Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, speaks to media and supporters from a balcony at the Ecuadoran Embassy in London in May 2017 after Swedish authorities said they would drop the sexual assault investigation against him. (Luke Macgregor/Bloomberg)

June 19, 2012 On this day, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange walked into the Embassy of Ecuador in London and requested political asylum in an effort to fend off extradition to Sweden, where he faced sexual assault allegations. “While keeping with Assange’s often-unpredictable methods, the surprise move by the man who masterminded the release of tens of thousands of secret U.S. cables and other sensitive documents appeared to catch British authorities off-guard,” Anthony Faiola and Karla Adam wrote in a story for The Washington Post. Ecuador accepted Assange and granted him citizenship. In May 2017, Swedish authorities dropped the sexual assault investigation. But Assange refuses to leave the embassy for fear of extradition to the United States, which is investigating him for espionage. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has referred to WikiLeaks as “a nonstate hostile intelligence service.” At the embassy, Assange has had regular visitors, including actor Pamela Anderson and German hacker Andy Müller-Maguhn. WikiLeaks has also continued to function and in 2016 released a trove of emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee, drawing the attention of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who is investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 elections.

Annys Shin