Assange founds WikiLeaks, an international not-for-profit organization, with the launch of their website wikileaks.org. The mission of the organization is to to bring news to the public, by allowing anonymous sources to leak information in a safe and secure way to journalists. The website is run out of Sweden, due to their strong laws protecting a person’s anonymity.
Gibney releases documentary about the creation of Assange’s controversial website.
I thought it was an incredible David and Goliath story in the age of the internet… I initially thought it was a story about a fascinating new technology, this idea of the leaking machine. So that’s what originally motivated me. My reasons for doing the film changed as I learned more about the story.
Assange writes in When Google Met Wikileaks that he met Schmidt while under house arrest in in mid-May 2011 in Norfolk. Schmidt had requested the meeting. He says Schmidt and Cohen, the head of Google Ideas and a former State Department official (government bio here), were writing a book and wanted an interview. Schmidt, his (then) partner Shields, Cohen, and book editor Malcomson, who would later join the State Department as a speechwriter, turned up at their mid-June appointment:
At this point, the delegation was one part Google, three parts U.S. foreign-policy establishment, but I was still none the wiser.
They talk about geopolitics and Schmidt refuses a request to leak to WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks later attempts to contact the State Department to give a heads-up on the early publication of the group’s book. They are eventually contacted by Shields. Assange:
It was at this point that I realized Eric Schmidt might not have been an emissary of Google alone. Whether officially or not, he had been keeping some company that placed him very close to Washington, D.C., including a well-documented relationship with President Obama. Not only had Hillary Clinton’s people known that Eric Schmidt’s partner had visited me, but they had also elected to use her as a back channel.
Just days after Wikileaks makes documents public showing that the United States had spied on past French leaders, and President Hollande, Le Monde publishes an open letter from Assange, requesting the President grant him French asylum:
My life is in danger, France is the only country that can offer me the necessary protection against … the political persecutions I face.
Less than an hour after the letter is published, Hollande’s office issues an official statement saying that Assange’s asylum request has been denied, because Assange’s predicament “presents no immediate danger.” Assange remains in Ecuador’s London embassy.
Swedish prosecutors will drop their investigation into sexual assault allegations against Assange because of the statutes of limitation on that charge have expired due to investigators not being able to interview Assange. Prosecutors had until 13 August to question Assange about one accusation of sexual molestation and one of unlawful coercion, while the time limit on a further allegation of sexual molestation runs out on 18 August. The more serious allegation of rape is not due to expire until 2020. Assange’s lawyers:
Our position is that the investigation should have been shut down earlier because there wasn’t enough evidence to keep it going. It’s regrettable that it’s gone on for this long. We are convinced that as soon as he has the opportunity to give his version of the circumstances [of the alleged rape], there’ll be no need to continue the investigation.
Assange claims it has become too dangerous to even poke his head out the Ecuadorean embassy’s balcony doors.
There are security issues with being on the balcony. There have been bomb threats and assassination threats from various people. It’s not likely [that I’ll be shot] but I’m a public figure and a very controversial one, including in the United States. As a result, there have been quite a number of threats by unstable people…I’m a white guy. Unless I convert to Islam it’s not that likely that I’ll be droned, but we have seen things creeping towards that.
He also says he advised Edward Snowden on where he should go after his disclosures:
He preferred Latin America, but my advice was that he should take asylum in Russia despite the negative PR consequences, because my assessment is that he had a significant risk he could be kidnapped from Latin America on CIA orders. Kidnapped or possibly killed.
After 40 months, UK police call off their 24-hour surveillance of the Ecuadorian embassy. The cost of the operation is over $17 million. Police:
[It is] no longer proportionate to commit officers to a permanent presence…The MPS will not discuss what form its continuing operation will take or the resourcing implications surrounding it. Whilst no tactics guarantee success in the event of Julian Assange leaving the embassy, the MPS will deploy a number of overt and covert tactics to arrest him.
My interpretation is that it has not been lifted. They are calling off the uniformed presence but escalating the covert operation and will arrest him if he steps out off the embassy.