“What are they so afraid of? It’s one man with a pen.” — Randy Credico
Stunning new details about UC Global and the surveillance operation they ran inside the Ecuador embassy in London while Julian Assange was living there were revealed two days ago by The Grayzone’s Max Blumenthal and discussed further with activist Randy Credico during his latest episode of Assange: Countdown to Freedom. Blumenthal told Credico that he was interested in the story because of an ongoing investigation into the illegal activities of UC Global, a Spanish security firm run by David Morales that former employees say was definitively spying on Assange on behalf of the U.S. government.
The details that Blumenthal uncovered reveal “gross misconduct by CIA contractor UC Global,” and show how the firm may have hid the operation from the Ecuadorian government. He also revealed the middle men used to carry out the operation including members of Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas casino security team. What many people didn’t realize is that Adelson allowed the CIA to use at least one of his casinos as a front to blackmail Chinese officials, previously.
But aside from the bombshells that Blumenthal dropped (there were plenty), there were a few nuggets that stood out in the article that serve as a reminder about how long and how far the United States has gone to demonize Assange and plot his arrest. From journalists, media outlets, ultra-Zionist casino tycoons, security firms, and government officials, the U.S. government has employed virtually every resource at their disposal to capture the Australian publisher.
Blumenthal reported that UC Global’s founder, David Morales, sent his workers to the Ecuadorian embassy in London to “collect DVR recordings of the surveillance footage and bring it to company headquarters in Jerez, Spain,” noting that some of the clips from the surveillance tapes were uploaded to a server named “Operation Hotel.” But it wasn’t just Morale’s server that was codenamed “Operation Hotel,” it was his entire operation.
The first time we heard about “Operation Hotel” was in a 2015 article written by so-called activist and journalist Fernando Villavicencio just a few weeks after WikiLeaks published Hacking Team’s emails which exposed Ecuador’s intelligence agency, Senain, and its links to the Milan-based tech firm known for its surveillance and malware products:
“A few months after the entry of Assange to the embassy, the National Secretariat of Intelligence Senain launched the ‘Hotel Operation’ directed to control and monitor the ‘guest.’”
Villavicencio has a long-standing history of attacking former Ecuador President Rafael Correa and Julian Assange. In 2010, he and his associates supported a U.S.-backed coup against Correa and then sued him for the deaths and injuries that took place during the uprising. He also has ties to Thor Halvorssen, U.S.-funded NGOs, the U.S. intelligence community, and a long-standing relationship with The Guardian despite the fact that after forging documents of an agreement between Ecuador and China, The Guardian was forced to retract the story (for more background see “The Truth About Fernando Villavicencio, the Guardian’s Source For Their Anti-Assange Campaign“).
Then, in May 2018, the term “Operation Hotel” reappeared, this time because The Guardian went on a publishing spree about Assange, publishing no less than nine articles in a two-day period and dubbing the series “Operation Hotel.” Material ranged from how much money Ecuador had spent on protecting Assange to a laundry list of accusations including Assange was a threat to embassy staff, he compromised the communication systems in the embassy, and DNC emails were likely delivered to him by one of his guests. They went so far as to publish a list of Assange’s visitors revealing that in no way does The Guardian have any respect for a journalist’s sources.
The Guardian employed journalist Luke Harding to do the heavy lifting despite the fact that he’s been called a “serial fabricator” and won Private Eye’s “Plagiarist of the Year” award in 2007. Worse, one of Harding’s sources for “Operation Hotel” was none other than Fernando Villavicencio. The Guardian also appeared to be working in tandem with a Latin American media outlet called Plan V:
“Although The Guardian started publishing their attacks on May 15, 2018, what many people may not realize is that a publishing outlet called Plan V started publishing the same material the day before. Plan V was created in 2013 with the help of Fundamedios, an NGO civil organization created in 2007.”
“In 2013, Fundamedios, also known as the Andean Foundation for the Observation and Study of Media, was accused of receiving funds from the United States. They didn’t exactly deny the accusation stating only that they had ‘indirect‘ ties to USAID.”
On May 15, 2018, The Guardian reported that the security operation carried out by the Senain—not UC Global—was originally called “Operation Guest” and then at some point changed to “Operation Hotel,” but they don’t specify as to when that change occurred nor did they post any documents supporting their statement. According to The Sydney Morning Herald:
“A Spanish private security company is under investigation over allegations it spied on Mr Assange while he was living at the Ecuadorian embassy…Mr Assange’s Australian lawyers, including prominent QC Geoffrey Robertson, were also among those spied on in ‘Operation Hotel’”.
“The file also reveals that Morales’ surveillance project — dubbed Operation Hotel — did not just observe Assange and his guests. Internal UC Global documents reveal staff also stole or illicitly photographed visitors’ belongings.”
