U.S. spies on Assange in UK Ecuador embassy

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The United States has been wiretapping the phone and email traffic of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at the Ecuador Embassy in London. Contributing editor-at-large Tess Lawrence reports.

By contributing editor-at-large Tess Lawrence

IT IS UNDERSTOOD that using almost limitless multi-tiered audio, visual and technological surveillance firepower, including facial recognition, the U.S. has spied on Australian born Julian Assange's intentions in relation to any extradition to Sweden to answer sexual misconduct allegations. They have also allegedly been monitoring his rumoured deteriorating psychological and physical health, as well as his political aspirations to lead a WikiLeaks political party and to stand for the Australian Senate — an ambition that both Labor and Coalition politicians – and the United States – want extinguished.

The wiretaps and surveillance extend to the Ecuador Embassy staff entire, including President Rafael Correa and all those doing political and daily general business with the Embassy, including housekeepers and cleaners.

The combination of both Assange and Correo gives the US and its obsequious minnow acolytes political indigestion.

The other week, Correo launched his campaign  seeking a third term as President. The formal election campaign starts this Tuesday for the mid February elections.

But Correo incurred the wrath of the U.S., when he made a public statement saying that the CIA might try to kill him before then.

Last week, RT (Russia Today), the broadcaster that airs The Julian Assange Show put it this way:
Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa has said the CIA may try to kill him prior to upcoming elections. Citing reports of a plot to “destabilize the region,” Correa said the threats were “credible,” given the history of U.S. involvement in Latin America.

Correa alluded to reports by Chilean journalist Patricio Mery Bell, who allegedly passed on information to the Ecuadorian government that President Correa’s life was “under threat” by a CIA plot.

“There are many cases of [the CIA] interfering” in Latin American affairs, Correa said during a campaign tour in the coastal province of Guayas. “These are credible [reports] because this has happened before in Latin America.”

The head of the US diplomatic mission in Quito, Adam Nann, responded to Bell's claims by saying that Washington “would never get involved” in Ecuador's electoral process.

Although Correa conceded that he believed the statements of the US ambassador, he warned that agencies such as the CIA often follow their own agenda and maintain links with organizations representing the extreme right in the countries in which they operate.

Adam Nann's silly statement is arrant nonsense. The history of the CIA and indeed the United States is littered with the corpses of the consequences of such 'non-involvement'.

Writing on November 9 last year, Craig Murray, former British Ambassador and Head of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Section of the Embargo Surveillance Centre, and pilloried whistleblower and now Human Rights Activist, said [IA emphasis]:
I had two excellent sources for the news that the US/UK strategy against Julian Assange was to ensure the defeat of President Correa in Presidential elections next spring, and then have him expelled from the Ecuadorean Embassy. One source was within the UK civil service and one in Washington. Both had direct, personal access to the information I described. Both told me in the knowledge I would publish it.

...We now have completely independent evidence from Chile that this CIA operation exists, from journalists who were investigating a smuggling operation involving 300 kg per month of cocaine, organised by the Chilean army and security services.

The links to US intelligence emerged after an anonymous source from the Agencia Nacional de Inteligencia (ANI) told Panoramas News that the smuggling of 300 kilos of cocaine was in fact a highly sensitive CIA/DEA operation that would help to raise money to topple the government of Ecuador. The operation is similar to the one carried out by the Agency in Central America during the Iran-Contra scandal in the 1980’s, the source said.

A few days ago I published information I had received that Patricio Mery Bell, the director of the news programme which broke the story, had been lured to a meeting with a young lady “informant” who had worked with CIA-backed anti-Cuban groups in Miami. She had then accused him of sexual assault (does any of that scenario sound familiar?) He was arrested and his materials had been confiscated. However I took the article down after just a few minutes because I had received the information in emails from sources I did not know previously, and was unsure it could stand up. It does now appear that this is indeed true.

My Washigton (sic)informant had told me, as I published, that the funds for the anti-Correa operation were not from the CIA budget but from secret funds controlled by the Pentagon. This could not be done by CIA funds because, perhaps surprisingly, for the CIA to operate in this way is a crime in the United States.

Surveillance instructions at the UK Ecuador Embassy includes the monitoring of all civilian and diplomatic visitors as well as postal and other delivery services. All car numbers and background checks are now being done with the co-operation of British Police.

