Bug found in Ecuador embassy in London. Source: Wikileaks by Corp Watch
by Pratap Chatterjee , CorpWatch Blog -
July 3rd, 2013
equipment from the Surveillance Group Limited, a British private
detective agency based in Worcester, England, has been found in the
Ecuadorean embassy in London where Julian Assange, editor of Wikileaks,
has taken refuge.
The device was discovered by embassy security staff just two days before Patiño met with Assange to discuss his predicament. It coincided with revelations from Edward Snowden, a former U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) staffer, of the extent of U.S. National Security Agency global surveillance on ordinary citizens.
Nobody has yet come forward to claim the device but a casual web search reveals that the Surveillance Group boasts of its ability to install tracking devices anywhere.
Bugging places is just one of the services that the Surveillance Group provides to corporations and police forces.
"We are the acknowledged experts in providing Professional Witness surveillance to the police and local authorities in relation to drugs, prostitution, gang violence, hate crime and antisocial behavior," the company says on another page on its website.
"Our work in this arena includes the detection of malpractice by employees relative to the passing of confidential company information or the infringement of restrictive covenants and breaches of contract."
Company web pages show pictures of hooded youth smashing store windows as well as testimonials from companies like Nike who congratulated them on helping find addresses of vendors selling counterfeit goods: "I am extremely impressed with the service provided by the team at The Surveillance Group and would definitely recommend them for brand protection work," Chloe Young, a Nike official was quoted as saying.
The Surveillance Group also offers "professional diplomas" in "tactical counter surveillance" for -5190 ($8,000)
However the company appears to have completely failed to foil the plans of Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, which were likely hatched in the very building that was being bugged and most certainly did not dissuade them from launching a daring international escape for the former spy, that was worthy of Hollywood.
On June 23 Wikileaks staffer Sarah Harrison spirited Snowden out of Hong Kong - where he had been staying - to Moscow, taking the intelligence agencies by surprise.
The listening device is not the only way that Ecuador suspects that it is being monitored. An article in the Wall Street Journal last week quoted extensively from email correspondence between aides of President Rafael Correa, revealing that someone was hacking internal government communications.
"I suggest talking to Assange to better control the communications," the newspaper quoted Nathalie Cely, Ecuador's ambassador to the U.S. in a message to presidential spokesman Fernando Alvarado. "From outside"[Assange] appears to be 'running the show.'"
The Journal said it has obtained the emails from Univision Networks, a U.S. based Spanish TV network, but Wikileaks says that the U.S. government could well have provided them with the raw material.
It should be noted that a number of private vendors around the world provide technology to hack email communications for "lawful interception" purposes.
These incidents have stirred deep anger among government officials in Quito.
The Ecuadorian government is being "infiltrated from all sides," said Patino. "This is a testament to the loss of ethics at an international level in the relations that we have with other governments."
However, the interception of emails from South American governments appears to have been just as useless as the bugging at foiling Snowden's plans. On July 2, the U.S. government sparked a diplomatic crisis by attempting to block a flight by President Evo Morales of Bolivia, under the suspicion that he was transporting Snowden. Morales was detained at Vienna airport for 14 hours but eventually completed his journey.
"Sieging/bugging of Ecuador's London embassy and the blockading of Morales jet shows that imperial arrogance is the gift that keeps on giving," tweeted Wikileaks.
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