Espionage

Private Surveillance Company Denies Bugging Ecuadorian Embassy in London

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OEA-OAS, CC BY-NC-ND

Earlier this week, Reason reported on a scandalous discovery made by the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Staff at the embassy found microphones planted in one of the offices. Ecuador said it would announce on Tuesday who was responsible for the bugging.

"We have reason to believe that the bugging was carried out by a company called the Surveillance Group Limited," said Ricardo Patino, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, at a press conference in Quito, Ecuador. According to Patino, the company is "one of the UK's biggest private investigation and undercover surveillance companies." The minister presented photographs of the devices and explained that they could be turned on remotely with a cell phone. Patino also requested that the British government join Ecuador in conducting an investigation to determine the extent of the surveillance.

Timothy Young, the CEO of Surveillance Group Limited, denied Patino's claims. A press release posted Thursday on the Surveillance Group's site states:

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.

The Worcester-based company boasts elsewhere on its site that it "combine[s] the practices, skills and experience of Special Forces, Police and commercial surveillance to create an entirely new form of surveillance. They also lay claim to a worldwide network of surveillance teams: "We employ teams in cutting-edge surveillance work across the UK and with teams strategically placed in Europe and Canada."

The microphones were discovered in electric outlets in the office of Ana Alban. Although they were found in Mid-June during a diplomatic visit, Patino previously explained that the Ecuadorian government decided not to make the information public until this week in order to avoid further confusion and tension. His traveled to the embassy to meet with Julian Assange, who received political asylum from Ecuador and has been living in the London embassy for over a year. Patino also met with British Foreign Minister, William Hague, to discuss potential ways of resolving the tensions that have been growing between Ecuador and the UK over the last year because of Assange's presence. London maintains a constant police presence around the embassy and intends to arrest and extradite Assange if he sets foot on British ground.

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  1. OT:

    So I got my wife’s Volvo inspected for her today.

    The Check Engine Light is always on in that piece of shit, so I knew going in that I’d have to turn it off before I went to the inspection station.

    So I went to Advance Auto Parts and used their scanner to erase the CEL codes.

    It only had one code – a low pressure reading on the air conditioning pressure.

    And that got me to thinking – that’s a non-safety, non-emissions code. It has absolutely nothing to do with the same operation of the car. The car could have no functioning air conditioning at all, and it would wouldn’t mean anything except making the car uncomfortable.

    So WTF is up with failing the car’s state-mandated inspection as a result of that code? (Or at least, that’s what would have happened if I didn’t know how to blank any code.)

    I’m trying to decide if this is worth a class-action suit to shake Volvo and the other manufacturers down. If the check engine light is going to be used as an element in any state’s safety or emissions inspection regime, it should not light up for frivolous reasons.

    1. Welcome to Washington’s bullshit. If you have any code for any reason, you have to spend at least $150 in “diagnostic repair” at a “certified” repair shop. So, basically, it’s a crony handoff to repair shops that get “certified”. After you spend the $150, you get a waiver from the emissions test. So they couldn’t give less of a shit about your actual emissions. It’s just a scam to force anyone with an error code who doesn’t want to spend $1500 on getting their O2 sensor replaced to spend $150 for…nothing.

      I used to just clear out my codes with a $30 device from the auto parts store, but they got wise and now if you don’t have at least two weeks of data in your car’s computer, they just fail you anyway, even though you have no error codes.

      Scam doesn’t even begin to cover it. Luckily, this time I needed a checkup anyway and got over the $150 on something I actually needed.

    2. If your A/C pressure is low, it means you may have a leak in the system somewhere. Show up at an emissions station with proof that you have been destroying the ozone layer and aiding and abetting global warming and you’re liable to be shot. And rightly so, you evil, evil bastard. Wiping out humanity just so your ass doesn’t sweat.

    3. They’ll fail the car for a recently cleared ECU in California. I recently had my Mercedes in the shop for some routine maintenance, during which the battery was disconnected. After that I went straight to the smog station, and although the emissions were practically non-existent they HAD to fail the car because it hadn’t gone through a warm-up cycle since the ECU was powered up, so the ECU spit out some code about that instead of the “everything’s OK” they expect. I had to let the car completely cool, then drive it for at least 30 minutes before bringing it back the next day to wait in line again.

      That said, I don’t think it’s Volvo’s fault that the state is failing your car for leaking refrigerant. If anything, the state should change their laws to fail the car on emissions-related issues only. But this is a state government we’re talking about, so good luck with that. Next time, buy a Honda.

      By the way, you can recharge R-134a refrigerant yourself for about $20.

      1. Reminds of me the insane CAFE rules. Manufacturers should just ignore them.

  2. So I got my wife’s Volvo inspected for her today.

    Did you mean Vulva?

    1. No – that one never ran right, so I finally had to junk it.

      Now I just use one of those hourly rental apps instead.

  3. The Surveillance Group do not and have never been engaged in any activities of this nature.

    Nobody ever engages in ‘activities of this nature’. I mean, it depends on what the meaning of the word ‘activities’, ‘of’, ‘this’, and ‘nature’ is, doesn’t it?

  4. As if the pinkos in the Ecuadorian government are protesting this on principle. Pfff.

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