CIA made plans to kidnap or assassinate Wikileaks' Julian Assange

The CIA made plans to kidnap and assassinate Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, report Zach Dorfman, Sean D. Naylor and Michael Isikoff, while he was holed up at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. The "sketches" for disappearing Assange were reportedly made at the pleasure of Mike Pompeo, Trump's CIA chief and later secretary of state. Though Assange had already published startling evidence of U.S. war crimes and realpolitik, it was his disclosure of secret CIA hacking tools—barely a news blip compared to the other revelations—that drew the agency's murderous ire.

Some senior officials inside the CIA and the Trump administration even discussed killing Assange, going so far as to request "sketches" or "options" for how to assassinate him. Discussions over kidnapping or killing Assange occurred "at the highest levels" of the Trump administration, said a former senior counterintelligence official. "There seemed to be no boundaries."

The conversations were part of an unprecedented CIA campaign directed against WikiLeaks and its founder. The agency's multipronged plans also included extensive spying on WikiLeaks associates, sowing discord among the group's members, and stealing their electronic devices. While Assange had been on the radar of U.S. intelligence agencies for years, these plans for an all-out war against him were sparked by WikiLeaks' ongoing publication of extraordinarily sensitive CIA hacking tools, known collectively as "Vault 7," which the agency ultimately concluded represented "the largest data loss in CIA history."

Assange was credibly accused of rape and sexual misconduct by several women in Sweden and fled to the Ecuadorian embassy in London to avoid extradition to Stockholm, which he believed would ultimately turn him over the U.S. Though he successfully waited out Swedish prosecutors (and was at one point offered a presidential pardon by a Trump surrogate after helping his campaign) the U.K. itself ultimately took Assange into custody after the U.S. signaled it was about to launch a formal prosecution. Assange remains jailed in England while fighting extradition to the U.S.