Russia planned to smuggle Julian Assange from Ecuador’s embassy in London

Julian AssangeRussia and Ecuador canceled at the last minute a secret plan to smuggle WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange out of the Ecuadorean embassy in London after it was deemed “too risky”, according to a report. The Australian-born founder of the whistleblower website was granted political asylum by the government of Ecuador in June of 2012, after Swedish authorities charged him with rape. He claims that the charges are part of a multinational plot to extradite him to the United States, where he is wanted for having leaked hundreds of thousands of secret government documents. He has thus refused to leave Ecuador’s embassy in the British capital since June 2012.

Last week, the British newspaper The Guardian said that Russian and Ecuadorean officials devised a complex operation to smuggle the WikiLeaks founder out of the Ecuadorean embassy, which is closely monitored by British security agencies. The London-based paper said it spoke to “four separate sources” who confirmed that a small team of Russians and Ecuadoreans met several times to plan the operation. The Ecuadorean side was allegedly represented by Fidel Narváez, a close friend and supporter of Assange, who previously served as Ecuador’s consul in London and continues to live there with his family. The Kremlin was reportedly represented by an unnamed “Russian businessman”, said The Guardian, who served as an intermediary between the Ecuadoreans and Moscow. The plan consisted of several steps, said the paper. The first step was for Assange to receive Ecuadoran citizenship and then be given diplomatic status by the government of Ecuador. That would give the WikiLeaks founder diplomatic immunity and shield him from British laws. A diplomatic vehicle would then secretly transport Assange from the Ecuadorean embassy to an unknown location. From there he would be transported to Ecuador via ship, or to Russia, where he would serve as a member of staff of the Ecuadorean embassy in Moscow. If British security services managed to intercept Assange during the operation, all they could do was expel him from the country. They would not be able to arrest him because of his diplomatic status.

The plan, said The Guardian, was scheduled for December 24, 2017. On December 15, Rommy Vallejo, the head of Ecuador’s national intelligence agency, Secretaría Nacional de Inteligencia (SENAIN), traveled secretly to London to supervise the operation. Two days later, on December 17, Assange was granted Ecuadorian citizenship as part of the plan. But the plan was aborted at the last moment after the British government refused to recognize Assange’s diplomatic status. According to British law, a foreign diplomat does not receive immunity from British law unless the British government officially accepts his or her diplomatic credentials. Although that is typically a formality, the British government reserves the right to refuse a diplomat’s credentials. That was seen by the Russians as a stumbling block and the operation was called off, said the paper.

Narváez spoke with The Guardian and strongly denied that he had any involvement with a joint Russian-Ecuadorean plan to smuggle Assange out of London. The Ecuadorean government did not return messages with questions about the paper’s allegations. The Russian embassy in the British capital tweeted late last week that The Guardian’s claims were “another example of disinformation and fake news from the British media”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 24 September 2018 | Permalink

UK police to end 24/7 surveillance of embassy that houses WikiLeaks founder

Embassy of Ecuador in LondonPolice in London will no longer physically monitor the embassy of Ecuador in the British capital, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been living for over two years, fighting against extradition to Sweden. Assange was granted political asylum by the government of Ecuador in June of 2012, after Swedish authorities charged him with rape. But the Australian-born Assange claims that the charges are part of a plot to extradite him to the United States, where he is wanted for having leaked hundreds of thousands of documents belonging to the Department of Defense and the Department of State.

Acting on a request from the Swedish government, London’s Metropolitan Police Service, known informally as Scotland Yard, has been patrolling the streets around the embassy 24 hours a day, in order to prevent Assange from being smuggled out of the building by Ecuadorean officials. Standard diplomatic protocol prevents British authorities from entering the embassy, which is technically considered Ecuadorean territory.

On Monday, however, the Metropolitan Police said they would cease their 24/7 patrols around the Ecuadorean embassy, which is located in London’s fashionable Knightsbridge district. According to a police official, constant physical surveillance of the embassy was “no longer proportional” to Assange’s charges, which meant that Scotland Yard would be unable to continue “to commit officers to a permanent presence”. The official said that the decision had been taken after consultation with the British Home Office, and that the reasons for the change in policy were primarily financial. According to reports by the British government, the intensive monitoring of the Ecuadorean embassy has cost the British taxpayer in excess of £11 million, which amounts to nearly $18 million. The resulting strain on policing resources has prompted some British politicians to dismiss Scotland Yard’s operation as a misuse of taxpayer funds.

