South Korea’s major cryptocurrency exchanges … –

SEOUL (Reuters) – With a tech-savvy population quick to adopt the latest gadgets and a young generation facing dim prospects in the conventional workplace, South Korea has been a fertile ground for virtual currencies.

But the countrys swift embrace of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies has been met with an equally swift backlash by regulators, who have gone so far as to propose outright bans on trading.

With markets around the world watching, South Korea has become a fault line between a generation that sees cryptocurrencies as a way to a better life, and government officials who have likened the market to gambling and warned that it encourages illicit behavior.

On Thursday the justice minister, Park Sang-ki, sent global bitcoin prices temporarily plummeting and virtual coin markets into turmoil when he said regulators were preparing legislation to halt cryptocurrency trading.

As of Friday, a petition on the website of the presidential Blue House had drawn more than 120,000 signatures opposing the move. Heavy internet traffic briefly crashed the site.

The online uprising against the governments plans puts President Moon Jae-in a tough spot, and his office was quick to say a ban is just one proposal under consideration.

The latest idea to ban it all seems to have come out of a fear that when the bubble bursts and things go wrong, it will be all on the government, said Yun Chang-hyun, an economics professor at University of Seoul.

With the youth unemployment rate three times the national average and a growing income gap between rich and poor, many young Koreans worry about their economic prospects.

Tax it as much as you want but dont shut it down. My life depends on it, one petitioner wrote on the Blue House website.

Lee Min-kyung, a 25-year old student in a Seoul-based graduate school said she earned about 18 million won (16,973.93), double her initial investment in bitcoin. She said the government is showing haphazard responses simply because officials have no idea.

They say the purpose of the regulation is to curb speculative moves, but it makes me just think the government simply doesnt understand what the market is, Lee said.

More than 30 percent of 941 office workers surveyed in December by Saramin, a South Korea-based job portal, said they traded cryptocurrencies. The respondents had an average of 5.7 million won ($5,357.14) invested in virtual currencies, and a majority of them said they began trading because they saw it as the fastest way to earn money.

That trend has earned critics on the street as well as in government offices.

Koh Young-sam, a 56-year old mechanic in Seoul, warned that the craze would collapse.

Young people shouldnt be lured into this kind of scam. There is always something fishy about things that grow this fast, Koh said.

South Korea is not alone in struggling to figure out how to tax and regulate online currencies, many of which are designed to provide anonymity for transactions.

In September last year, China cracked down on cryptocurrency trading, citing what officials saw as broader risks to the countrys economy.

As South Korea accounts for about 15 percent of global bitcoin trading, according to the website, how regulators approach the issue will likely have international effects.

The local price of bitcoin in South Korea bounced back on Friday to 19.3 million won ($17,481.20) from as low as 17.5 million won ($16,445.82) according to Bithumb, the nations second-largest cryptocurrency exchange. On the Luxembourg-based Bitstamp, bitcoin stood at $13,709 after touching $12,800 the prior day.

Park Chong-hoon, an economist at Standard Chartered Bank in Seoul, said, South Koreans find it hard to deal with the jealousy from watching their neighbours getting rich fast.

It is a sentiment echoed by many. Scepticism of get-rich-quick schemes among South Korean officials has colored past forays by international finance into the country.

In the mid-2000s the U.S. private equity fund Lone Star faced raids of its offices and a years-long legal battle with the South Korean government after the foreign fund made millions of dollars buying and selling a controlling stake in a major South Korean bank.

That controversy, which raised concerns over South Korean money flowing to foreign entities, is probably among several factors making South Korea officials wary of managing the new breed of markets originated abroad, analysts said.

In a practical sense, the South Korean government needs to factor in some political aspects if a growing number of people lose huge sums of money on bitcoin because of the governments failed attempts to rein in the frenzy, people will blame the government, Lee Dong-gwi, a psychology professor at Yonsei University. Simply put, the South Korean government could be afraid of the political hassles of being held accountable.

