GCHQ, the government's intelligence agency dealing with communications, has asked staff to behave more professionally after Julian Assange obtained internal e-mails saying he may have been framed over charges of sexual assault, The Independent has learned.
The Wikileaks founder, who sought refuge at the Ecuadorian embassy in London after losing his court action against extradition to Sweden to face trial, obtained the material under the Data Protection Act.
In one message in September 2012 a member a GCHQ officer writes to a colleague "They are trying to arrest him on suspicion of XYZ … It is definitely a fit-up… Their timings are too convenient right after Cablegate." Another message, in August last year, does not hold out much hope of him being able to wait out the forces ranged against him. "He reckons he will stay in the Ecuadorian embassy for six to 12 months when the charges against him will be dropped, but that is not really how it works now is it? He's a fool… Yeah … A highly optimistic fool", it states.
True to his modus operandi, Mr Assange leaked the contents during an interview with a Spanish television channel."This is what the spies are discussing amongst themselves" he told the presenter. "It [GCHQ] won't hand over any of the classified information. But, much to its surprise, it has some unclassified information on us. We have just received this. It is not public yet."
A GCHQ spokesman told The Independent today: " We acknowledge that some of these comments were inappropriate but emphasise that no decisions were taken by GCHQ on the basis of these comments, nor was any reliance placed on them. We have reminded staff of the importance of professional behaviour at all times.
" As was made clear to Mr Assange when the information was disclosed to him, the comments he referred to were a small number of casual observations current affairs issue made by a handful of staff on GCHQ's informal communications channels… We have given him all of the information that he is entitled to under the Act. We are not able to comment on whether or not any material has been exempted."
Australian born Mr Assange and his supporters have claimed that the rape allegations him by two women in Sweden were part of an international conspiracy to silence him after Wikileaks released thousands of US administration diplomatic cables which caused huge embarrassment in Washington. He maintains that the extradition is the first stage of a process under which he will be eventually handed over to the American authorities.
However, his legal team failed to persuade judges this was the case and his final appeal was dismissed by the UK Supreme Court in June 2012. Four days later he took refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy where he has remained until now.
Bradley Manning, a US soldier has been charged with supplying classified material to Wikileaks. The offences he has been indicted with carry the death penalty. His trial is due to start next month.
The full interview can be found here.