Swedish prosecutor drops case against Julian Assange

WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange says he will not "forgive or forget," despite a Swedish prosecutor dropping the case into rape accusations against him. His attorney hailed the move as a "victory," but said there is still a threat the US will apply to extradite him from the UK.

The decision was made by Sweden’s director of public prosecution, who confirmed that she decided to discontinue the investigation against the WikiLeaks co-founder.

"Director of Public Prosecution, Ms Marianne Ny, has today decided to discontinue the investigation regarding suspected rape (lesser degree) by Julian Assange," the prosecutor's office said in a statement.

Ny said the prosecution is not making "any statement of guilty or not" in regards to Assange. 

Assange’s defense lawyer, Per Samuelson, told AP that the fact that the prosecution won't admit Assange is innocent is simply a matter of them "trying to save their faces."

"The truth is, once they heard Julian Assange during the interview in November last year, they were convinced...he gave a very good explanation to what happened between him and the woman, and that explanation fitted as a glove to all the circumstances in the case. So they could no longer see towards a conviction. If they had indicted him, he would have been acquitted."

Samuelson has called the prosecution’s decision a “total victory.”

He told Ruptly that he believes the situation "will go over very quickly, I think it's just a matter of time, negotiations between the two countries, United Kingdom and Ecuador, then they will led him go from the embassy to Ecuador."

However, he also told Ruptly that "the threat from the USA is for real. There is a risk that the United States will apply to the United Kingdom, to get him extradited..."

The attorney said he called Assange earlier on Friday.

"I asked him, 'does it feel better today?' and he said 'yes Per, it feels much better today,'" Samuelson said. 

READ MORE: Assange case dropped by Swedish prosecutor Live updates

Assange later stated on Twitter that he "does not forgive or forget," noting that his name had been slandered.

Meanwhile, Ny said the investigation could be reopened if Assange returns to Sweden before the statute of limitations lapses in 2020.

Assange has lived in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012, in order to avoid extradition to Sweden over the allegation, which he denies.

Another of Assange's lawyers, Juan Braco, told AP that he wants French President Emmanuel Macron to intervene to support the WikiLeaks founder and help him leave the Ecuadorian embassy.

“We need a political intervention to make this situation end. He is the only political prisoner in Western Europe," he said.

The Friday decision comes after Assange’s Swedish lawyer filed a motion which demanded that the arrest warrant be lifted, after US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in April that arresting the WikiLeaks co-founder would be a “priority.”

US authorities have been investigating Assange and WikiLeaks since at least 2010, when the site posted thousands of cables stolen by former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.

The publication of classified US military and diplomatic documents represents one of the biggest information leaks in American history.

Just days ago, Ecuador voiced concern over the “serious lack of progress” by Sweden in dealing with Assange, citing a “serious failure” by the prosecution to complete the inquiry into the alleged sexual assault.

One of Assange’s lawyers said earlier on Friday that closing the investigation or lifting the European arrest warrant would not necessarily mean he could easily leave for Ecuador, which has granted him asylum.

“The first thing one likely needs to do is seek guarantees from the British authorities that he won’t be seized in some other way,” Melinda Taylor told TT news agency.

Meanwhile, London’s Metropolitan Police have announced that Assange will still be arrested if he leaves the embassy.

“Now that the situation has changed and the Swedish authorities have discontinued their investigation into that matter, Mr Assange remains wanted for a much less serious offence,” it wrote in a statement.

Assange is wanted by Britain for skipping bail when he fled to the Ecuadorian Embassy in 2012.

Samuelson told AP that Assange is not surprised that the UK is still pursuing him, noting that “it’s been in the pipeline for quite a while.”

He noted, however, that he believes this question is a “minor one which will be solved in the near future.”

READ MORE: Assange timeline: Life under siege in London’s Ecuadorian Embassy

A UN panel stated in February 2016 that Assange had been arbitrarily detained, and that the UK and Sweden should take immediate steps to ensure his freedom of movement. 

Assange declared the ruling a "victory that cannot be denied," while both Britain and Sweden disagreed that he was being denied freedom, as he had entered the Ecuadorian embassy voluntarily.

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Group Thought to Be Behind NSA Tool Leaks Threatens New Round of Spy Tools

The NSA used the Microsoft flaw to build a hacking tool that ended up in the hands of a mysterious group called the Shadow Brokers.

A group that has taken credit for leaking NSA cyber spying tools — including those used in the recent WannaCrypt global ransomware attack — has threatened in a blog it is believed to have authored to release more recent code to enable hackers to break into the world's most widely used computers, software and phones.