And going back to Villavicencia’s 2015 article, someone in a leaked WikiLeaks chat mentioned at the time:
“worth noting JB [James Ball] article & MGT Google Drive does not contain the ‘Operativo Hotel’ docu cited in the Focusequador [sic] article…where did docs come from? whether genuine or semi-genuine, where was material obtained & by whom? huge story if agencies surveilling embassy have breached Ecu security service & passed material onto likes of Villavicencio.”
It’s indeed possible that intelligence agencies had breached Ecuador’s security service but knowing what we know now it’s perhaps more likely that UC Global and/or Ecuador’s own intelligence agency were leaking material to Villavicencio four years ago.
It’s also likely that one or the other was behind the massive cache of surveillance material that little-known journalist Jose ‘Pepe’ Martín obtained and then tried to use to extort WikiLeaks, claiming that the “material collected had probably been shared with the Trump administration.”
Indeed, according to The Grayzone, UC Global’s David Morales was recruited by U.S. intelligence during a security industry fair held at the Sands Expo and Convention Center which is owned by Sheldon Adelson. In a 2019 MintPress News article, “How the Trump Admin Used a Secret Livestream to Spy on Julian Assange,” I reported:
“In case anyone was wondering who the biggest influencer of the Trump campaign was in 2016, that would be Adelson, along with his wife, Miriam. They donated $5 million to Trump’s inauguration fund, making it Trump’s largest inaugural contribution as well as the largest individual donation ever made to a presidential inaugural committee.”
There’s no doubt that Adelson had Trump’s attention and that the material Jose Martin had procured was shared with the Trump administration. Based on Blumenthal’s investigation alone the surveillance material UC Global collected on Assange (that Martin later obtained) was filtered back to his administration via Morales, Adelson and then CIA Director Mike Pompeo. So how did Martin know this and was it Morales that leaked material to his blackmail ring which, coincidentally, was also based in Spain?
Todd Chapman and Mike Pompeo
Blumenthal also mentioned former U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador, Todd Chapman, and if you’ve been following this story for the last two years, you’re familiar with just how involved this guy was in greasing the wheels between the U.S. and Ecuador.
As Mike Pompeo was gearing up to leave the CIA for his new role as U.S. Secretary of State under Trump, Chapman was busy meeting with President Lenin Moreno to discuss trade and a “bilateral relationship” between the two countries. He attended at least one ceremony with the Ecuadorian president and a little over a week after Ecuador cut Assange’s communications in March 2018, he met with Ecuador’s Ministers of Industries and Productivity, Economy and Finance, Foreign Trade, and Agriculture. After the meeting, Chapman stated (followed by my commentary),
“We have proposed several agreements and possibilities to advance the relationship, in the area of security, in the area of open skies, culture. There are several projects that are pending to be agreed and signed and my message from these last days is that we have to conclude them…we have to conclude what we have offered, what we are discussing and then we can move on to other issues.”
“This statement alone reeks of U.S. pressure. One has to wonder why the United States is in a rush to get their ‘offers’ signed, sealed, and delivered. And more importantly, what are the other issues that Chapman wants to move on—surely one is being dangled like a carrot for the other.”
Thirteen U.S. congressional delegates also flew in for the meeting marking the first time in over a decade that such a large group of congressmen visited Ecuador. Chapman also took part in infiltrating Ecuadorian universities as the CIA likes to do by opening the U.S. embassy in Ecuador to students as a practice space for TV and radio. Does it get any more bizarre than a foreign embassy letting students use their space as a television studio?
As for Mike Pompeo, Blumenthal crushes it with his description of Pompeo’s first public speech as CIA director: It was “one of the most paranoid and resentful addresses ever delivered by an agency chief,” during which he likened Assange to former CIA agent Philip Agee who blew the whistle on CIA operations he had witnessed:
“…the overthrow of two presidents; the infiltration of various political parties and organizations…and the planting of bombs in front of churches and other emblematic sites to frame leftists groups; among other actions.…manipulating public opinion, infiltrating political parties and organizations, conducting terrorist attacks which were falsely attributed to leftist movements, bribery, and espionage correspondence, among other activities.”
In what should be considered one of the more outstanding moves on the part of the Ecuadorian government while Rafael Correa was still in office, in 2015, the foreign minister distributed copies of Agee’s book “as a public alert” to Ecuadorian citizens. Not surprisingly, it was former Ambassador Todd Chapman who publicly denied the allegations. And in yet another bombshell reported by The Grayzone, it was also Chapman who warned Ecuador not to take part in a secret operation being finalized to assist Assange in leaving the embassy revealing that the U.S. government knew about UC Global’s surveillance operation.