Additional reporting by Dahee Kim; Writing by Josh Smith; Editing by Gerry Doyle

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South Korea’s major cryptocurrency exchanges … –

Bitcoin-crazy South Korea may face a ban on cryptocurrency …

The South Korean government is preparing a bill to ban trading in all cryptocurrencies including bitcoin, Justice Minister Park Sang-ki said Thursday.

“There are great concerns regarding virtual money,” Park told reporters in Seoul. “The government has repeatedly warned about the fact that it is a very dangerous transaction but the message has not properly been delivered,” he said.

Park didn’t give details on when the bill would be introduced in parliament. But his comments prompted bitcoin to fall sharply. The digital currency, which is known for its volatility, dropped around 14% before recovering slightly in early afternoon trading in Asia.

Related: South Korea is going bitcoin crazy

Ethereum, another cryptocurrency hugely popular in South Korea, also fell 14%.

A frenzy of cryptocurrency trading swept South Korea last year, helping propel huge gains in bitcoin and other virtual coins. The country has accounted for as much as a fifth of global bitcoin trade on some days in recent months.

But the country’s government has been moving toward greater regulation of digital currencies in recent weeks, introducing a new law in late December that gives authorities the power to shut down bitcoin exchanges.

Such moves remain a possibility, Park said, before likening cryptocurrency trading to speculation and gambling.

“The government’s basic position is that virtual currency trading is extremely dangerous and the bubble may burst anytime,” he said.

Related: Jamie Dimon regrets calling bitcoin a ‘fraud’

The exchanges where people trade digital currencies have also come under scrutiny from South Korean authorities. Bithumb, one of the biggest cryptocurrency exchanges in the world, said it was visited by tax officials this week.

Another exchange, Coinone, is being investigated on suspicion of facilitating illegal gambling through cryptocurrencies, South Korean police told CNNMoney.

Coinone couldn’t be reached for comment.

Related: Kodak to launch cryptocurrency, stock pops 125%

South Korea’s plans to rein in digital currency trading come after China cracked down on the practice last year.

Beijing announced new regulations on bitcoin in September, prompting many of the country’s top exchanges to stop trading it and causing its price to crash.

— Taehoon Lee contributed to this report

CNNMoney (New Delhi) First published January 11, 2018: 1:23 AM ET

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Bitcoin-crazy South Korea may face a ban on cryptocurrency …

Skype finally getting end-to-end encryption | Ars Technica

Since its inception, Skype has been notable for its secretive, proprietary algorithm. It’s also long had a complicated relationship with encryption: encryption is used by the Skype protocol, but the service has never been clear exactly how that encryption was implemented or exactly which privacy and security features it offers.

That changes today in a big way. The newest Skype preview now supports the Signal protocol: the end-to-end encrypted protocol already used by WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Google Allo, and, of course, Signal. Skype Private Conversations will support text, audio calls, and file transfers, with end-to-end encryption that Microsoft, Signal, and, it’s believed, law enforcement agencies cannot eavesdrop on.

Presently, Private Conversations are only available in the Insider builds of Skype. Naturally, the Universal Windows Platform version of the appthe preferred version on Windows 10isn’t yet supported. In contrast, the desktop version of the app, along with the iOS, Android, Linux, and macOS clients, all have compatible Insider builds. Private Conversations aren’t the default and don’t appear to yet support video calling. The latter limitation shouldn’t be insurmountable (Signal’s own app offers secure video calling). We hope to see the former change once updated clients are stable and widely deployed.

We’ve criticized Skype’s failure to provide this kind of security in the past. Skype still has valuable features, such as its interoperability with traditional phone networks and additional tools for TV and radio broadcasters. But its tardiness at adopting this kind of technology left Skype behind its peers. The adoption of end-to-end security is very welcome, and the decision to do so using the Signal protocol, rather than yet another proprietary Skype protocol, marks a change from the product’s history.

Although Skype remains widely used, mobile-oriented upstarts like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger rapidly surpassed it. Becoming secure and trustworthy is a necessary development, but whether or not it’s going to be sufficient to reinvigorate the application is far from clear.

