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Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has spent almost six years at Ecuador’s London embassy. According to a report by The Guardian and Focus Ecuador, the country’s intelligence program has spent at least $5 million protecting him since he was granted political asylum in 2012.
Details of “Operation Guest,” which later became “Operation Hotel,” show that Assange has cost Ecuadorian intelligence agency Senain an average of $66,000 per month. That amount covered the cost of CCTV cameras that were installed in the embassy after his arrival, along with the hiring of an international security team who secretly filmed and recorded all activity, including Assange’s daily routines and his interactions with visitors and staff.
Multi-million dollar payments were also made to internet surveillance companies for spying software. One of these was Italy-based cybersecurity company Hacking Team.
The expense was reportedly signed off by then-president Rafael Correa and later by Ecuadorian foreign minister Ricardo Patiño. But it’s claimed that the relationship between Assange and his host have deteriorated rapidly in recent times. Internal documents show he compromised the communications system within the embassy and had his own satellite internet access, allowing him to intercept staff communications.
WikiLeaks has denied the hacking allegations, calling them libelous.
No, @Guardian, @JulianAssange did not "hack into" embassy— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) May 15, 2018
satellites. That's an anonymous libel aligned with the current UK-US government onslaught against Mr. Assange's asylum--while he can't respond. You've gone too far this time. We're suing. https://t.co/DDnkSoczut pic.twitter.com/qWB0wkatN2
Assange first took refuge at the Ecuadorian embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he was accused of carrying out multiple sexual assaults. The investigations were dropped as the statute of limitations expired in one case and Assange couldn't be reached to move forward with another. He might still be arrested if he leaves the embassy for jumping bail, and the US could press charges against him for exposing classified documents through WikiLeaks.
Assange remains at the embassy and was granted Ecuadorian citizenship in January 2018. But the country may be running out of patience; his internet access was removed in March, and the Guardian writes that he has not been allowed visitors for the past month.