The controversy over Ecuador and the US’s continuing full blunt trauma to the head of the tiny South American country seems to never end. Now the plot thickens with the disclosure that the Ecuadorian Embassy in England was bugged.
The London, Guardian newspaper has reported that Ecuador has said it found a listening device in its London embassy two weeks ago and they threaten to reveal who planted it (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jul/03/ecuador-microphone-bug-london-embassy?CMP=EMCNEWEML6619I2).
The ‘bug’ was found, according to Richard Patino, Ecuador’s Foreign Minister, when he was in the UK to discuss the continued asylum of WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange and what might be done about freeing him. The hidden microphone was discovered in Ana Alban’s office. She is the Ecuador Ambassador in the Ecuadorian London Embassy (http://www.telegrafo.com.ec/actualidad/item/canciller-cree-que-empresa-britanica-puso-microfono.html).
Though Patiño gave few details, it would appear that the bug was discovered on June 17 — a week before Snowden left Hong Kong. At the time, Assange and other members of WikiLeaks were providing the former intelligence analyst with legal and logistical help.
At a press conference in Quito, Patiño said:
“We regret to inform you that in our embassy in London we have found a hidden microphone. I didn’t report this at the time because we didn’t want the theme of our visit to London to be confused with this matter. Furthermore, we first wanted to ascertain with precision what could be the origin of this interception device in the office of our ambassador” (http://www.telegrafo.com.ec/actualidad/item/canciller-cree-que-empresa-britanica-puso-microfono.html).
Patino said the listening device was intended to “provide direct information” of the conversations in the main office of the embassy. He showed photographs of the bugging device that was camouflaged in an electrical box and hidden in a wall of the Embassy. The microphone was fed to the grid of the Embassy and had a SIM card from a phone company. With a call it is triggered to be activated into listening mode.
Patiño showed pictures of the device that was found on June 14, two days before the official visit London. It was a routine operation the device was found (ibid).
Who could it be?
The public agency responsible for such “spook activities’ would be MI5, London’s version of the CIA, although the Guardian reported another spy agency, M16 could be responsible as well (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jul/03/ecuador-microphone-bug-london-embassy?CMP=EMCNEWEML6619I2). Nevermind which spy agency it was, none of this could not be done without England’s ministers having direct knowledge of the event.
Ecuadorian Foreign Minister, Ricardo Patino said Wednesday in Quito that the discovery of the microphone and preliminary investigations, pointed not to M5 or M16, but instead he stated he suspected Surveillance Group Limited of carrying out the deed. So who and what is Surveillance Group Limited?
Surveillance Group Limited
Surveillance Group Limited is one of the largest private companies doing research and covert surveillance in the UK (http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=95810).
At their website the private company boasts:
“At the Surveillance Group we uniquely combine the practices, skills and experience of Special Forces, Police and commercial surveillance to create an entirely new form of surveillance.
From our offices in the West Midlands we employ teams in cutting-edge surveillance work across the UK and with teams strategically placed in Europe and Canada. All of our employees are trained to the internationally recognised standard, the BTEC Professional Diploma in Covert Surveillance, no other private company insist on such a high standard.
Our dynamic approach and reputation as innovators in the Surveillance field has enabled us to build close working relationships with many of Europe’s largest financial institutions, UK law enforcement and other government bodies.
We are the acknowledged experts in providing Professional Witness surveillance to the police and local authorities in relation to drugs, prostitution, gang violence, hate crime and antisocial behaviour.
We provide quality surveillance Training courses to our armed Services personnel to enable them to pursue new, exciting and rewarding careers in civilian life. The Surveillance Group is the only dedicated surveillance company approved to deliver Level 4 BTEC qualifications in surveillance.
We provide a range of Intelligence based services to provide our clients with timely and highly accurate information upon which sound commercial decisions can be made.
Our investment in digital technology has spearheaded new and heightened standards in the way Personal Injury Fraud is prosecuted. It is no coincidence that two of the most important recent cases in relation to Personal Injury fraud both relied totally upon evidence provided by the Surveillance Group.
We aim to provide a quality service, delivered with integrity, confidentiality and a total commitment to client satisfaction” (http://www.thesurveillancegroup.com/about-us).
Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back. But this is merely sophistry. For Like Booz Allen Hamilton and other such agencies, Surveillance Group Limited is part of the private military intelligence contractors that has seen heady growth as more and more CIA and M5 activities are outsourced to the private sector (http://www.dailycensored.com/booz-allen-hamilton-helping-the-government-insure-domestic-tranquility/).
Although they bandy about their role as a leading surveillance group to help corporate business, Surveillance Group Limited is really part of the rapidly growing international ‘spook business’. The beauty of using them would be that the government of Britain could engage in plausible deniability, which it has.
On its website, the secretive and ‘creepy’ organization claims to be an expert in surveillance tasks to help the police and local authorities in relation to issues such as antisocial behavior, drugs, prostitution and violence. Again, Booz Allen Hamilton comes to mind, as do other such private intelligence contractors or PIC’s (ibid).
Among the services offered by Surveillance Group Limited are digital forensics, corporate investigations, witnesses, professional surveillance and intelligence reports (http://www.thesurveillancegroup.com/).
The Havana Times out of Cuba reported that the company has denied placing the hidden microphone in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London (http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=95828#sthash.BZcASxUo.dpuf) The paper pointed to a denial posted on the company’s website by their CEO, Timothy Young:
“We have this morning heard an accusation the source of which is apparently Ricardo Patino, the Ecuadorian Foreign Minister suggesting that we have bugged the Ecuadorian Embassy. This is completely untrue. The Surveillance Group do not and have never been engaged in any activities of this nature. We have not been contacted by any member of the Ecuadorian Government and our first notification about this incident was via the press this morning. This is a wholly untrue assertion.” Timothy Young CEO The Surveillance Group Ltd. (http://www.thesurveillancegroup.com/news/78-press-release).
Nevertheless, Ecuador’s Foreign Minister, Ricardo Patiño, made an official request today to UK authorities to provide cooperation in investigating the placement of a microphone in the Ecuadorian embassy in London (http://www.telegrafo.com.ec/actualidad/item/compania-britanica-niega-haber-colocado-microfono-en-embajada-ecuatoriana.html).
London sources refused to respond to inquiries about the incident, saying they could “neither confirm nor deny” whether UK intelligence agencies had been involved. But they said nothing about Surveillance Group Limited or any other private intelligence contractors.
Coming on the heels of the denial of airspace to Bolivian President, Evo Morales
All of this news comes on the heels of the recent incident regarding Bolivian president, Evo Morales’ whose plane was denied airspace within the last forty eight hours. Morales was returning from a trip to Russia and Portugal, Italy, France and Spain all denied him the right to travel within their airspaces (http://www.dailycensored.com/jet-containing-bolivian-president-evo-moraless-is-refused-entry-into-european-airspace/).
Morales was detained in Vienna, Austria for 14 hours while his plane was searched, allegedly to look for Edward Snowden whom the European countries claimed Morales was hiding on his plane. Morales and Bolivia accused Austria of “kidnapping” the president (ibid).
Most of Latin America is outraged by both incidents and of course see both the black hand of the US military and British intelligence agencies behind the two incidents. The US has attempted to pressure countries into refusing to offer Snowden sanctuary and in terms of Ecuador, they have been busy sowing divisions in the country over ‘freedom of expression’, which they say Ecuador denies to its people (http://latinamericacurrentevents.com/ecuador-president-rafael-correa-warns-u-s-ambassador-not-to-meddle/28104/). They have also been behind divide and conquer episodes with the Ecuadorian elite, claiming that Correa spies on his own citizens (http://www.humanrightsecuador.org/2013/06/25/case-of-fernando-balda-the-ecuadorian-snowden/). This is an ironic twist of events for it is the US that not only spies on its citizens; it also seems to spy on everyone else’s, as well.
Under British law, there is nothing illegal about putting bugs or listening devices in foreign Embassies. There are provisions in the Orwellian, Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) for the police and intelligence agencies to bug buildings or cars. MI5 and MI6 can also break into buildings to place surveillance devices under powers provided by the Intelligence Services Act.
It would seem under this law the British could also contract out these services to, say Surveillance Group Limited. Sound like another crumbling ‘democracy’ you might have heard of or be living in? As right wing American lassie, Sarah Palin would say: “You bethca”!