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

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News you may have missed #846

North and South KoreaBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Cuba confirms it hid weapons on seized N. Korean ship. Cuba has admitted being behind a stash of weapons found on board a North Korean ship seized in the Panama Canal. The ship was seized by Panama last week after “undeclared military cargo” was found hidden in a shipment of sugar. United Nations sanctions prohibit the supply of arms to North Korea in the continuing dispute over its nuclear program. But the Cuban foreign ministry said the ship was carrying “obsolete arms” from Cuba “for repair” in North Korea.
►►British undercover officers stole identities of dead children. Britain’s Metropolitan Police Service, which is responsible for policing most of the city of London, has admitted that its undercover police officers expropriated the identities of at least 43 dead children. But police officials refused to inform the children’s families at the time, saying the practice was considered “essential to protect covert officers who were working inside dangerous extremist groups”.
►►Snowden has ‘thousands’ of damaging NSA documents. The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald, who first reported on the disclosures of former CIA employee Edward Snowden, has said that the self-styled whistleblower has “literally thousands of documents” in his possession, which are essentially an “instruction manual for how the NSA is built”. The information could allow someone to evade or mimic NSA surveillance tactics, the journalist said.

Lawyer alleges MI6 withheld data in spy’s death

Gareth WilliamsBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
A lawyer representing the family of an MI6 employee found dead in his London apartment in 2010, has accused the British intelligence agency of deliberately withholding evidence from police investigating his death. The allegation was made on Tuesday morning at the Coroner’s Court in Westminster, London, during an official inquest into the death of Gareth Williams, a mathematician in the employment of Britain’s signals intelligence agency, GCHQ. A few years ago, Williams was seconded to MI6, Britain’s external intelligence agency, to help automate intelligence collection. He had also worked with several United States agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency. But his career came to an abrupt end in 2010; on August 23, he was found dead in a padlocked sports bag at his home in Pimlico, London. The bizarre murder case, which has preoccupied British media for 21 months, took a new twist this week, after it was revealed in open court that MI6 had failed to share nine computer memory sticks with officers of the London Metropolitan Police, who were investigating Williams’ death. It was also revealed that MI6 did not allow the Met to handle the case, due to its alleged sensitivity. Instead, MI6 asked for the force’s Counter-Terrorism Command (also known as SO15 Branch), whose officers have security clearances, to act as a go-between linking MI6 with the police. Government witnesses also disclosed that MI6 had searched the memory sticks without telling the police, and that it had failed to share with detectives a detailed list of Williams’ possessions. Read more of this post

CIA joins hunt for white British woman who joined Somali militants

Samantha LewthwaiteBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS| intelNews.org |
American intelligence officials are said to be actively cooperating with Kenyan authorities in the hunt for a white British woman believed to have joined a Somali group that is part of al-Qaeda in East Africa. The woman, Samantha Lewthwaite, 28, was married to Jermaine Lindsay, a British suicide bomber who blew up a train at London’s King’s Cross station on July 7, 2005. Lewthwaite, who by that time had two children by Lindsay, disappeared soon after the so-called 7/7 bombings, and allegedly reappeared in England in 2009, to give birth to her third child, which she reportedly had with a Moroccan man. Today she is considered an important organizer of al-Shabaab, (The Party of Youth), which used to be the youth wing of Somalia’s Islamic Courts Union (ICU). The Sunni-Muslim ICU ruled most of Somalia until the 2006 US-supported invasion of the country by Ethiopia. Ever since that time, al-Shabaab has become one of Africa’s most highly organized militant groups, relying on hundreds of Westerners who have flocked to Kenya, Somalia, Tanzania, and elsewhere, to join a peculiar form of jihad (holy war) inspired largely by al-Qaeda. According to reports from the UK, Lewthwaite is one of at least three British planners involved in setting up al-Shabaab’s operations in Kenya, Somalia, and elsewhere. She first entered Kenya several years ago, using a forged passport belonging to a South African identity theft victim called Natalie Faye Webb. In February of 2011, she is believed to have entered Kenya again, on foot, via Tanzania. Her travels are thought to be connected with her fundraising and other organizing activities on behalf of al-Shabaab, which appear to include —aside from financing— procuring weapons and training recruits. Not long ago, Kenyan police said a white woman matching Lewthwaite’s description managed to escape during a raid at the house of a suspected Islamist militant in Kenyan capital Nairobi. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #426 (Gareth Williams edition II)

  • ‘Turf war’ over Williams killing. British media claim that a turf battle has erupted between British police and the country’s external intelligence agency, MI6, with some police officers complaining that MI6 personnel are hindering their investigation into the death of former MI6 and GCHQ employee Gareth Williams.
  • Williams reported ‘being tailed’ before death. British tabloid The Daily Express claims that Gareth Williams feared he was being followed and told his superiors at MI6 he thought he was being targeted by foreign agents, several weeks before his death.
  • NSA expert doubts Williams killing was spy-related. Intelligence commentator James Bamford, who has authored several books on the NSA, GCHQ’s equivalent agency in the US, says that “leaving a body in a canvas bag sounds more like a jealous lover or drug deal gone bad than a political assassination”.

British police investigating secret services in torture cases

MI6 HQ

MI6 HQ

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Britain’s attorney general has asked London’s Metropolitan police to investigate the role of the country’s external intelligence agency in the torture of a foreign detainee. MI6, also known as the Secret Intelligence Service, is the second British intelligence organization to be investigated by police, since MI5, the country’s main domestic intelligence service, is already under investigation for its alleged role in the torture of Binyam Mohamed. An Ethiopian resident of Britain, Mohamed said he was severely tortured with MI5’s collaboration, after he was renditioned to Morocco. According to MI6 sources, the police investigation into SIS activities is not related to the Binyam Mohamed case, but rather to a yet unnamed foreign detainee of an unnamed country. The MI6 investigation marks the first time in British history that the two main arms of the country’s intelligence establishment, MI5 and MI6 are the subject of simultaneous police investigations.

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