However, Scotland Yard said it would substitute overt physical surveillance of the Ecuadorean embassy with “a number of overt and covert tactics to arrest” Assange if he tries to leave the building. It did not elaborate on that statement. Last summer, the Swedish government dropped three of the four charges against the WikiLeaks founder. The remaining charge is expected to expire in August 2020.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 14 October 2015 | Permalink

Bugging device found in Ecuador’s UK embassy where Assange lives

Ricardo PatinoBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The government of Ecuador has announced the discovery of a “hidden listening device” inside its embassy in London, United Kingdom, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has taken refuge. Ecuador’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Integration, Ricardo Patino, said the device was discovered during a security sweep on June 14, in preparation for his official visit there. Speaking during a press conference on Wednesday in Ecuadorean capital Quito, Patino told journalists that the microphone was discovered inside the office of Ambassador Ana Alban, Ecuador’s envoy to the UK. Patino arrived in London two days later and met with Assange, as well as with Britain’s Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, William Hague, to discuss Assange’s case. The WikiLeaks founder has been hosted inside the Ecuadorean embassy for over a year, resisting extradition to Sweden, where his is facing charges of rape and sexual assault. Assange denies the charges are valid and maintains that the Swedish government is intent on extraditing him to the United States, where he is likely to face more charges over Cablegate. This is the term commonly used to describe the unauthorized release in 2010 by WikiLeaks of thousands of classified cables sent to the US State Department by American diplomatic missions around the world. Patino told journalists on Wednesday that he “regretted to have to inform” them about the discovery, which he characterized as “another instance of declining ethics in the international relations between governments”. Read more of this post

Snowden flees to Russia despite US passport revocation

Edward SnowdenBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
An American former intelligence contractor, who leaked classified information about intelligence operations, was able to leave Hong Kong for Russia on Sunday, despite having his United States passport revoked. Earlier this month, Edward Snowden, a former technical assistant for the Central Intelligence Agency, disclosed the existence of PRISM, a clandestine electronic surveillance program operated by the US National Security Agency (NSA). Shortly before leaking information about US intelligence operations to the world’s media, Snowden traveled to Hong Kong, a territory under the control of the People’s Republic of China. Last week, Washington charged Snowden, a self-described whistleblower, under the Espionage Act, and revoked his American passport, in an attempt to prevent him from leaving Hong Kong. But reports emerged on Sunday that Snowden had boarded an Aeroflot flight from Honk Kong to Russian capital Moscow, despite the revocation of his American passport. US authorities claim that Snowden’s transfer to Moscow occurred after Washington revoked his American passport, which raises the question of how the former CIA employee was able to exit Chinese territory. Several reports suggest that Snowden was accompanied by “unidentified diplomats” as he left Hong Kong for Moscow. Previously, the US had applied considerable diplomatic pressure on China, requesting Snowden’s extradition. But Hong Kong allowed the American fugitive to board a plane to Moscow, saying it had been given “no legal basis to restrict Mr. Snowden from leaving”. Read more of this post

More underreported WikiLeaks revelations

Julian Assange

Julian Assange

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
As the world’s media shift their attention to the consequences of the WikiLeaks revelations for its founder Julian Assange, as well as the reactions of American officials, the leaked diplomatic cables keep coming in, almost on an hourly basis. Some of the least noticed revelations include a 2009 dispatch from a US diplomat in Tel Aviv, which appears to confirm the close secret relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, despite the fact that these two countries have no official diplomatic connections. Another diplomatic cable reveals that Iranian intelligence officials approached their Canadian counterparts in 2008 and offered to share with them “information on potential attacks in Afghanistan”. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Canadians reacted guardedly, with Canadian Security Intelligence Service Director Jim Judd stating that his agency had “not figured out what they [the Iranians] are up to”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #389

