The relationship between Julian Assange and his hosts has soured, but in happier times Ecuador spent millions of dollars on a spy operation to protect the WikiLeaks founder after he fled to the country's London embassy in 2012, according to documents seen by the Guardian. The documents show that "Operation Guest," with the approval of former President Rafael Correa, spent an average of $66,000 a month for security and intelligence-gathering on behalf of Assange. An international security company, based in a $3,800-a-month apartment opposite the building housing the embassy, was hired to monitor Assange's visitors as well as embassy staff and the British police stationed outside the building.
The security team was also tasked with looking at different options for Assange's escape. Sources tell the Guardian that while senior figures in Ecuador's government knew about the Assange project, it was years before the country's ambassador to the UK found out about it. Email exchanges seen by the Guardian also show that Quito spent at least $180,000 in efforts to improve Assange's public image and media strategy. But some of the security team's findings angered Ecuador: In 2014, they allegedly discovered that Assange had hacked his way past the embassy's firewall and had intercepted the personal and official communications of staff members, the Times of London reports. (Assange is no longer wanted in Sweden, but he will still be arrested if he leaves the embassy.)