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Ecuador Spent $5 Million Protecting and Spying on Julian Assange

Accepted submission by takyon at 2018-05-16 17:18:34
Security

The Ecuadorean government spent around $5 million to protect and spy on Julian Assange and his visitors, according to The Guardian [theguardian.com]. The operation evolved over time as the embassy's guest became less welcome:

Over more than five years, Ecuador put at least $5m (£3.7m) into a secret intelligence budget that protected the WikiLeaks founder while he had visits from Nigel Farage, members of European nationalist groups and individuals linked to the Kremlin. [...] Documents show the intelligence programme, called "Operation Guest", which later became known as "Operation Hotel" – coupled with parallel covert actions – ran up an average cost of at least $66,000 a month for security, intelligence gathering and counter-intelligence to "protect" one of the world's most high-profile fugitives. [...] The security personnel recorded in minute detail Assange's daily activities, and his interactions with embassy staff, his legal team and other visitors. They also documented his changing moods.

[...] Worried that British authorities could use force to enter the embassy and seize Assange, Ecuadorian officials came up with plans to help him escape [theguardian.com]. They included smuggling Assange out in a diplomatic vehicle or appointing him as Ecuador's United Nations representative so he could have diplomatic immunity in order to attend UN meetings, according to documents seen by the Guardian dated August 2012. In addition to giving Assange asylum, Correa's government was apparently prepared to spend money on improving his image. A lawyer was asked to devise a "media strategy" to mark the "second anniversary of his diplomatic asylum", in a leaked 2014 email exchange seen by the Guardian.

The money being spent was unknown to some members of the government, including the Ecuadorian ambassador to the UK, who learned of the operation in 2015. Ecuador's financial controller's office also investigated payments related to the operation.

Additionally, The Guardian alleges that Assange hacked the embassy's security system to spy on staff, and was able to procure his own satellite Internet connection:

In an extraordinary breach of diplomatic protocol, Assange managed to compromise the communications system within the embassy and had his own satellite internet access, according to documents and a source who wished to remain anonymous. By penetrating the embassy's firewall, Assange was able to access and intercept the official and personal communications of staff, the source claimed.

Another detail is that Ecuador's intelligence agency made payments to Hacking Team for surveillance software (not necessarily related to the Assange operation). Hacking Team [wikipedia.org] is a cybersecurity company that was hacked in 2015. Wikileaks began hosting [wikileaks.org] a million emails leaked from the company on July 8, 2015.

Wikileaks has vowed [twitter.com] to sue over the reporting [sbs.com.au].

Related: Julian Assange's Internet Access "Cut" by Ecuador [soylentnews.org]


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