Ecuador's president Lenin Moreno is eliminating all additional security from the London embassy in which WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been housed in political asylum since 2012, according to state newspaper El Telegrafo.
According to the National Secretary of Communication, the government "will maintain normal security similar to the level of security at all other Ecuadorean embassies in the rest of the world."
British newspaper The Guardian reported that Moreno's predecessor, Rafael Correa, while still president, hired a private security company and undercover agents to track Assange's movements, moods, and passport numbers of all visitors, including embassy staff. The operation reportedly cost at least US$5 million over the course of five years.
Correa has dismissed as "sensational" the newspaper's investigation into the confidential security operation. In an interview with the Intercept regarding so-called 'Operation Hotel,' Correa said Ecuador's security measures for Assange were "routine and modest."
"When we have special security, we hire private security firms to provide it. There is nothing unusual about this. It would have been a violation of our duties if we did not," said Correa.
Referring to Moreno's policy of barring Assange from receiving phone calls or visitors, Correa described the act as "torture."
Correa gave Assange political asylum at Ecuador's London embassy when the WikiLeaks founder was facing extradition to Sweden on rape and sexual assault charges, and to the United States for publishing hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. embassy memos.
The Guardian says it emailed Correa prior to publication, but received no response. An advisor to Correa confirmed the former head of state received the questions but said he hadn't been authorized to send Correa's responses. Correa claims he didn't see the email until after the story was published.
The Guardian claims that, of the US$5 million spent on security for Assange, Ecuador's intelligence agency paid several million to Hacking Team, an internet surveillance company based in Italy.