As for Pompeo, Blumenthal:
“Though Pompeo said he recognized that ‘the CIA is legally prohibited from spying on people through electronic surveillance in the United States,’ he seemed to have already put into motion an aggressive program to spy not only Assange, but on his American friends, lawyers and virtually everyone in his immediate vicinity.”
Needless to say, some of us have been calling Pompeo out for awhile:
However, despite the fact that the U.S. government—in particular Secretary of State Mike Pompeo—helped implement an illegal spying operation within a sovereign foreign embassy against an Australian publisher, it remains unknown whether or not anyone will be held accountable.
It was reported today that President Trump fired the U.S. State Department’s Inspector General, Steve Linick, who was allegedly dismissed in retaliation for opening an investigation into Pompeo’s activities. According to Representative Eliot Engel (who is by far no political prize as evidenced by the fact he once signed a letter to Ecuadorian President Moreno demanding that Assange be turned over to the U.S.):
“I have learned that the Office of the Inspector General had opened an investigation into Secretary Pompeo. Mr Linick’s firing amid such a probe strongly suggests that this is an unlawful act of retaliation.”
There is at least one person, however, who has publicly stated that they would like to seek justice for the U.S. government and UC Global’s conduct, and that’s Italian investigative journalist Stefani Maurizi who witnessed first-hand UC Global’s gestapo tactics at the embassy.
On the same evening that The Grayzone published their investigation, longtime activist and political satirist Randy Credico released a bombshell interview with Max Blumenthal about his article and journalist Stefania Maurizi regarding her experience within the Ecuadorian embassy during her visits with Julian Assange. According to Maurizi, the embassy’s security protocols had changed drastically by the end of 2017, and when she arrived in December they seized her backpack despite her protests and the fact that they knew she was a journalist carrying sensitive materials.
Although Maurizi is somewhat modest in her outlook as a targeted journalist i.e. despite publishing WikiLeaks material she hasn’t been imprisoned like Assange, she has faced her fair share of weird experiences. For instance, she was targeted physically in 2015, four months before publishing NSA documents that exposed the U.S. government intercepting the Italian prime minister’s communications. And over the years her own communications have been disrupted for example emails going missing or phone calls and text messages don’t arrive on her phone. In 2019, she became aware of UC Global’s operation and now wonders if they had something to do with it.
As for her backpack that was taken at the embassy, the staff opened, photographed, and likely copied all of Maurizi’s devices although she isn’t sure whether or not they were able to decrypt the material. In a previous interview with Credico, Maurizi recounted her initial interest in WikiLeaks,
“Maurizi was advised to look into them because they were publishing documents using cryptography as a tool for source protection. Maurizi holds a degree in mathematics, so for her, it was a natural segue into cryptography, something she believes is critical in her work. She started looking into who Julian Assange was and the work that he was doing.”
But after eleven years of using encryption to protect her sources, Maurizi wants to know if authorities were able to gain access to her material. “As a journalist it’s crucial to my work,” stated Maurizi.
As for the surveillance at the embassy, she says that it was expected but was surprised to learn that the cameras had been equipped with audio in order to capture and record conversations:
“These kinds of things are usually done by a regime so you expect this kind of thing if you traveled to China…but you don’t expect this kind of targeting inside an embassy where you know that Ecuador had granted Julian Assange’s asylum.”
As for some of the new details Blumenthal exposed about UC Global’s operation, Credico asked her what her response was to the fact that Sheldon Adelson, a U.S. citizen, was underwriting David Morales’ work:
“The whole story is completely unbelievable, it’s so dirty…we expected all sorts of tricks but not such Orwellian—dirty, dirty, dirty targeting.”
Maurizi strongly believes that those involved should pay for their criminal acts which can (and probably already does) have a chilling effect on journalism and publishing, “This provides you a measure of what can happen—journalists trying to investigate the highest levels of power. I absolutely want to bring them to the court, they cannot get away with this.”
Blumenthal’s latest investigation into the surveillance operation at the embassy as well as Maurizi’s experiences only add to the long list of things the U.S. government has been willing to do in order to capture Julian Assange. They have long used a consortium of actors including corporate media and journalists well known as U.S. collaborators to destroy Assange’s reputation and make the public more complacent about his arrest, imprisonment, and possible death; they tried to break him psychologically through torture; they’ve pressured foreign governments and the UK courts to keep him arbitrarily detained and imprisoned; and they’re using the most obscene government overreach via the U.S. justice system to go after him today, and every other investigative journalist around the globe tomorrow. And that’s just the beginning of their “dirty tricks.”
Maurizi is right, it’s time…that the people involved in these criminal and abusive acts are held accountable and Julian Assange is set free.
You can listen to Randy Credico’s full interview with both Max Blumenthal and Stefania Maurizi at ⟶ assangecountdowntofreedom.com.