Skip to main content

Ecuador: Spy microphone recorded secret conversations inside London embassy

By Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
updated 6:49 AM EDT, Thu July 4, 2013
Ecuador says a hidden recording device was found inside its embassy in London.
Ecuador says a hidden recording device was found inside its embassy in London.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ecuador says a hidden recording device was found inside its London embassy
  • The "spy microphone" was placed in an electrical outlet, the foreign minister says
  • He calls for British authorities to assist in Ecuador's investigation

(CNN) -- Ecuador is calling for British authorities to help investigate after officials found a secret recording device planted inside the South American country's embassy in London.

A "spy microphone" was found inside the Ecuadorian ambassador's office on June 14, Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino told reporters Wednesday. It was hidden inside a small white box inside an electrical outlet, partially covered by a bookshelf, he said.

The discovery, Patino said, "very seriously concerns us."

"We are requesting backing from the British government to continue with the investigation of the device found," he said.

The device, he said, contained a SIM card and was designed to transmit private conversations occurring inside the embassy. Ecuadorian authorities believe it had been in place for weeks.

It was found two days before Patino was scheduled to arrive at the embassy, he said.

Patino said authorities have "founded suspicions" that indicate a private British surveillance company was involved, but he did not provide additional details. The company did not immediately respond to a request from CNN to comment.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange speaks from the Ecuadorian Embassy
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange speaks from the Ecuadorian Embassy

In addition to serving as an office for Ecuadorian officials abroad, the embassy has also been home for more than a year to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who received asylum from Ecuador in August and risks arrest if he leaves the property.

The revelation comes amid worldwide debate over U.S. surveillance, including reports that the National Security Agency planted bugs in diplomatic offices.

It also comes as Ecuador plays a key role in the global guessing game over the next steps for Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who is on the run after admitting that he leaked classified documents about U.S. surveillance programs.

Snowden fueling U.S.-Ecuador row

Snowden has asked for asylum from Ecuador and 20 other countries.

Patino said on Wednesday that his country was still evaluating the request.

Asked whether Assange's presence inside the Ecuadorian Embassy had opened the building to more risks, Patino acknowledged that the WikiLeaks founder's presence had brought greater attention to the embassy.

"Surely, there are risks, yes ... but we are willing to run them when it comes to defending rights," he said.

CNN's Claudia Rebaza contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Data mining & privacy
updated 10:25 AM EDT, Sun June 23, 2013
He's a high-school dropout who worked his way into the most secretive computers in U.S. intelligence as a defense contractor.
updated 8:26 AM EDT, Thu May 29, 2014
Traitor or patriot? Low-level systems analyst or highly trained spy?
updated 3:27 PM EDT, Thu May 29, 2014
What are the takeaways from Snowden's NBC interview? You might be surprised.
updated 7:52 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Months after accepting asylum in Russia, Snowden asked Putin about Moscow's own surveillance practices.
updated 12:43 PM EDT, Wed March 12, 2014
A federal judge has refused the Obama administration's request to extend storage of classified NSA telephone surveillance data beyond the current five-year limit.
updated 8:44 PM EDT, Sun March 9, 2014
From his sanctuary in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, Julian Assange said that everyone in the world will be just as effectively monitored soon -- at least digitally.
updated 8:39 PM EDT, Mon March 10, 2014
In a rare public talk via the Web, fugitive NSA leaker Edward Snowden urged a tech conference audience to help "fix" the U.S. government's surveillance of its citizens.
updated 11:55 PM EDT, Thu August 1, 2013
The White House is "very disappointed" that National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden has been granted temporary asylum in Russia.
updated 8:57 AM EST, Tue December 10, 2013
Spies with surveillance agencies in the U.S. and U.K. infiltrated video games like "World of Warcraft" in a hunt for terrorists "hiding in plain sight" online.
updated 7:39 AM EDT, Fri August 2, 2013
Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden both held jobs that gave them access to some of their country's most secret and sensitive intelligence. They chose to share that material with the world and are now paying for it.
updated 10:35 AM EDT, Thu August 1, 2013
The NSA's controversial intelligence-gathering programs have prevented 54 terrorist attacks around the world, including 13 in the United States.
updated 2:54 PM EDT, Thu August 1, 2013
You've never heard of XKeyscore, but it definitely knows you. The National Security Agency's top-secret program essentially makes available everything you've ever done on the Internet.
updated 9:04 AM EDT, Sun August 18, 2013
You may have never heard of Lavabit and Silent Circle. That's because they offered encrypted (secure) e-mail services, something most Americans have probably never thought about needing.
updated 2:54 PM EDT, Wed July 24, 2013
"Any analyst at any time can target anyone. Any selector, anywhere ... I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone."
updated 9:56 AM EDT, Tue July 2, 2013
President Barack Obama responds to outrage by European leaders over revelations of alleged U.S. spying.
updated 10:48 AM EDT, Tue April 1, 2014
Browse through a history of high-profile intelligence leaking cases.
updated 10:37 AM EDT, Tue July 2, 2013
Former President George W. Bush talks Snowden, AIDS, Mandela and his legacy.
updated 9:04 AM EDT, Wed June 26, 2013
Edward Snowden took a job with an NSA contractor in order to gather evidence about U.S. surveillance programs.
updated 6:47 AM EDT, Wed June 19, 2013
With reports of NSA snooping, many people have started wondering about their personl internet security.
updated 9:52 AM EDT, Wed August 14, 2013
Click through our gallery to learn about other major leaks and what happened in the aftermath.
updated 4:02 PM EDT, Sun June 9, 2013
What really goes on inside America's most secretive agency? CNN's Chris Lawrence reports.
ADVERTISEMENT