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Skype finally getting end-to-end encryption | Ars Technica

FBI chief says phone encryption is a ‘major public safety issue’

Wray urged the private sector to work with the government in finding “a way forward quickly,” insisting that the FBI isn’t interested in peeking into ordinary citizens’ devices. The bureau just wants access to the ones owned by suspects. That pretty much echoes Comey’s position during his time — if you’ll recall the FBI asked tech titans to create a backdoor into their software and phones in order to give authorities a way to open them during investigations. Apple chief Tim Cook said the request had “chilling” and “dangerous” implications, warning that companies wouldn’t be able to control how that backdoor is used.

Wray told the audience at the event that authorities face an increasing number of cases that rely on electronic evidence. He doesn’t buy companies claims that it’s impossible to find a way for encryption to be more law enforcement-friendly, so to speak. Not that the FBI can’t do anything if it absolutely has to: when Apple refused to cooperate with authorities to unlock the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone, the agency paid a third party almost a million to get the job done.

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FBI chief says phone encryption is a ‘major public safety issue’

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s poor hygiene sparks …

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is seen on the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. (Reuters)

The whiff of controversy has long surrounded WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, but, according to a new report, he just reeks.

Assange’s lack of cleanliness was reportedly one of the reasons behind Ecuador’s recent attempts to extricate him from his five-year standoff in its embassy in London, the International Business Times reported.

It seems he doesnt wash properly, a highly placed source told the news outlet. The issue prompted repeated complaints from staff at the UK embassy, according to the report.

The WikiLeaks founder has been holed up at the embassy in Knightsbridge since 2012 and was recently granted Ecuadorean citizenship.

The IBT report emerged after Britain rejected Ecuador’s application to assign the 46-year-old diplomatic status.

Others have complained of Assanges questionable hygiene practices in the past.

Julian ate everything with his hands and he always wiped his fingers on his pants. I have never seen pants as greasy as his in my whole life, one of his closest aides, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, told IBT.

Jrmie Zimmermann, a friend and former colleague, wrote in 2012 that unless the people around him force him to shower, he might not change his clothes for days.

U.S. officials told IBT that arresting Assange remains a priority, but would not confirm whether the government would request his extradition should he be arrested in the U.K.

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s poor hygiene sparks …

Ecuador grants nationality to WikiLeaks founder Julian …

Last Updated Jan 11, 2018 2:24 PM EST

QUITO, Ecuador – Ecuador has granted citizenship to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been living in asylum at the nation’s embassy in London for more than five years.

The nation’s foreign minister announced Thursday that officials had decided to permit Assange’s naturalization while they look for ways to resolve his situation.

Ecuador gave Assange political asylum after he sought refuge in the embassy in 2012 to avoid a Swedish extradition request on a case of alleged rape. While Sweden temporarily dropped that investigation, British officials say they’d still arrest him on charges of bail jumping. Assange also fears a possible U.S. extradition request stemming from the leaking of classified U.S. documents.

Britain’s Foreign Office said Thursday it had rejected Ecuador’s request to grant diplomatic status to Assange, who was born in Australia.

“The granting of Ecuadorean nationality does not in any way change Julian Assange’s legal status in the U.K.,” a government spokesman said. “The Government of Ecuador knows that the way to resolve the situation is for Julian Assange to leave the embassy to face justice. Nobody should pretend that granting him Ecuadorean citizenship is a route to solving this longstanding issue.”

2018 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Ecuador grants nationality to WikiLeaks founder Julian …

Ecuador Gives Assange Citizenship, Worsening Standoff With …

Mr. Assange has managed to wear out his welcome over the years, alienating many of his previous supporters, including Edward J. Snowden, the former American intelligence contractor who leaked documents about surveillance programs.

He also offended potential supporters in the Democratic Party by allowing WikiLeaks to become the conduit for emails hacked by Russia from the Democratic National Committee and leaked to harm the presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton.

American intelligence agencies have concluded that Russian hackers working for the Kremlin carried out the intrusions, but Mr. Assange insists he did not know the source of the emails, under the working rules of WikiLeaks. He has denied working for Russia or any other government.