Using trademark garbled English, the apparent ShadowBrokers communique promised that, starting next month, it will begin releasing tools on a monthly basis to anyone willing to pay for access to some of the tech world's biggest commercial secrets.

It also threatened to dump data from banks using the SWIFT international money transfer network and from Russian, Chinese, Iranian or North Korean nuclear and missile programs, without providing further details. "More details in June," it promised.

"ShadowBrokers are back" tweeted Matthieu Suiche, a French hacker and security researcher who has tracked the group. Among the notable claims, he said, was that it had newer exploits for Microsoft's Window 10 operating system dating from after 2013.

The NSA used the Microsoft flaw to build a hacking tool codenamed EternalBlue that ended up in the hands of a mysterious group called the Shadow Brokers, which then published that and other such tools online. 

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‘Work for WikiLeaks’: Assange offers Comey job as Snowden condemns White House

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has accused the US administration of “political interference” for firing FBI Director James Comey while Julian Assange has invited the latter to work for WikiLeaks.

Comey was fired on Tuesday, days after he testified before a Senate Judiciary Committee about the investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

READ MORE: Trump fires FBI Director James Comey

“Set aside politics: every American should condemn such political interference in the Bureau’s work,” Snowden tweeted.

@Snowden Set aside politics: every American should condemn such political interference in the Bureau's work. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/09/us

Many view the sudden firing as being tied to Comey’s role in the Russia investigation, although Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said Comey was fired over his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server during her time as secretary of state.

@JasonEBurack @Snowden He was fired because he was protecting from prosecution & he & Loretta Lynch involved in conspiracy to destroy evidence

@sack_attack_ @JasonEBurack @Snowden See, I would agree with this if Comey didn't come out with a letter about the email scandal about a week before the election

“This FBI Director has sought for years to jail me on account of my political activities,” Snowden tweeted. “If I can oppose his firing, so can you.”

Meanwhile, Assange tweeted that: “WikiLeaks would be happy to consider hiring James Comey to help lead its DC office should he like to properly investigate the US government.”

@JulianAssange WikiLeaks would be happy to consider hiring James Comey to help lead its DC office should he like to properly investigate the US government.

Assange said an FBI source had claimed the Bureau would now “start leaking like Niagara.”

“But please, FBI friends, full docs or you know the press will spin it,” he added.

“Comey's firing will be an extraordinary boon for transparency as his loyalists leak and the admin counter-leaks,” Assange tweeted. “Will he run for 2020?”

@JulianAssange Comey's firing will be an extraordinary boon for transparency as his loyalists leak and the admin counter-leaks. Will he run for 2020?

Assange also drew his followers’ attention back to 1993, when President Bill Clinton fired FBI chief William S Sessions, after he refused to resign on recommendation of the attorney general. Sessions, who was accused of ethical violations, was the only other FBI head to be fired.

“Mr. Comey knows where many bodies are buried,” Assange tweeted. “Working for WikiLeaks is fulfilling. James – don't become another lobbyist for Glock or Donkin.”

READ MORE: ‘Constitutional crisis’: Trump’s firing of FBI director ignites Twitter frenzy

Snowden also retweeted a couple of tweets drawing comparisons with the Watergate scandal, as well as claims that Trump and the attorney general Jeff Sessions fired Comey because of the investigation.

@LizaGoitein Any way you slice it, POTUS/AG just fired FBI director for investigating them. I'm no Comey fan, but this bodes very ill for rule of law. 

During the Watergate investigation, President Richard Nixon sought to fire the special prosecutor Archibald Cox, and the attorney general and deputy resigned after they refused to take action. 

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WikiLeaks Holds Presser Following Groundbreaking Release of 'Vault 7' Archive

WikiLeaks is holding a press conference following the release of the first part of 'Vault 7,' the largest archive of CIA-related classified documents yet.

Follow the live feed to find out more. Notice that there seem to be interruptions with the stream. Sputnik updates the video in this article whenever possible. Here are the first, second and third parts of the press conference.

Commenting on the release of 'Vault 7,' Assange said that the scope of the CIA's covert program is unprecedented.

"This is a historic act of devastating incompetence, to have created such an arsenal and then stored it all in one place," Assange said, adding that the cyberweapons program is dangerous as it is difficult to control cyber weapons and keep them safe from hackers.

"It is impossible to keep effective control of cyber weapons… If you build them, eventually you will lose them," Assange said.

