Oh Ecuador: Your Irony on Spying
As many of us watch the Edward Snowden saga with bated breath, while he remains in the Moscow airport, Ecuador has gained prominent attention as a likely nation for asylum. After all, Julian Assange of WikiLeaks has been living in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for more than a year, and a prominent guitarist from Rage Against the Machine has even offered to pay for Snowden’s flight.
A recent leak (en español), however, reveals that the Ecuadorian intelligence agency, SENAIN, has sought its own invasive surveillance system, and it has done so in secret. As reported in BuzzFeed Politics:
The Ecuadorian documents — stamped “Secret” … show the government purchasing a “GSM Interceptor” system, among other domestic spying tools, and they suggest a commitment to domestic surveillance that rivals the practices by the United States’ National Security Agency… They include both covert surveillance capacities and the targeting of President Rafael Correa’s enemies on social media. According to the files, SENAIN keeps close tabs on the Facebook and Twitter accounts of journalists, opposition politicians and other individuals…
Ecuador also has a record of being ahead of the game in domestic surveillance. Last year, it became the first country in the world to implement a nation-wide facial and voice recognition system.
Further, this revelation comes soon after Ecuador’s congress passed a “state watchdog” law to regulate and redistribute television and newspaper content — a move which opposition legislators characterized as a form of censorship.
This hypocrisy need not be surprising, though, and it may not get in the way of Snowden finding a new life in Ecuador. It hasn’t stopped Assange from obtaining support. Additionally, as many have pointed out, had someone like Snowden outed such a spying program in a foreign nation and sought asylum in the United States, he would have likely received a hero’s welcome.
If Snowden were Chinese or Iranian, had leaked info about their spying and then sought asylum in US, we'd grant it and call him a hero.
— Stephen Walt (@StephenWalt) June 24, 2013