The United States attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has said that arresting Mr. Assange is a priority. We have professionals that have been in the security business of the United States for many years that are shocked by the number of leaks, and some of them are quite serious, he said last year.

On Thursday, Steve Goldstein, the under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, said that the decision to grant Julian Assange citizenship is a decision between Julian Assange and Ecuador. He said the United States would not discuss whether it wanted to arrest Mr. Assange.

When Swedish prosecutors dropped their effort to have Mr. Assange extradited last year, they said it was not for reasons of guilt or innocence but because they saw no hope of compelling him to leave the embassy.

The British police say, however, say he is still subject to arrest on charges of jumping bail. And there is a strong possibility that the United States has issued a secret arrest and extradition warrant for Mr. Assange in connection with his assistance to Chelsea Manning, the Army private who was convicted of revealing state secrets.

Ecuadors announcement came after several days of speculation that the Ecuadorean government was ramping up efforts to find a solution for Mr. Assange. The countrys foreign minister, Mara Fernanda Espinosa, said on Tuesday that it was looking for a third-party mediator who could broker a deal to allow Mr. Assange to leave the embassy.

Were considering, exploring the possibility of a mediation, Ms. Espinosa said, according to Reuters. No solution can be reached without international cooperation and without cooperation from the United Kingdom, which in addition has shown interest in finding a solution.

On Wednesday, Mr. Assange posted the photograph of himself in the soccer jersey, and Reuters reported that his name had been recorded in a civil registry of Ecuadorean citizens.

On Thursday, Ms. Espinosa said that Mr. Assange had applied for citizenship on Sept. 16 and been granted it on Dec. 12. What naturalization does is provide the asylum seeker another layer of protection, she said. She said that Ecuador formally requested that Mr. Assange be given diplomatic status on Dec. 20 and that Britain rejected the request the following day.

Ms. Espinosa expressed irritation at recent news reports, saying she felt obliged to make statements about a matter that needed to be managed with prudence and caution. She said the decision to grant citizenship to Mr. Assange had been made after careful consideration of Ecuadors obligations under its Constitution and under international law.

Ms. Espinosa also noted that the current government had inherited the problem from its predecessor. Rafael Correa, the president who decided to grant Mr. Assange asylum, was widely seen as wanting to burnish his credentials as a leftist leader who would not be cowed by the United States. But he found Mr. Assange to be a headache as well: In October 2016, Ecuador temporarily suspended Mr. Assanges internet access after WikiLeaks published documents from Mrs. Clintons presidential campaign.

Mr. Correa left office in May after a decade as president. He was succeeded by Lenn Moreno, who although an ally of Mr. Correas has demonstrated little enthusiasm for Mr. Assanges cause. He has called Mr. Assange a hacker, and warned him not to meddle in politics.

Here are key points in his case since WikiLeaks burst onto the digital scene in 2010.

On Thursday, Ms. Espinosa said Ecuador was exploring a variety of possible resolutions to the dispute. She mentioned dialogue with the United Kingdom and mediation by other states or international organizations that could facilitate a just, lasting and dignified resolution for all the involved parties.

She said that Ecuador had the best relations of friendship and cooperation with Britain.

In a separate statement, the ministry said Mr. Assange had committed to not intervening in affairs outside the scope of his asylum status, which seemed an oblique reference to his penchant for creating a stir.

Greg Barns, a lawyer who advises Mr. Assange and WikiLeaks, said in a telephone interview from New Zealand that the situation was intolerable for his client and for Ecuador.

The embassy is in the affluent Knightsbridge section of London, but he said Mr. Assange had been effectively imprisoned with no access to natural light and fresh air for a period of five and a half years.

In 2015, the London police ceased round-the-clock surveillance of the embassy, citing the cost, but warned that Mr. Assange would still be arrested if he left. In 2016, United Nations experts concluded that Mr. Assange had been arbitrarily detained in violation of international law. But Britain and Sweden argue that by choosing to jump bail and seek asylum in the Ecuadorean embassy, Mr. Assange has effectively imprisoned himself.