Assange family members and close friends and supporters are also under 24/7 surveillance and being monitored with the co-operation and knowledge of the Australian Government. It is understood that Federal and State Police are aware of this, and “providing assistance".

Authorities have come to expect the unexpected with Assange and are concerned that he might try to elude impending arrest by British police should he put a single foot outside the door of the Ecuador Embassy and set it down on British soil.

Longstanding reliable sources confirm that personnel within both the UK and Australian governments and intelligence services have been aware of these outrageous incursions of diplomatic and civil liberties but have been trying to avoid a diplomatic fracas.

Australia's servant-master relationship with the U.S. is well known, but Britain has at least occasionally shirtfronted the US (as with its citizens incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay) and has concerns about the European Community's take on Britain's perceived too cosy relationship with the U.S..

The Ecuador Embassy is now aware of the taps and I was earlier told that embassy staff are understandably suspicious and do 'not trust the British' and 'trust America even less'.

It is believed that the Ecuadorian Government will vociferously protest against any U.S. spying and only recently the embassy has attempted to allay fears about Assange's health and reaffirmed its support of the protection of Assange.

The UK is said to be furious at this diplomatic breach by the States, given that embassies are regarded as soil sovereign to their flag and colours and it is a 'gentleman's agreement' that such activity is not tolerated.

However, intelligence services of all countries have long dispensed with perhaps the somewhat mythical 'gentlemen' in their ranks and, for decades, bugging and debugging one another's embassies is now a basic spooks' task in technical hygiene and housekeeping.

I have been told that the communications surveillance on Assange started shortly after he sought asylum at the embassy on August 16 last year.

It is understood that contact with his fearless mother, Christine Assange, his staunch advocate and campaigner, and other members of his family and circle of friends have not only been monitored in their contact with Assange at the embassy — but they have also been held under constant communications and other surveillance by the U.S. on Australian soil and elsewhere.

This applies also to his legal and other advisers, and indeed to the embassy's normal business affairs and staff communications.

There are further serious concerns, because the United States' unauthorised surveillance compromises the British Government and questions and undermines its ability to fulfil various obligations in terms of ensuring the security and safety of all embassies on its soil.

Australia is said to have been initially unfussed about the actual bugging, but is now more concerned with its burgeoning reputation for abandoning its citizens caught in strife overseas, whether they are seeking asylum or taken hostage. Australia has a series of priors in relation to abandoning and mismanaging such manoeuvres and operations.

The Gillard Government ended last year slightly more tolerated by a politically disaffected national electorate than when it started.

Given that several years ago, Prime Minister and former lawyer Julia Gillard condemned the (still) uncharged Assange's WikiLeaks activities as 'illegal', the disclosure of our complicit inertia in the face of America's continuing attempts to shove Assange, our most prodigious Prodigal Son, into an adjoining cell to poor Bradley Manning.

Appearing by videolink on ABC television's Q&A show, on 14 March 2011, Julian Assange addressed Prime Minister Gillard bluntly on the subject of treason:

Prime Minister, you just got back from Washington but what Australian citizens want to know is: which country do you represent?

Do you represent Australians and will you fight for Australian interests?

Because it’s not the first time that you or a member of your cabinet has been into a US government building and exchanged information.

In fact we have intelligence that your government has been exchanging information with foreign powers about Australian citizens working for WikiLeaks.

So, Prime Minister, my question to you is this: When will you come clean about precisely what information you have supplied to foreign powers about Australian citizens working or affiliated with WikiLeaks?

And if you cannot give a full and frank answer to that question, should perhaps the Australian people consider charging you with treason?

Six days earlier, on 8 March 2011, Independent Australia published an exclusive about Interpol's Red Notice on Julian Assange and revealed that he and his lawyers are (still) legally entitled to access the files on him held by Interpol. We understand that Assange has been refused those documents. Why?

Like our own Parliament, normally forgoing policy in favour of cat calling, the U.S. Senate recently got momentarily busy, quietly extending the notorious Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act until 2017.

This Act essentially gives the US self-permission to bug and spy on anyone in the world, just because they feel like it, without first seeking a warrant.

Not that the U.S. was particularly bothered about warrants anyway.

Attempts to preserve some protection for whistleblowers and personal liberty, were rebuffed and the Bill was passed 73 for and 23 against.

The truth is, whether the Bill was passed or trashed is irrelevant to the political and military belligerence of Uncle Sam.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License

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