Inside Ecuador's Multi-Million Dollar Operation To Spy On Julian Assange

Ecuador has spent at least $5 million over the last five years on a "secret intelligence budget" for the surveillance and protection of Julian Assange in its central London embassy, according to documents seen by the Guardian.

All visitors, embassy staff and even the British police are surveilled as part of the spy operation, which employs an international security company and undercover agents to monitor everyone who has stopped by to say hi to Assange - from Nigel Farage to Pamela Anderson, to journalist Cassandra Fairbanks, who visited Assange in March shortly before he was denied use of the internet and telephone (and now guests) as a result of controversial political comments over Twitter.

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.

...

[D]ocuments show an international security company was contracted to secretly film and monitor all activity in the embassy. The company installed a team who provided 24/7 security, with two people on shift at a time, based at a £2,800-a-month flat in an Edwardian mansion building round the corner from the Knightsbridge embassy. -The Guardian

Assange's daily activities have been recorded in "minute detail," including his interactions with embassy staff, his legal team and his visitors. "They also documented his changing moods," according to the report.

The team consulted Assange about each person seeking to visit him. Guests would pass through a security zone, leaving their passports with staff there, according to sources, and documents seen by the Guardian.

The passports were used to create a profile that described the visit and gave background details of all his visitors.

The operation was approved by then-Ecuadorian president, Rafael Correa, as well as former foreign minister Ricardo Patiño, according to the Guardian's sources.

"From June 2012 to the end of August 2013, Operation Hotel cost Ecuador $972,889, according to documents belonging to the country’s intelligence agency, known as Senain." 

The program was kept so confidential that former Ecuadorian ambassador to the UK, Juan Falconí Puig was apparently unaware of the operation until a "council tax bill" for the apartment rented by the private security company was presented to the embassy in may 2015. A confused Puig was straightened out by Patiño.

Escape!

Ecuadorian officials also hatched a plan to smuggle Assange out of the embassy in a diplomatic vehicle in the event that British authorities would use force enter and seize him.

 

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.

The plan to smuggle Assange out if necessary wasn't exactly unfounded - after a photo was snapped of a British MP holding a clipboard which read "Action required: Assange to be arrested under all circumstances."

There should be no escape, the note suggests, ordering that Assange is arrested if "he comes out with dip [presumably a diplomat] ... as dip bag [which allows immunity from search for diplomatic communications, and which could be as large as a suitcase, crate or even a shipping container], in dip car .... in dip vehicle." -The Guardian

Funding for PR

Ecuador also provided funds to help Assange's public image - hiring a lawyer to help him devise a "media strategy" for the "second anniversary of his diplomatic asylum," in a leaked 2014 email exchange seen by the Guardian. 

This included a joint press conference with him and Patiño in London, and the publication of an opinion piece for the Guardian. The fee including other costs would be $180,960 for a year’s media consultancy.

Unfortunately for Assange, however, his relationship with Ecuador has deteriorated a bit - starting with the time he hacked into the embassy's communications system and had his own satellite access, according to an anonymous source. In doing so, Assange was able to read the both personal and official communications over the network, the source claimed. 

In 2014, the company hired to film Assange’s visitors was warning the Ecuadorian government that he was “intercepting and gathering information from the embassy and the people who worked there”.

The cost of keeping Assange in the embassy has also been a point of contention between government officials. In March 2013, Ecuador's comptroller general, Carlos Pólit, wrote to former intelligence chief, Pablo Romero, asking how $411,793 ended up being spent on special expenses over a five-month period with no receipt. 

Over half of it - $224,699 - was spent on undercover agents for the operation; a colonial, a counter-intelligence operator and a captain in the Ecuadorian navy - who were usually given monthly cash payments of around $10,000, according to official accounts - for providing services considered to be "intelligence and counter-intelligence operations." 

Ecuador’s comptroller is investigating how Senain spent $284.7m between 2012 and 2017, the majority of it on special expenses such as activities connected to Assange. About 80% of the overall budget went on such expenses last year, according to a statement on the comptroller’s website.