Mr. Barns suggested that the Australian government would be an obvious third-party mediator, given that Mr. Assange is a citizen of Australia, which has excellent relations with Britain.

Ricardo Patio, who was foreign minister of Ecuador under Mr. Correa and has described Mr. Assange as the victim of persecution, said he hoped that Britain would relent and allow a mediator like a country or even a distinguished individual to try to facilitate Mr. Assanges departure from the embassy.

Another former foreign minister, Jos Ayala-Lasso, who also has served as the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, said that diplomatic immunity would have been an elegant solution to the problem because it would have exempted Mr. Assange from facing punishment in Britain for bail jumping.

But since Britain has rejected that option, Mr. Ayala-Lasso said, it is difficult to see how mediation would work. This is a conflict that is judicial-political in nature, he said, and Britain will not cede its position.

Joaqun Hernndez, an Ecuadorean scholar of international relations, said the problem was one of Ecuadors own making.

Ecuador never should have accepted Assange as a refugee because of his questionable reputation, but it was done anyway in search of international attention, he said in an interview.

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Ecuador Gives Assange Citizenship, Worsening Standoff With …

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is now an Ecuadorian citizen …

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is stateless no more. On Thursday, Ecuador revealed that it had extended citizenship to Assange, a controversial figure who moved into Londons Ecuadorian embassy to evade extradition to Sweden back in 2012. Assange alluded to the citizenship status with a Twitter post depicting him in an Ecuadorian football jersey.

Sweden has since abandoned its intention to bring Assange back to the country to face allegations related to sexual assault. Still, Assange remained in the Ecuadorian embassy for fear of being extradited to the United States for his role in releasing classified U.S. intelligence and military documentation, including a video that depicted U.S. troops gunning down a number of non-combatants in Baghdad, including two Reuters journalists and children.

At the time of his work with whistleblower Chelsea Manning, many viewed Assange as a champion of government transparency, though his legacy now is considerably more mixed. Since that time, Assange has taken to openly peddling widely debunked conspiracy theories and lashing out at journalists who revealed that WikiLeaks concealed documents that showed massive payments between Syria and Russia.

Assanges newfound citizenship has again escalated tensions with Britain, though its likely that hell leverage the status to make a move out of the Ecuadorian embassy once and for all.

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is now an Ecuadorian citizen …

Julian Assange is made an Ecuadorian citizen in effort to …

The WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was made an Ecuadorian citizen last month, the nations foreign ministry has revealed, in an attempt to resolve the political impasse over his continued presence in the UK.

The 46-year-old has been naturalised after living for five and a half years in the cramped, Latin American countrys embassy in Knightsbridge, central London.

Earlier this week the UKs Foreign Office revealed that Ecuador had asked for Assange, who was born in Australia, to be accredited as a diplomat. The request was dismissed.

The Ecuadorian initiative was intended to confer legal immunity on Assange, allowing him to slip out of the embassy and Britain without being arrested for breaching his former bail conditions.

Assange failed to surrender to the UK authorities in 2012 after the supreme court rejected his appeal against extradition to Sweden to face accusations of sexual crimes, including rape. He was granted asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy.

Swedish prosecutors last year unexpectedly dropped their investigation into allegations against him, which he denied. WikiLeaks, however, fears that the US will seek his extradition if he leaves the embassy, believing there is a sealed US indictment seeking his arrest.

At a press conference on Thursday in the Ecuadorian capital, Quito, the foreign minister, Mara Fernanda Espinosa, explained that Assange had sought citizenship and that it had been granted on 12 December last year.

The Ecuadorian government is empowered to grant nationality to the protected person and thus facilitate … his inclusion in the host state, Espinosa told reporters.

Assanges life could be under threat from other states, she warned, adding that she was seeking a dignified and just solution to his situation with Britain.

On Wednesday evening, the UK Foreign Office put out a statement explaining that: The government of Ecuador recently requested diplomatic status for Mr Assange here in the UK. The UK did not grant that request, nor are we in talks with Ecuador on this matter. Ecuador knows that the way to resolve this issue is for Julian Assange to leave the embassy to face justice.

