A policeman has accidentally revealed a secret plan to seize Julian Assange “under all circumstances” if he steps outside the Ecuadorian embassy, in an embarrassment for Scotland Yard.
The uniformed Met officer was pictured holding a clipboard detailing possible ways the WikiLeaks founder could try to escape from the building he has been holed up in for the past two months.
His target, who is trying to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning over alleged rape and sexual assault, is currently safe on diplomatic territory. He has been given political asylum by the Latin American country, on the grounds that he faces persecution in the USA over his whistle-blowing website, but faces arrest the second he steps outside because he has breached his bail conditions.
The policeman’s handwritten tactical brief, captured by a Press Association photographer as he stood outside the Knightsbridge embassy on Friday afternoon, discloses the “summary of current position re Assange”.
It stated: “Action required – Assange to be arrested under all circumstances.”
The notes said should the maverick Australian should be taken even if he emerges in a vehicle, under diplomatic immunity or in a diplomatic bag, which may involve “risk to life”. There had been speculation that he could be smuggled out of the building in a parcel or given a post in the United Nations by Ecuador in an attempt to evade arrest.
The operational guidance, marked “restricted”, also warned of the “possibility of distraction”, suggesting that the Yard fears Mr Assange’s supporters could try to create a commotion outside the embassy, providing cover under which he could flee.
Further details of the notes, which were obscured by the officer holding them, appeared to relate to the “everyday business” of the embassy and the possible need for “additional support” from an unknown agency known as SS10. Scotland Yard said it did not know what this referred to.
The last few sentences referred to SO20, the counter-terrorism command, and included the words “welfare” and “standards”.
A separate page carried by the uniformed officer, who was chatting to a colleague, showed an “event diary” including codes and phone numbers.
The blunder by the policeman, captured by a Press Association photographer on Friday afternoon, has echoes of the downfall of Britain’s senior counter-terrorism officer in 2009.
Bob Quick resigned after he was photographed carrying documents marked “secret” and detailing joint plans by police and MI5 as he arrived in Downing Street for a meeting, forcing an anti-terror operation to be rushed forward.
It is the latest embarrassment for the British authorities in the diplomatic stand-off over Mr Assange.
After the failure of his two-year appeal against extradition to Sweden, where he was accused of sexually assaulting two women, he was allowed to walk into Ecuador’s embassy and claim asylum in June.
He has remained there ever since and the Foreign Office was denounced by Ecuador for supposedly threatening to withdraw the building’s diplomatic protection and “storm” inside to arrest Mr Assange.
Last Sunday he was allowed to give an address from a balcony, to cheering crowds and ranks of police officers, in which he claimed police had been “swarming up inside” the embassy only to be held back because “the world is watching”.
Meanwhile Britain has re-started “formal communication” with diplomats from Ecuador but the country’s officials insist Mr Assange can stay in their embassy for “centuries” if necessary.
Ambassadors from several South American countries met in London on Friday to oppose Britain’s “threats against the integrity and sovereignty” of the Ecuadorian embassy.
The Metropolitan Police declined to comment on the accidentally revealed tactics on Mr Assange nor on the possibility of disciplinary action for the officer responsible for the slip.