Update 5/16/18: After publication of this article, it was brought to our attention that the source of the Guardian’s ‘Operation Hotel’ smear, Fernando Villavicencio of FocusEcuador, has a history of publishing forged documents in the Guardian.
The Guardian recently published a patently disingenuous article which described WikiLeaks Editor-In-Chief Julian Assange hacking into the communications at the Ecuadorian embassy where he has been arbitrarily confined since 2012, and was cut off from the outside world since late March of this year.
The Guardian’s article, Revealed: Ecuador spent millions on spy operation for Julian Assange, was authored by Dan Collyns, Stephani Kirchgaessner and Luke Harding. WikiLeaks quickly took issue not only with the content of the report, but also with the involvement of Luke Harding, writing via Twitter that:
“Article is by Luke Harding, a MI6 apologist & serial fabricator, who literally won Plagiarist of the Year. The political utility of the article is to sabotage Assange’s asylum (“it costs so much!” “he hacks!”).”
Article is by Luke Harding, a MI6 apologist & serial fabricator, who literally won Plagiarist of the Year. The political utility of the article is to sabotage Assange's asylum ("it costs so much!" "he hacks!"). Assange exposed him: https://t.co/efUHoz3zSf https://t.co/FmaHouSR9P
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) May 15, 2018
The Guardian writes: “The security personnel recorded in minute detail Assange’s daily activities, and his interactions with embassy staff, his legal team and other visitors. They also documented his changing moods.” Renata Avila, one of Julian Assange’s longtime legal representatives, expressed her deep concern in the wake of the article’s release, saying that it would indicate that all legal meetings between Julian Assange and his legal counsel, including Baltasar Garzon, Jennifer Robinson, and other lawyers, were monitored or even filmed.
The revelations by the @Guardian on #Ecuador spying on @julianassange also mean that all our legal meetings with #BaltasarGarzon, @suigenerisjen @theMTchair and a vast list of lawyers were monitored, even filmed. https://t.co/v3QlXLeI6E
— Renata Avila (@avilarenata) May 15, 2018
One particularly damning section of the Guardian’s disingenuous reporting claims that: “Assange managed to compromise the communications system within the embassy and had his own satellite Internet access, according to documents and a source who wished to remain anonymous. By penetrating the embassy’s firewall, Assange was able to access and intercept the official and personal communications of staff, the source claimed.” WikiLeaks immediately countered this claim via Twitter, writing:
No, @Guardian, @JulianAssange did not "hack into" embassy
satellites. That's an anonymous libel aligned with the current UK-US government onslaught against Mr. Assange's asylum–while he can't respond. You've gone too far this time. We're suing. https://t.co/DDnkSoczut pic.twitter.com/qWB0wkatN2
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) May 15, 2018
It seems that the Guardian and the deceptive article authored in part by Harding is only the latest in a series of situations in which the Guardian has stabbed Julian Assange and the organization he leads in the back. In 2015, Assange wrote an opinion editorial in Newsweek magazine, in which he described the Guardian ‘milking’ the revelations leaked by Edward Snowden. Luke Harding was also named in the opinion piece, with Assange writing:
“The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man (Guardian/Faber & Faber, 2014) by Luke Harding is a hack job in the purest sense of the term. Pieced together from secondary sources and written with minimal additional research to be the first to market, the book’s thrifty origins are hard to miss. The Guardian is a curiously inward-looking beast. If any other institution tried to market its own experience of its own work nearly as persistently as The Guardian, it would surely be called out for institutional narcissism. But because The Guardian is an embarrassingly central institution within the moribund “left-of-center” wing of the U.K. establishment, everyone holds their tongue…”
… In reality, The Guardian also caved to government pressure—something it continues to do. Originally, the paper wasn’t even going to publish the Snowden leaks—Glenn Greenwald had to force its hand. On request of the government, the paper later voluntarily destroyed its copies of the Snowden documents—and the computers they were saved on—in the basement of its London offices, under the supervision of [Britain’s electronic spying headquarters] GCHQ.
Greenwald eventually broke with The Guardian over reported censorship issues, which were later confirmed by Alan Rusbridger, keen to demonstrate the Guardian’s “patriotism” to a U.K. Home Affairs Select Committee, when he boasted that “there’s stuff in there about Iraq and Afghanistan. We’re not even going to look at it.”
The WikiLeaks co-founder also described Harding’s plagiarism, writing: “Notoriously, as the Moscow bureau chief for The Guardian, Harding used to ply his trade ripping off work by other Moscow-based journalists before his plagiarism was pointed out by The eXile‘s Mark Ames and Yasha Levine, from whom he had misappropriated entire paragraphs without alteration. For this he was awarded “plagiarist of the year” by Private Eye in 2007.”
Though The Guardian’s screed does mention the support of Ecuador and prior Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa for the provision of ongoing asylum for Julian Assange as a political prisoner, the Guardian fails to note the US and UK’s efforts to undermine this support, which was noted by former UK Ambassador Craig Murray in 2012.
Murray related that the Pentagon had devoted $87 million USD towards supporting opposition efforts against Correa. Murray wrote of the use of such funds: “This will find its way into opposition campaign coffers and be used to fund, bribe or blackmail media and officials.” This cash flow represented a significant burden placed on tax-payers in order to attack a journalistic organization and in so doing, meddle in the democratic process of a sovereign nation. Overwhelmingly important context of this kind was utterly absent in the Guardian’s article, despite the inclusion of a plethora of claims unsupported by evidence.
With Luke Harding and The Guardian’s history of flawed reporting on Assange, WikiLeaks and the saga of Edward Snowden in mind, readers must question the claims made in this latest travesty of corporate media coverage, especially the allegations that cite an anonymous source while providing no independent verification or evidence of their claims. If anything, the Guardian’s latest article reveals more about the nature of the publication and its repeated willingness to support the agendas of US and UK military interests, than it does about WikiLeaks Editor-In-Chief Julian Assange.
The timing of the Guardian’s report is especially alarming, as Julian Assange cannot defend his reputation while utterly isolated in the Ecuadorian embassy. In late March, the Ecuadorian government under Lenin Moreno cut off all of Assange’s methods of communication with the outside world, including access to visitors, phone calls, and use of the Internet.
Those who wish to support WikiLeaks and Julian Assange during this difficult time are encouraged to sign the current petition on his behalf, to buy from the WikiLeaks shop, and to donate to WikiLeaks or Julian Assange’s legal defense fund.