At the same time Assange appeared on his Twitter account for the first time wearing an Ecuadorian national football shirt.

A statement by Assanges legal team said: The UN ruling, issued almost two years ago, is crystal clear in its language. [He] is unlawfully and arbitrarily detained by the UK authorities and must be released. The UK should not permit itself to be intimidated by the Trump administrations public threats to take down Mr Assange.

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Julian Assange is made an Ecuadorian citizen in effort to …

Ecuador grants WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange citizenship …

Ecuador has granted citizenship to fugitive WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, the South American nation announced Thursday, in a bid to end his more than five-year stay at its embassy in London and resolve a protracted dispute with Britain.

But a standoff continued with the British government, which rejected an Ecuadoran request that it grant diplomatic status to Assange, insisting instead that the Australian national must leave the embassy to face justice.

Ecuadors foreign minister, Mara Fernanda Espinosa, subsequently said that Assange would not leave the embassy in the absence of security guarantees. She said in a news conference Thursday in Quito, the Ecuadoran capital, that Assange was granted citizenship Dec.12, after having applied for it in September.

Espinosa also said that Ecuador was concerned about potential threats to Assanges life from unspecified other nations and was looking for a dignified way to resolve an unsustainable situation at its London embassy, where Assange has been living in a small office, and end the stalemate with Britain.

[Assange says CIA is waging war on free speech ]

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange spoke at Ecuadors embassy in London on May 19, 2017, after Swedish prosecutors said they were dropping the probe into a rape allegation against him. (Reuters)

The British government said in a statement Thursday that the granting of Ecuadoran nationality does not in any way change Julian Assanges legal status in Britain.

Julian Assange is in breach of bail conditions set in 2012 and chose to enter the Ecuadorean Embassy of his own volition, the statement added. The government of Ecuador knows that the way to resolve the situation is for Julian Assange to leave the embassy to face justice. Nobody should pretend that granting him Ecuadorean citizenship is a route to solving this longstanding issue.

Assange, who angered the U.S. government when his anti-secrecy organization published troves of classified documents obtained in 2010 from a U.S. Army intelligence analyst in Iraq, sought refuge in the Ecuadoran Embassy in August 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he was sought for alleged sexual offenses. Sweden later dropped the case, but Assange remained ensconced in the embassy because he still faced arrest in Britain for jumping bail.

He also has expressed fear of extradition to the United States, where the Justice Department is weighing whether to charge him for his role in publishing the secret documents leaked by Army soldier Bradley Manning, now known as Chelsea Manning.

News of the move to grant Assange citizenship emerged Wednesday when the Ecuadoran newspaper El Universo reported that, according to the countrys civil register, he had been assigned an identity number. The daily reported that Assange also may have been issued a passport.

[Timeline: Julian Assange and WikiLeaks]

The Ecuadoran Foreign Ministry at first responded that it would not address rumors or distorted or out-of-context information, Germanys DPA news agency reported.

Assange surrendered to British police in December 2010, a month after Sweden requested his extradition, and was held for 10 days before he was released on bail. But when his effort to block extradition was rejected, he jumped bail and became a fugitive, seeking asylum at the Ecuadoran Embassy.

His asylum request was granted by Ecuadors then-president, Rafael Correa, a fiery leftist and fierce critic of Washington who once expelled the U.S. ambassador and the U.S. Agency for International Development from his country.

However, Correa was succeeded last year by his former vice president, Lenn Moreno, who has sought to put Ecuador on a more moderate path. The new president also engaged in a public spat with Assange over the WikiLeaks founders vocal support for Catalan separatists in Spain.

[Justice Department debates new charges against WikiLeaks]

The Washington Post reported in April 2017 that federal prosecutors were weighing whether to bring criminal charges against members of WikiLeaks, revisiting the 2010 publication of U.S. diplomatic cables and military documents, and investigating the organizations more recent revelation of sensitive CIA cyber-tools.

