Ecuador’s intelligence program reportedly spent millions of dollars on an elaborate security and surveillance network around WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The Guardian and Focus Ecuador reported details today on “Operation Hotel,” which began as “Operation Guest” when Assange took refuge in Ecuador’s UK embassy in 2012. Operation Hotel has allegedly covered expenses like installing CCTV cameras and hiring a security team to “secretly film and monitor all activity in the embassy,” including Assange’s daily activities, moods, and interactions with staff and visitors.
The Guardian estimates Ecuadorian intelligence agency Senain has spent at least $5 million on Assange-related operations, based on documents they reviewed. The report details attempts to improve Assange’s public image and potentially smuggle him out of the embassy if he was threatened. But it also writes that relations between Assange and Ecuador have badly deteriorated over the past several years. In 2014, Assange allegedly breached the embassy’s network security, reading confidential diplomatic material and setting up his own secret communications network.
Assange originally sought asylum with Ecuador to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he was accused of multiple sexual assaults. Swedish law enforcement eventually dropped the investigations, which Assange has called baseless — the statute of limitations expired in one case, and prosecutors couldn’t reach Assange to proceed with the case in another. However, Assange could still be arrested for violating his 2012 bail conditions, and he’s expressed fear that the US will indict him for releasing classified documents through WikiLeaks.
Ecuador officially granted Assange citizenship in January of 2018. But it cut off his internet access in March, saying his social media posts had threatened Ecuador’s relationship with the UK and other countries. The Guardian also reports that Assange has not been allowed visitors for the past month.