United States (US)
Ecuador cuts the Internet access for the leader of WikiLeaks due to its impact on the US presidential election.
On October 17, 2016, Julian Assange, the leader of WikiLeaks, announces that his Internet access has been cut off. Assange, an Australian citizen, was granted diplomatic asylum in 2012 by Ecuador. He has been living in the Ecuador embassy in London ever since, due to fears that he could be arrested by the US or Sweden.
In late July 2016, WikiLeaks published 20,000 emails from the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Since October 7, 2016, WikiLeaks has been publishing emails from Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta on a daily basis, with the US presidential election due to take place on November 8, 2016.
One day later, the government of Ecuador says it had temporarily restricted Assange’s Internet access, due to WikiLeaks releasing documents “impacting on the US election campaign. … The Government of Ecuador respects the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other states. It does not interfere in external electoral processes, nor does it favor any particular candidate.” However, Ecuador reaffirms its commitment to giving Assange asylum.
Despite the restriction, WikiLeaks continues to publish new Podesta emails every day, and continues posting Tweets on the official WikiLeaks Twitter feed. WikiLeaks accuses Secretary of State John Kerry of pressuring Ecuador into taking action. However, both the US and Ecuador governments deny that. (Politico, 10/18/2016) (Guardian, 10/18/2016)
The Russian government denies the US government allegation that it is behind the hacking of US political figures.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov comments in a CNN interview about the US government formally accusing the Russian government of being behind recent hacks and public releases of emails from prominent US political figures. Lavrov says, “Now everybody in the United States is saying that it is Russia which is running the presidential debate. …. We have not seen a single fact, a single proof.” (Politico, 10/12/2016)
The US government formally accuses the Russian government of hacking and publishing emails related to US political entities.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper releases a statement in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security claiming that leaked emails that have appeared on a variety of websites “are intended to interfere with the US election process. … We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.”
The New York Times comments that the statement does “not name President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, but that appear[s] to be the intention.”
Many thousands of emails and other documents have been posted in recent months on the WikiLeaks website, but WikiLeaks won’t say where their leaks come from. Two newly created websites attributed to DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 have also posted leaks. Both groups claim to have no ties to the Russian government, but the US government claims otherwise.
The statement adds that US intelligence agencies are less certain who is responsible for “scanning and probing” online voter registration lists in various US states in recent months. Those “in most cases originated from servers operated by a Russian company,” but the statement doesn’t assert that the Russian government is responsible.
The Times notes that the “announcement [comes] only hours after Secretary of State John Kerry called for the Russian and Syrian governments to face a formal war-crimes investigation over attacks on civilians in Aleppo and other parts of Syria. Taken together, the developments mark a sharp escalation of Washington’s many confrontations with [Russia] this year.”
US officials had debated for months whether or not to formally accuse Russia, and if so, when. An unnamed “senior administration official” says that with only about a month to go before the November presidential election, President Obama was “under pressure to act now,” in part because the closer the declaration would be to election day, the more political it would seem.
It is unclear what action the US will take in an attempt to punish Russia, if any. A range of options are being considered, including economic sanctions and covert cyber attacks against Russian targets. (The New York Times, 10/7/2016)