State Dept. denies John Kerry tried to prevent WikiLeaks from publishing Clinton documents

WikiLeaks said Tuesday the U.S. State Department secretly attempted to prevent the website from releasing documents concerning Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton prior to its publication of emails stolen from the chairman of her campaign — a claim the agency quickly disputed.

More than 17,000 of John Podesta’s private emails have ended up online since the antisecrecy website began publishing his personal correspondence on Oct. 7, the likes of which have revealed the inner workings of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign and provided fodder for Republican opponent Donald Trump and his supporters only weeks away from the general election.

But while the document dump is undoubtedly one of WikiLeaks’ most significant offerings since its publisher took asylum at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London more than four years ago, its Twitter account indicated Tuesday that the State Department may have attempted to intervene.

“Multiple U.S. sources tell us John Kerry asked Ecuador to stop Assange from publishing Clinton docs during FARC peace negotiations,” WikiLeaks wrote to its 3.76 million Twitter followers Tuesday.

Mr. Kerry, according to WikiLeaks’ sources, may have privately met with Ecuadorian officials while in Colombia late last month as he attempted to broker a deal between President Juan Manuel Santos and the guerrilla group, according to a followup tweet.

The State Department’s website indicates Mr. Kerry planned to “participate in bilateral meetings with regional counterparts” while in South America for the peace talks in late September, but the agency’s spokesman denied pulling the plug on WikiLeaks was a topic of discussion.

“While our concerns about WikiLeaks are longstanding, any suggestion that Secretary Kerry or the State Department were involved in shutting down WikiLeaks is false,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday. “Reports that Secretary Kerry had conversations with Ecuadorian officials about this are simply untrue. Period.”

WikiLeaks already hosted a cache of leaked Democratic National Committee correspondence prior to beginning its rollout of Mr. Podesta’s emails on Oct. 7. Hours earlier that day, the Obama administration formally blamed Russia for recent security breaches and email leaks suffered by the DNC and other party affiliates, and said the publication of allegedly hacked emails by websites including WikiLeaks was “consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts.” The Kremlin has denied involvement.

Mr. Assange, 45, was granted asylum by Ecuador in 2012 and has resided within its embassy in London ever since. He is wanted for questioning in Sweden over allegations of sexual misconduct. He fears that exiting the embassy will lead to his arrest and eventual extradition to the U.S. where he could be tried and convicted for WikiLeaks publications that predate the Swedish probe, including the publication of hundreds of thousands of sensitive documents stolen from State Department and Pentagon computer networks.

WikiLeaks claimed earlier this week that Mr. Assange’s ability to access the internet from within the embassy had been “intentionally severed” by Ecuador shortly after his website published emails from Mr. Podesta on Saturday purportedly containing transcripts of paid speeches Mrs. Clinton gave to Goldman Sachs in 2013.

At a press briefing Tuesday afternoon, the State Department’s deputy spokesman said the agency had neither directed Mr. Assange’s internet connection to be cut nor pushed for Ecuador to prevent the release of recently leaked documents.

“No one in the State Department has attempted to engage in the Ecuadorian government on this matter,” Mark Toner told reporters.

 

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