WikiLeaks has released a new batch of documents dubbed the "US Embassy Shopping List" which reveals American embassies around the world have been busy upgrading their spy capabilities on a massive scale. Some 16,000 documents reveal embassies abroad have been purchasing an assortment of James Bond style personal spy devises including tiny spy cams embedded in pens, buttons, caps, ties, and watches.
The documents published Friday were previously an "open secret" given they are available through government archives, yet WikiLeaks made them easier to access by created a searchable database after US embassies stopped linking their routine procurement requests to their websites.
One list of items sought by the US embassy in El Salvador includes items described as "tactical spy equipment." Among more common items like binoculars and hidden cameras, the procurement request includes almost 100 spying devices masquerading as everyday objects such as pens, lighters, watches, and glasses.
In El Salvador and Colombia, the US embassy was shopping for spy cameras disguised as ties, caps, shirt buttons, watches, USB drives, lighters, and penshttps://t.co/fzcwoZskYVhttps://t.co/adxkW7R70S— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) December 21, 2018
What is the nearest US embassy up to? Look for clues:https://t.co/ecyLrZrJQD pic.twitter.com/BliRzrdMSn
A number of similar lists were uncovered in Latin American countries, where there appears to be an uptick in US clandestine activity of late, given the seemingly ubiquitous presence of such spy and surveillance items on documents for embassies in El Salvador, Columbia, and Panama.
Of particular note featured in media coverage of the WikiLeaks publication, one document revealed that the embassy in Panama is seeking a contract with an Israeli company which develops Universal Extraction Devices (UFEDs), or small, portable computers capable of extracting the entire contents of a cellphone.
Der Spiegel: "Hard Working US Diplomats in Frankfurt". WikiLeaks release shows central role of Frankfurt consulate. Shopping list includes devices to crack mobile phones in Armenia and analyse data.— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) December 21, 2018
Search the shopping lists of an US embassy near you: https://t.co/NYqyCmg1kZ pic.twitter.com/JDfxd51zWC
And elsewhere State Department staff at the consulate in Frankfurt requested a forensic tool "necessary for extraction of existing and deleted communication data" and other hacking tools for use at the US embassy in Montenegro. The US Embassy in Ukraine has sought and obtained surveillance devices including 15 covert radios and 20 specialized voice recorders.
Given that in the past few years some US defense officials have framed US tensions with Russia as one of a "new Cold War," it's somewhat to be expected that US embassies abroad continue stocking up on spy equipment and gear in preparation for the next hostile covert environment reminiscent of the mid-20th century.