Assange revealed during the presser that WikiLeaks has decided to give details of CIA hacking tools to tech companies to allow them to patch software flaws. On March 7, WikiLeaks published documents containing descriptions of CIA hacking tools along with snippets of codes. It refrained from publishing full programs.

"We have decided to work with [the technology manufacturers] to give them some exclusive access to the additional technical details we have so that fixes can be developed and pushed out," Assange said, promising to "publish additional details about what has been occurring" as soon as "this material is effectively disarmed."

Russian hacker bear

The first question was on the legality of the CIA conducting hackings. "The CIA has a history of penetrating not only political parties overseas <…> it has a habit of interfering inside the US as well," Assange said. "It's how intelligence institutions behave."

When asked how many parts there could be in this investigation, Assange said that since the CIA archive is big they are going to need a lot of help with it from journalists and tech experts.

Then another user asked Assange whether he has ever been paid by the Russian government: "No," Assange replied, pointing out that it is symptomatic that mainstream media outlets like the BBC prefer speculating about his alleged ties with Russia even though they have been presented "a huge scoop" on the CIA.

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WikiLeaks publishes 'entire hacking capacity of the CIA'

WikiLeaks has published what it claims is the largest ever batch of confidential documents on the CIA, revealing the breadth of the agency’s ability to hack smartphones and popular social media messaging apps such as WhatsApp.

A total of 8,761 documents have been published as part of ‘Year Zero’, the first part in a series of leaks on the agency that the whistleblower organization has dubbed ‘Vault 7.’

In a statement WikiLeaks said ‘Year Zero’ revealed details of the CIA’s “global covert hacking program,” including “weaponized exploits” used against company products including “Apple's iPhone, Google's Android and Microsoft's Windows and even Samsung TVs, which are turned into covert microphones.”

RELEASE: Vault 7 Part 1 "Year Zero": Inside the CIA's global hacking force

According to the cache of documents released, the CIA's Mobile Devices Branch (MDB) has developed multiple tools and systems to hack popular smart phones and remotely order them to send both location data as well as audio and text communications.

The phones’ cameras and microphones can also be remotely activated at will.

Such tools and techniques allow the CIA to hack social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram, Wiebo, Confide and Cloackman before encryption can be applied, WikiLeaks claims in the statement on their website.

The time period covered in the latest leak is 2013 to 2016, according to the CIA timestamps on the documents themselves.

CIA negligence sees it losing control of all cyber weapons arsenal sparking serious proliferation concerns

The source of the information told WikiLeaks in a statement that they wish to initiate a public debate about the “security, creation, use, proliferation and democratic control of cyberweapons.”

Policy questions that should be debated in public include “whether the CIA's hacking capabilities exceed its mandated powers and the problem of public oversight of the agency,” WikiLeaks claims the source said.

READ MORE: Revelations of CIA spying on NATO-ally France 'a nuclear bombshell’

Commenting on the leak, WikiLeaks co-editor Julian Assange said the cache showed the “extreme proliferation risk in the development of cyber 'weapons.”

“The significance of ‘Year Zero’ goes well beyond the choice between cyberwar and cyberpeace. The disclosure is also exceptional from a political, legal and forensic perspective," he said.

The FAQ section of the release yields some key details which highlight the true extent of the leak: firstly, the information was “obtained recently and covers through 2016”.

Secondly, WikiLeaks has asserted that it has not mined the entire leak and has only verified it, asking that journalists and activists do the leg work.

READ MORE: WikiLeaks releases 'CIA espionage orders' for 2012 French presidential election

In WikiLeaks’ analysis of ‘Year Zero’ it detailed ‘Weeping Angel’, a surveillance technique which infiltrates smart TV’s, transforming them into microphones.

An attack against Samsung TV’s used ‘Weeping Angel’ in cooperation with MI5, placing them into a ‘Fake-Off’ mode, recording conversations even when the device appears to be off.

In the released batch “Things you might do” with ‘Weeping Angel’ is detailed in a document. “Investigate any listening ports & their respective services” is listed, along with “extract browser credentials or history.”

BREAKING: CIA turns Smart TVs, iPhones, gaming consoles and many other consumer gadgets into open microphones.

@KimDotcom BREAKING: CIA turned every Microsoft Windows PC in the world into spyware. Can activate backdoors on demand, including via Windows update.

The release came after a planned press conference suffered a cyberattack, according to the whistleblowing organization. WikiLeaks has since rescheduled its press conference.

 
  • Published in World

Russia Extends Asylum for Edward Snowden

Snowden fled to Russia in 2013 after leaking classified information about U.S. spy operations.