That said, "Operation Hotel" constituted a fraction of the "Senain" intelligence agency's budget for special expenses.

 In Assange’s first two months in the embassy, Senain spent $22.5m on 38 other operations with codenames including “undercover agents”, “counter-intelligence” and “Venezuela”, according to official documents.

Ecuador's new president, Lenín Moreno, shut down Senain in March due to what he called the "ethical outcry of citizens," as well as to "guarantee the security needs of the country" - possibly referring to the resources spent by the agency on Assange, a person with very little to do with Ecuador's national security.

With Assange's internet cut off the same month as Moreno dissolved Ecuador's clandestine agency, one has to wonder if his comments on his country's "security needs" will include eventually giving Assange up to Britain - where he faces an outstanding arrest warrant for jumping bail to seek political asylum on now-abandoned rape allegations in Sweden.

Comments

Wild Bill Steamcock DownWithYogaPants Wed, 05/16/2018 - 16:58 Permalink

I'd love to see both get pardons.  Just don't see it as a very likely thing to happen.  If  Trump is a one-term president, I think that would be the most likely scenario in which we'll see it happen. Assange's pardon would cause the MSM heads to explode and Snowden would be a middle finger to Obama and the deep state.

 

Now, I've been thinking about Snowden a lot lately.  Mind you, I'm very conspiratorially inclined and have an array of tin foil hats.  He may very well be a limited hangout.  Russia and the US had fairly good ties up until Snowden fled Hong Kong and got stranded in Russia.  The US cancelled his passport just as he left; they knew where he was headed and what the Russains would do. Then the Russians became persona non grata and we saw this pivot to sanctions, etc. Lavrov  said in an interview that US-Russian relations went cold after Snowden's arrival.  My working hypothesis is Snowden was used to set up the proceeding "conflict" and new Cold War.  The terrorist boogieman was played out and they needed to flip to something else- Russia is as good a boogieman as any other country

In reply to by DownWithYogaPants

PeaceForWorld DownWithYogaPants Wed, 05/16/2018 - 16:29 Permalink

Assange is a hero and he needs to be saved. I am surprised that they let him operate in Ecuador embassy, as long as he has been there. And why did they allow him to release all the CIA and Covert dumps up to now? Does he get more info? I remember that there are few servers all over the world, so if they shut his communication down they can still release more secret files. But two of his operatives supposedly committed suicide in the past few years.

In reply to by DownWithYogaPants

el buitre DownWithYogaPants Wed, 05/16/2018 - 19:37 Permalink

But with JFK, they thought we would buy the official bullshit patsy Oswald story.  I was a high school senior at the time, and I believed it for about six months.  With Assange, they don't have an official story yet that anyone buys.  They haven't even issued an indictment.  The British "law" claims they can arrest him for jumping bail on a Swedish extradition request that was dropped years ago.  But they are holding it because he has a "bad attitude."  Everyone knows that if the limeys or the Swedes took him, he would be off to Exceptionalstan Banana Express on the next military plane.  As for that Zionist POS Trump, as I recall, he said that Snowden should be executed as a traitor for telling the world that the NSA was illegally spying on US citizens and proving it.  Hopefully, some day Trump will be Nurenberged along with his fellow POS Obama, Cheney, and Boy Bush and the Clintons.  

In reply to by DownWithYogaPants

jin187 Wed, 05/16/2018 - 15:50 Permalink

Gotta wonder why a British MP would be briefed on the need to arrest a mere bail jumper on a charge that no longer exists.  Does that same guy have briefings on every other person in the country that jumps bail?  Assange is right to fear that the only reason they want him is to extradite him on more non-existent charges.  He'll probably get "lost" on the way and end up in a black site in Oman.

I am Groot Wed, 05/16/2018 - 15:50 Permalink

Ecuador is spying on Assange ? Are they looking at him through a hole in his wall or are they too lazy to open the room to his door and say " hey, what are you doing in there now Gringo?"