Julian Assange may be the target of a political attack, with reports that WikiLeaks suffered a cyberattack this weekend that was timed to prevent the release of politically damaging information against Hillary Clinton.
On Sunday afternoon, WikiLeaks posted a series of cryptic tweets that many interpreted as a “dead man’s switch” that had been arranged to be posted in the event of Assange’s death. That led to rampant rumors that the WikiLeaks founder may have been killed, but within hours, the real reason was revealed — the founder, who has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012, had his internet connection severed.
Assange claimed that a “state actor” had shut down the internet access for WikiLeaks, BBC News reported.
“We have activated the appropriate contingency plan,” Assange said.
There were hints that the attack on WikiLeaks may have been politically motivated. Julian Assange has released a trove of information on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, including thousands of emails from the Democratic National Committee and her campaign manager, John Podesta. Although Clinton has not addressed Assange directly, there were rumors that the Democratic candidate has tried to have him silenced, including a controversial and disputed report that she considered ordering a drone strike against him in 2010.
The timing of the alleged attack on WikiLeaks has raised more questions. The organization had its internet connection severed just before it could release more on Hillary Clinton, the International Business Times reported.
“The news came just as WikiLeaks said it was about to release 6 videos about Hillary Clinton along with the promised Nov. 1 release of a 33,000 deleted-emails dump.”
The chain of events has set off a number of conspiracy theories, especially among Clinton’s most vocal critics in the United States. Julian Assange has been hailed as a hero in some circles for his efforts to take down Clinton.
Many took to Twitter, spreading the hashtag #FreeJulian in support of the WikiLeaks founder.
Despite the allegations, it is not clear whether there was an attack on WikiLeaks. The Ecuadorian embassy did not respond to information requests from BBC News, and the London Metropolitan Police Service has not commented.
Julian Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy since 2012 to avoid facing a sexual assault investigation in Sweden. Prosecutors there had issued a European arrest warrant for the WikiLeaks founder related to a 2010 incident, BBC News noted in a timeline of the investigation.
He was arrested in London in December of that year and made bail, and in May of 2012, the U.K.’s Supreme Court ruled that he should be extradited to Sweden to face questioning. Assange entered the embassy the next month and was later granted asylum by Ecuador.
The alleged attack on WikiLeaks also comes just one day before Julian Assange was set to face questioning on the rape charge. A Swedish appeals court ruled last month to uphold the detention order, dismissing Assange’s attempt to have the investigation dropped.
“This means that there is at present no reason to set aside the detention order. Julian Assange’s claim to that effect shall therefore be refused,” the court ruled.
The WikiLeaks founder has expressed disappointment with the ruling.
“We are naturally disappointed that Swedish courts yet again choose to ignore Julian Assange’s difficult life situation,” his lawyer, Per Samuelson, told the Associated Press. “They ignore the risk that he will be extradited to the United States.”
An Ecuadorean prosecutor was set to question Assange on Monday, October 17 on behalf of Swedish investigators.
Assange has said he fears he will be extradited to the United States to face espionage charges if he leaves the embassy, CBS News reported last month.
So far, the alleged attack on WikiLeaks has not appeared to silence Julian Assange. WikiLeaks was active again on Twitter within hours of the attack.
[Featured Image by Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP Images]