It sounds like a James Bond movie, but it really happened. Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks journalists and every single lawyer, reporter, politician, artist and physician who visited the founder of WikiLeaks at the Ecuadorian embassy over the last seven years was subjected to systematic espionage. Meetings and conversations were recorded and filmed, and all the information was sent to US intelligence. Sometimes the espionage operations were truly off the wall: at one point spies even planned to steal the diaper of a baby brought to visit Assange inside the embassy. The purpose? To gather the baby’s feces and perform a DNA test to establish whether the newborn was a secret son of Julian Assange.
Repubblica has had access to some of the videos, audios and photos. Meetings between the founder of WikiLeaks and his lawyers, medical examinations of Julian Assange, diplomatic encounters of the Ecuadorian ambassador Carlos Abad Ortiz, meetings between Assange and journalists. Everything was spied on.
The author of this article found that she was not just filmed, but her phones were screwed open, presumably to obtain the IMEI code that allows uniquely identifying the phone in order to intercept it. Spies also had access to our USB sticks, though at this stage it is not clear if they managed to break the encryption protecting the information stored in the USB flash drives inside our backpacks. These are very serious violations of the confidentiality of journalistic sources, given that our meetings inside the embassy were entirely professional and, as frequent visitors, we were repeatedly registered as “journalists”.
The most spied upon building on Earth
Everyone could imagine that the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where Julian Assange took refuge, was subject to extraordinary surveillance, but what was once just a reasonable guess became a certainty after judge José de la Mata of Spain’s High Court (Audiencia Nacional) opened an investigation against UC Global – a company based in Jerez de la Frontera, Cádiz, in southern Spain – and had the company’s offices searched and its owner, David Morales, arrested.
On June 19, 2012, when the founder of WikiLeaks took refuge in the tiny flat which is the diplomatic outpost of Quito in the United Kingdom, the embassy lacked the most basic security measures: it was not even equipped with cameras. That is why the then Ecuadorian government of Rafael Correa, who had granted asylum to Julian Assange, enlisted UC Global, a small security company founded by a former Spanish military man, David Morales, who provided protection for Correa’s family.
When Morales started working for Ecuador, he was a small contractor with big ambitions: he hoped to acces the circle of contractors with lucrative businesses in dangerous places around the world. It was precisely the presence of Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy that offered him the chance to develop his business, according to some of his former employees who have become witnesses in the ongoing investigation against him. Witnesses reconstructed how Morales put himself at the service of American intelligence to spy on Julian Assange and his visitors and staff. The Spanish investigation relies on a massive amount of video and audio recordings, UC Global’s internal emails and chats.
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