Former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden has been allowed to remain in Russia for another three years and will next year qualify to apply for Russian citizenship, his Russian lawyer was quoted as saying on Wednesday.

Russian authorities said earlier on Wednesday they had extended a residency permit for Snowden, who was given asylum in Russia after leaking classified information about U.S. spy operations.

That permit is now valid until 2020, lawyer Anatoly Kucherena told Russia's RIA news agency.

“In effect, he now has all grounds to receive citizenship in the future, over the course of a certain period, since under the law we have a period of residence on Russia soil of not less than 5 years (to receive Russian citizenship)," the agency quoted Kucherena as saying.

"Now he has already been living on Russian territory for nearly four years, he does not violate the law, there are no complaints about him. That's one of the reasons his residency permit was extended,” Kucherena said.

  • Published in World

NSA contractor faces spying charges

US government lawyers have said they will prosecute a former National Security Agency contractor, accused of stealing masses of government data.

Harold Thomas Martin is alleged to have spent more than 20 years collecting data from multiple government agencies, federal prosecutors said.

Court documents say 50 terabytes of data had been seized but it is not clear how much of this was classified.

Mr Martin's lawyer said there is no evidence he betrayed the United States.

Six of the documents found in the 51-year-old's possession were classified as top secret, "meaning that unauthorised disclosure could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security of the US", said the Justice Department at the time of his arrest.

Mr Martin was arrested in Maryland in August but officials did not give a motive for the alleged crime.

The FBI said Mr Martin at first denied taking the data, but later admitted removing documents and digital files.

'Extraordinary'

Mr Martin was employed with Booz Allen Hamilton, the same consulting firm that employed Edward Snowden, who gave documents to journalists exposing NSA surveillance practices.

The company said it had immediately fired Mr Martin when it learned of the FBI arrest.

Mr Martin will be charged under the Espionage Act and, if found guilty, faces a hefty prison sentence.

If the case succeeds, it raises serious questions about NSA security, says Alan Woodward, a computer security expert from Surrey University.

"The only extraordinary thing about this story is the volume of data stolen," he said.

"If someone was taking the data out of the NSA over a very long period of time, regardless of motive, it does raise a few questions about how they were able to do that: if someone is removing data habitually you'd expect that to be spotted."

  • Published in World

New Snowden leaks unravel mystery behind NSA's UK base

Just when you thought you couldn't be shocked by the NSA's snooping anymore, new leaked documents show the agency's reach extends far beyond American borders. According to files obtained by The Intercept from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, a US base in the UK has been eavesdropping on satellite and other wireless communications around the world.

The base in question is the mysterious 545-acre wide Menwith Hill Station (MHS) in North Yorkshire, which fronts as a Royal Air Force facility to provide "rapid radio relay and conduct communications research." It's piqued the interest of protesters, journalists, and even terrorists for decades, and the new revelation finally sheds light on what's been going on at MHS.

According to the documents, the NSA has been intercepting international communications at the British base in two main ways. One is called FORNSAT, which uses the giant golf ball-shaped domes housing powerful antennae to eavesdrop on transmissions between foreign satellites. The other, named OVERHEAD, employs US government satellites to find and monitor cellphone calls and WiFi signals on the ground below.

The information the NSA can glean from these systems is huge, and gets pretty specific. The Intercept noted that in a single 12-hour period in May 2011, the "surveillance systems logged more than 335 million metadata records, which reveal information such as the sender and recipient of an email, or the phone numbers someone called and at what time."

What does the agency do with the information it obtains? It turns out there's a whole system in place called GHOSTHUNTER that is designed to "directly aid military operations." This lets the NSA zoom in on the specific locations of targeted people or groups, so that, and here's the chilling quote, "they could then be captured or killed."

It appears really difficult to evade GHOSTHUNTER, as the program is described to "locate targets when they log onto the internet," and has reportedly enabled "a significant number of capture-kill operations." Examples of such targets include a "suspected al Qaeda 'facilitator'" and an "alleged al Qaeda 'weapons procurer.'" The latter was detained a few days after location by a special task force, along with his family members and associates.

These new leaks add more weight to what the intelligence industry has suspected about the base for awhile, and is just another example of how far the NSA's reach extends. It also raises more questions on suspected UK involvement on targeted killings, about which the British Ministry of Defence declined to respond to The Intercept. Back on the home front, the intelligence agency is reportedly investigating new ways to snoop on its citizens. To really scare yourself into never using the internet ever again, check out The Intercept's detailed report, which has links to all the spilled classified documents.

  • Published in World
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