there since 2012, after Swedish prosecutors opened an investigation into him following allegations of rape and molestation.

Assange had claimed that if he were extradited to Sweden for questioning, he would be sent to the US, where he said he would face persecution. Assange had been charged in the US with offenses related to WikiLeaks' publication of thousands of confidential US diplomatic cables.

Yahoo News reported that US officials picked up intelligence suggesting that Russia was planning to smuggle Assange out of the UK to Moscow, prompting a search for ways to ensure that he wouldn't escape.

Among the possible scenarios to prevent a getaway were engaging in a gun battle with Russian agents on the streets of London and ramming the car that Assange would be smuggled in, former officials told Yahoo News.

Ultimately, assassination plans were dropped because of legal concerns at the highest levels of the Trump administration, Yahoo News reported. The report also described concerns that a kidnapping would derail US attempts to prosecute Assange.

UK authorities arrested Assange in April 2019 after Ecuador withdrew its asylum protections. He is being held in the Belmarsh prison in London, as a UK judge in January refused the US's request for his extradition.

"As an American citizen, I find it absolutely outrageous that our government would be contemplating kidnapping or assassinating somebody without any judicial process simply because he had published truthful information," Barry Pollack, Assange's lawyer in the US, told Yahoo News.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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