Brian Stieglitz is the Editor (First published September 2021). 

CIA officials under the Trump administration allegedly made secret plans to kidnap or even assassinate Wikileaks founder Julian Assange after the website published sensitive agency hacking tools online, according to a report on Sunday.

The publication of the tools by Wikileaks in 2016 was considered the ‘largest data loss in CIA history’, and senior agency officials reportedly requested ‘sketches’ and ‘options’ on how to kidnap or assassinate Assange in response.

The claims were made in a newly released Yahoo News investigation that included interviews with 30 former US officials.

Mike Pompeo, former director of the CIA, allegedly led the crusade to assassange in 2017, when WikiLeaks published classified documents from government under the name Vault 7.’ 

Pompeo’s plans grew more intense in 2012, when the US government discovered Assange might be trying to flee Ecuador for Russia. This prompted the CIA to create a number of scenarios to intercept him. 

One proposal was to shoot the tires of Assange’s plane if he tried to flee to Russia from London. 

Assange’s asylum at the embassy was revoked in April 2019 and he was then arrested by British police. He is currently in Belmarsh prison, where he is fighting extradition to the USA on espionage accusations. 

CIA officials under the Trump administration had deliberated killing Julian Assange in 2017 when, despite being holed up for five years in Ecuadorian Embassy in London, WikiLeaks continued publishing classified government documents under the name 'Vault 7'

CIA officials under the Trump administration had deliberated killing Julian Assange in 2017 when, despite being holed up for five years in Ecuadorian Embassy in London, WikiLeaks continued publishing classified government documents under the name ‘Vault 7’

In 2012, Assange sought asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and was pictured above addressing the press in 2017

Assange applied for asylum at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2012. He is pictured above speaking to the press in 2017.

Among the proposals reportedly suggested by agency officials are scenarios that appear to be straight out of a James Bond movie.

These included shootouts in London streets, smashing a car into a transport vehicle, or shooting the tires of a plane that would take him to Russia.

In the second scenario, U.S. officials even asked their British counterparts for assistance in the mission.

Yahoo News was informed by a former senior official of the administration that the British approved the plan.

The CIA’s war with Assange occurred concurrently with the Justice Department’s debate on extraditing Assange from London into the US for prosecution. 

WikiLeaks was first criticized by the U.S. government after publishing thousands upon thousands of pages of previously-secret documents and reports generated by American intelligence agencies and military forces, including detailed descriptions about CIA hacking capabilities. 

That same year, U.S. authorities alleged Assange engaged in a conspiracy to hack a classified U.S. government computer with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.  

Assange was granted political asylum after he entered the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2012. 

Nearly a decade ago, Barack Obama was the president and Joe Biden his vice president, there was a debate about possible American moves to seek Assange’s extradition from Britain.

Former CIA director Mike Pompeo led the crusade against Assange, which intensified in 2017 when the US government heard Assange might attempt to escape Ecuador for Russia

Former CIA director Mike Pompeo led the crusade against Assange, which intensified in 2017 when the US government heard Assange might attempt to escape Ecuador for Russia

Obama’s Justice Department decided to not seek Assange’s exile on the grounds that Assange and WikiLeaks were too similar to journalistic activities covered by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

WikiLeaks gained national attention after publishing emails hacked by Democrat Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaigns and a key advisor. Clinton and some her supporters claim this was a factor that led to her election defeat to Republican Donald Trump. 

Then, in 2017, WikiLeaks began Vault 7 and drew the ire of Trump administration officials. 

Just weeks after Trump took office in January 2017, a series of increasingly severe criminal charges were filed against Assange for his participation in the Chelsea Manning hacking plot. 

Yahoo reports that the Justice Department rushed the drafts of Assange’s criminal charges out of concern that Pompeo or the CIA’s talk of kidnapping or murdering him would cause a delay or jeopardize prosecution.

Yahoo News was told by a former senior counterintelligence official that these talks took place ‘at the highest level’ of Trump’s administration and that there seemed to be no boundaries.

Pompeo and the agency leaders were “completely detached” from reality, because they were embarrassed by Vault 7. They were seeing blood.

Five weeks after Vault 7 files were created, Pompeo addressed WikiLeaks at CSIS (Center for Strategic and International Studies), a Washington think tank, for the first public remarks as Trump’s CIA director.

He stated, “WikiLeaks walks and talks like a hostile security service. It has encouraged its followers and other intelligence services to seek jobs at CIA to get intelligence.” It’s time for WikiLeaks to be exposed for what it is: a nonstate hostile intelligence service often aided by state actors such as Russia.