Under President Barack Obama, the Justice Department decided not to charge WikiLeaks for revealing some of the governments most sensitive secrets on grounds that doing so would be like prosecuting a news organization for publishing classified information. But President Trumps Justice Department under Attorney General Jeff Sessions has indicated that it may take a different view.

When Assange sought refuge in the red-brick Ecuadoran Embassy in the Knightsbridge area of London, next to Harrods department store in one of the citys poshest areas, he said his underlying concern was that returning to Sweden would lead to extradition to the United States.

Last year, Swedish prosecutors said they were dropping an investigation into sexual assault allegations because they were unable to serve him notice.

Internal memos from staff at the embassy, seen by BuzzFeed and the journalist Fernando Villavicencio, paint a picture of a sometimes stressful and difficult relationship between Assange and his hosts.

A more public dispute emerged in 2016 when Ecuador cut off Assanges Internet connection due to concerns that WikiLeaks was interfering in the U.S. presidential election after the organization published hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee.

[Chelsea Manning denies betraying U.S.]

A medical evaluation of Assange, written anonymously and tweeted by WikiLeaks in 2016, said his bedroom was just big enough for a single bed and a small cupboard for clothes. It complained that there is no room for a chair or desk and that the room receives no sunlight. It added that Assange has shared use of a second room, containing a desk, chairs and a treadmill.

At her news conference Thursday in Quito, Espinosa lamented that Ecuadors latest attempts to resolve the stalemate in a way acceptable to Britain were leaked prematurely. Apart from trying to arrange diplomatic status for Assange, she said, Another option has been granting the asylee a special status, recognized under the Geneva Convention of diplomatic relations, with the aim of increasing his chances of protection.

WikiLeaks first burst onto the world scene a decade ago with headline-grabbing revelations about alleged abuses at the U.S. militarys Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba and the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The nonprofit, whose mission was to publish leaked documents revealing official malfeasance and overreach, and its flamboyant but reserved boss quickly became darlings of progressives and freedom-of-information campaigners.

But since then, Assange and his organization have fallen from favor, alienating many on the left by providing a conduit for purloined Democratic Party emails that helped undermine Hillary Clintons 2016 presidential bid. U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that the stolen material came from Russian hackers working for the Kremlin, although Assange has denied knowing their provenance.

The sexual assault allegations also tarnished Assanges reputation. Unable to interview the only suspect in the case, Swedish prosecutors shelved their investigation, although they could reopen it if they were able finally to gain access to him.

[Assanges squabbles with Ecuadors new president could jeopardize his London refuge]

For Correa, providing refuge to Assange offered the then-president a chance to raise his international profile while cementing his leftist credentials during a stormy period at home. However, Moreno, with whom Correa has now had a spectacular falling-out, has proved a less enthusiastic ally of Assange.

The current Ecuadoran president has publicly told Assange to refrain from getting involved in Catalonias independence struggle and politics more generally. In response, Assange angrily tweeted back that Moreno was trying to gag my reporting of human rights abuses.

Ecuadoran analysts said Moreno has been looking for a face-saving strategy to get Assange out of the London embassy, where his continued presence brings the president little domestic political benefit while placing him at diplomatic loggerheads with the United States and other Western democracies.

Ramiro Crespo, a Quito-based investment analyst, said the Moreno administration has become increasingly uncomfortable hosting Assange in the embassy, adding that Ecuador no longer needs to deflect attention from its repression of journalists, an authoritarian Correa policy that Moreno has reversed.

Assanges presence in the embassy has very high diplomatic and reputational costs for Ecuador, Crespo said. Correa used Assange as a propaganda weapon to say that he was a defender of human rights, something that no one in Ecuador believes anymore.

Moreno is more pragmatic and wants to have good relations with the U.S. and Europe, Crespo added, and Assange really has no utility for him.

Adam reported from London. Tegel reported from Lima, Peru.

Read more:

Julian Assange is squabbling with Ecuadors new president. That could put his London refuge at risk.

Why WikiLeaks and Julian Assange hate the WikiLeaks movie

Ecuadors popular, powerful president Rafael Correa is a study in contradictions

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