  • Secrecy over attack on Syrian nuclear plant unjustified, says ex-CIA chief. The secrecy surrounding the Israeli attack on the nuclear plant in eastern Syria in September 2007 was justified only for the period immediately after the operation, according to the CIA head at the time, Gen. Michael Hayden. That secrecy had been meant to save Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from embarrassment that could have provoked him to retaliate, argues Hayden in an authorized scholarly journal article.
  • No proof yet of Colombian spying, says Ecuador. Ecuadorean Security Minister Miguel Carvajal said Thursday that allegations that Colombian security agency DAS spied on Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa and other officials is “so far just a newspaper story”. Late last month, the Ecuadorean government threatened to break off diplomatic ties with Colombia over the media revelations.
  • GCHQ releases Stalin-era Soviet intercepts. A series of newly released telegrams and telephone conversations, intercepted by the UK’s General Communications Headquarters, paint a picture of Joseph Stalin’s regime in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War.

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Analysis: Israel Suffers Strategic Blowback in Flotilla Raid

Gaza Freedom Flotilla raid

Flotilla raid

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Speaking before a parliamentary committee about last month’s Israeli raid on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, which killed nine and injured over 60 international volunteers, a senior Israeli intelligence official warned  that “[e]vents [like this] are likely to go out of control and the situation could deteriorate to extreme scenarios”. The official was no other than Meir Dagan, director of the Mossad, Israel’s foremost external intelligence agency. As I explain in an article published yesterday in Daily News Corner, to some extent, Dagan’s “extreme scenario” has already materialized. The raid’s outrageous death toll has further-worsened Israel’s deteriorating relations with Australia and has caused the outright termination of the Jewish state’s diplomatic contacts with several non-Western countries that used to be among its closest international friends, such as Turkey, South Africa, Ecuador and Nicaragua. More importantly, the flotilla attack has even stigmatized Israel’s relations with the United States, a development that fits into the broader pattern of steadily worsening US-Israeli relations in recent years. It is no coincidence that, on the day after the raid, Mossad chief Dagan said that “Israel is gradually turning from an asset to the United States to a burden”. Read article →

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News you may have missed #367 (Gaza flotilla edition IV)

  • Flotilla raid dead include US citizen. One of the nine people killed in an Israeli commando raid on a flotilla of ships heading for Gaza this week was a United States citizen of Turkish descent, according to officials in Turkey and Washington. Still no response from the White House or the US State Department.
  • South Africa, Ecuador, Nicaragua recall envoys from Israel. Ecuador President Rafael Correa says he has recalled the country’s ambassador to Israel following the deadly Israeli Navy raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla. The Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry said the ambassador would leave Tel Aviv immediately. Meanwhile, Nicaragua has suspended all of its diplomatic ties with Israel. South Africa has also recalled its ambassador to Israel. A South African Foreign Ministry spokesman said the move marks “a low point in relations” between the two countries.

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US forces helped assassinate top FARC commander in Ecuador

Raúl Reyes

Raúl Reyes

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
US military intelligence and combat troops helped Colombian forces assassinate a senior leftwing Colombian paramilitary commander on Ecuadoran soil last year, according to an Ecuadoran government report. As this blog reported last month, Colombia’s soon-to-be-dismantled DAS intelligence service admitted it paid “an informant in the Ecuadorean security forces” US$2.5 million to supply information on the whereabouts of Raúl Reyes, senior leader in the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Reyes was assassinated along with 16 of his guerillas in a daring raid by Colombian forces, around a mile inside Ecuador’s border, on March 1, 2008. Now an Ecuadoran government report claims that Reyes’ killing, which sparked the so-called 2008 Andean diplomatic crisis between Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela, was conducted with logistical and combat assistance by US forces stationed in Ecuador. Read more of this post

Analysis: The role of spies in Latin America

Latin America

Latin America

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
These days it’s a full-time job keeping up with intelligence news coming out of Latin America. In recent weeks alone, there were major spy scandals involving the busting of an alleged Colombian espionage ring in Venezuela, the acknowledgment by Bogotá that it spied on Ecuador, and the ongoing high-level intelligence scandal that some say may cause recalls of diplomats between Chile and Peru. So what is going on in Latin America? How widespread is espionage in the continent and is it on the rise? The BBC’s Juan Paullier has consulted several regional and international experts for his well-written analysis on the subject. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0179

