Ecuador spent millions on a spy operation to protect and bolster Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in their London embassy, a report revealed Wednesday.
In an exclusive report, the Guardian revealed that the government of Ecuador had spent at least $5 million on intelligence operations as he received visitors ranging from Nigel Farage to individuals linked with Russia.
The intelligence program, which came to be known as “Operation Hotel,” cost Ecuador an average of $66,000 a month in a spending program that was reportedly personally approved by former Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa and foreign minister Ricardo Patiño.
Part of the operation involved write-ups about all his activity, which included his interactions with embassy staff, his guests, and his mood swings. One source revealed that at one point, the Australian government managed to breach the embassy’s network and intercept his communications.
Concerned that British security forces might end up storming the embassy and arresting him, Ecuadorian officials reportedly devised a plan to help him escape by smuggling him out through a diplomatic vehicle.
The embassy also installed a 24-hour security system with two employees always working shifts, while Correa even considered developing a “media strategy” to mark the “second anniversary of his diplomatic asylum” to improve his public image amid allegations of rape.
However, Assange’s treatment has worsened considerably over the past year under the new government of Lenin Moreno, who last year succeeded Corea as the Ecuadorian president.
Following a lawsuit from the Democratic National Committee against him for his role in the 2016 presidential election, where he leaked thousands of DNC documents that damaged Hillary Clinton’s campaign, Assange has also had his internet revoked and is no longer allowed any visitation.
In January, the Ecuadorian foreign minister said that Assange’s continued stay in the embassy had become “untenable.” Yet should Assange be ejected from the embassy, he faces arrest by British authorities on charges of espionage and possible extradition to the United States.
In February, Assange was granted Ecuadorian citizenship in an unsuccessful attempt to register him as a diplomat, thus providing him with immunity that would prevent him from being detained.
On Wednesday, Assange’s organization Wikileaks also pointed out that the British government had spent an estimated $30 million surveilling Assange, equivalent to 100 full-time salary-equivalent positions per year.
UK has spent an estimated £22m ($30m) surveilling @JulianAssange through police forces alone-—under Theresa May as Home Secretary and as PM—more than 100 full time salary-equivalent positions per year. Spend classified by labeling the operation as 'covert' at £13.2m in Oct 2015 pic.twitter.com/V0HOFtaCBH
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) May 16, 2018