The CIA planned a number of scenarios for intercepting Assange's potential prison break, according to a newly released Yahoo News investigation that included interviews with 30 former US officials

According to a Yahoo News investigation, which included interviews with 30 former US officials, the CIA had planned a variety of scenarios for Assange’s possible prison escape.

If WikiLeaks could be legitimized by the CIA as a non state hostile intelligence service, they could treat it in the same way they treat foreign adversaries. The CIA had difficulty proving that WikiLeaks was conspiring to the Kremlin, which hampered their efforts to capture or kill Assange.

Yahoo News spoke to a former top counterintelligence official. It wasn’t clear that they were, so the question became, ‘Can it be reframed to them being a hostile organization?’

Pompeo, however, asked a small group senior CIA officers to determine if WikiLeaks was ‘the art and the possible’. Another official told Yahoo News.

He said, “Nothing’s out of bounds, don’t self-censor.” I need your operational ideas. I’ll be looking out for Washington lawyers.

Within months, U.S. intelligence agents began targeting other WikiLeaks personnel, using ‘offensive Counterintelligence’ strategies such as paralyzing its digital infrastructure, disrupting communications, planting harmful information in the organization to encourage infighting, and even stealing WikiLeaks members’ devices.

Some of these proposals may have come to fruition because Andy Müller-Maguhn, a German hacker involved in the Vault 7 projects, made several claims in December 2020 about his time with WikiLeaks. Among them was that someone tried to break into his home, that he was being followed by’mysterious characters’, and that his phone had been tapped.

U.S. officials learned of a plan where Ecuadorian officials would give Assange diplomatic status in a scheme to allow him to leave the embassy and fly directly to Moscow.

Yahoo News reports that officials became more worried when they saw Russian operatives close to the Ecuadorian Embassy doing a’starburst’ maneuver. This is a common tactic for spy agencies in which multiple operatives are suddenly dispersed to escape surveillance. U.S. officials thought they were witnessing Assange’s prison break.

Talk of killing Assange may have been just that and Trump recently denied that he ever considered having Assange assassinated

Trump recently denied that he had ever thought of Assange being assassinated.

Yahoo News was told by a former senior official in the administration that there were numerous reasons to believe that he was planning on getting out of there. It was going to be like a prison escape movie.

To prepare for Trump’s escape, the CIA began to coordinate with the Trump White House. This was when CIA officials discussed tactics such as shooting out his tires.

Assange’s escape plans never materialized, but Pompeo allegedly continued his quest for revenge. Yahoo News heard from a former Trump administration national-security official that WikiLeaks was Pompeo’s obsession. After Vault 7, Pompeo was and [Deputy CIA Director Gina]Haspel wanted revenge for Assange.

Pompeo and other intelligence officials discussed abducting Assange out of the embassy by a process known “rendition”, which involves bringing Assange into a third nation before bringing them back to the U.S. The plan was to ‘break in to the embassy, drag [Assange]”Out and bring him there,” a former intelligence official said to the news outlet.

The former intelligence official stated that some thought the idea was ‘ridiculous’. ‘This isn’t Pakistan or Egypt — we’re talking about London.’

Yahoo News reported that there was a discussion between the Brits and the British about looking the other way or turning the other cheek when a group of men went inside to do a rendition. A former senior counterintelligence official said this. ‘But the British said, “No way, you’re no doing that on our territory. That ain’t happening.”

Some national security officials believed it would be illegal, despite diplomatic concerns about the rendition. One source stated that you cannot throw people in a car and kidnap.

Currently, Assange is housed in a London prison as the courts there deliberate on a U.S. request to extradite him on charges of participating in the Chelsea Manning hacking conspiracy

Assange is currently being held in a London prison while the courts consider a U.S. request for Assange’s extradition on the charges of his participation in the Chelsea Manning hacking conspiracies

“As an American citizen, it is absolutely outrageous that our government would contemplate kidnapping or assassinating someone without any judicial processes simply because he has published truthful information,” Barry Pollack, Assange’s U.S. lawyer, stated to Yahoo News.

Pollack stated, “My hope and expectation are that the U.K. court will consider this information and it’ll further bolster its decision to not extradite to the U.S.”

Talk of Assange being killed may have been true, however. Yahoo News spoke to a former senior CIA official who said that it was viewed as unhinged, and even absurd.

In a statement to Yahoo News Trump denied ever considering Assange’s assassination. Trump stated that it was false and never happened. He also said that he believes he has been treated badly.

Assange was deported by Ecuador in April 2019. British police also arrested him for failing surrender to the court regarding a warrant he had received in 2012. The U.S. government released Assange’s original indictment the same day.

Assange is currently being held in a London prison while the U.S. courts consider a request to extradite him for the charges of participating the Chelsea Manning hacking conspiracies and acting in violation the Espionage Act.