  • Iran charges three US citizens with espionage. If convicted, the three Americans, who claim they accidentally crossed into Iran while hiking, could be sentenced to death. Meanwhile, relatives of the three have angrily rejected the espionage charges in a joint statement.
  • Findings of spy reform committee ignored in South Africa. South Africa’s statutory bodies that oversee the work of spy agencies are ignoring the warnings of a ministerial-level Review Commission on Intelligence, which last summer warned that a steadily declining culture of accountability in South African spy services is threatening the country’s constitutional order. So much for the government’s heralded “major restructuring” of South African security services.
  • Colombia paid Ecuador informant to infiltrate FARC. The informant that Colombia was said last week to have handled in Ecuador (see previous intelNews coverage) was reportedly paid around US$2.5 million by the Colombian government to supply information on the whereabouts of Raul Reyes, former leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The informant, allegedly known in Colombian intelligence files as “JCRF” or “Pirata”, managed to infiltrate FARC, and may have been instrumental in Reyes’ killing by the Colombian military in Ecuador last March.

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Russia claims discovery of secret US-Georgia armaments channel

The PAC-3

The PAC-3

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Several Russian newspapers carried lead articles yesterday, describing the alleged discovery of a secret Washington-led project of supplying the Republic of Georgia with $100 million-worth of US weapons supplies. The articles cited “anonymous Russian intelligence sources” in claiming that the US is in the process of secretly providing Georgia with, among other things, a Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) advanced surface-to-air guided missile air defense system. If true, the allegations could raise eyebrows in Congress, as the PAC-3 cannot legally be exported by the US government without explicit Congressional authorization. But Russian media report that, according to secret documents acquired by Russian military intelligence, the US government plans to circumvent Congressional scrutiny by delivering the weapons to Georgia through a private exporter, Barrington Alliance Inc., headquartered in Chicago, of which little is known. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0167

  • DAS official confirms Colombia spying on Ecuador. An official of Colombia’s DAS intelligence service has admitted Colombia “had an informant in the Ecuadorean security forces”. The revelation comes days after Venezuelan officials claimed they had uncovered Operation SALOMON, a joint Colombian-US espionage operation against Ecuador.
  • Clinton meets Libyan ex-intelligence chief. While attending a regional-development conference in Morocco, US secretary of state Hilary Clinton met briefly with Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kusa. Kusa, who served as Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi’s intelligence chief during the 1990s, was expelled from Britain in 1980 for his alleged involvement in assassinating a Gaddafi opponent in London. Clinton has a talent for meeting with controversial foreign spies.
  • Ex-Yugoslav secret agent arrested in Germany. German authorities have arrested a man with Croatian and Swedish citizenships, identified only as “Luka S.”, who allegedly participated in the 1983 murder of Stjepan Durekovic, an exiled Yugoslav dissident living in Germany. Another accomplice in Durekovic’s assassination, identified only as “Kronoslav P.”, was jailed in 2008.

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Documents allegedly describe joint US-Colombian spy operations

Tarek El Aissami

Tarek El Aissami

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
A day after announcing the arrest of a number of Colombian intelligence agents on Venezuelan soil, Venezuelan officials presented what they described as “irrefutable evidence” of joint US-Colombian spy operations. Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Venezuela’s interior minister Tarek El Aissami, said documents acquired in connection with the capture of the Colombian intelligence agents, show that their actions were part of “an ambitious CIA-funded operation”. Venezuelan security forces detained the two Colombians, Angel Jacinto Guanare and Eduardo Gonzalez Muñoz, along with an alleged Venezuelan accomplice, Melvin Argenis Gutierrez, on October 2, 2009, in the city of Maracay, 50 miles west of Venezuelan capital Caracas. El Aissami suggested that documents relating to the activities of the three men reveal that they were part of Operation FALCON, a joint project by the CIA and Colombian intelligence agency DAS, which aimed “to collect information about the Bolivarian National Armed Forces” and recruit informants from anti-government circles. Read more of this post