Ambassador slams ‘Orwellian’ spying

Don’t monitor us – a message from the Ambassador of
Argentina Alicia Castro at her independence Day celebration

The Argentine Ambassador, Alicia Castro, has hit out at “global espionage”, saying South American citizens did not want to be “watched over” by foreign governments.

Addressing guests at Argentina’s Independence Day celebrations, she said the world was living in an “Orwellian fantasy”, referring to the leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, which claimed that the British and American governments had mass surveillance programmes that have apparently included the monitoring of South American citizens.

“Our independence was declared almost 200 years ago. We are free and independent nations, we do not need, nor do we want, to be watched over, to be surveyed or monitored; we do not need any voice other than that of our own people and our own representatives to tell us what path we should follow,” said Castro.

She also praised the bravery of the departing Ambassador of Ecuador Ana Alban, who for the past year has given asylum to the Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in her Embassy.

It has been claimed that a listening device was planted in the Ecuadorian Embassy to eavesdrop on the Ambassador’s conversations. Following his visit to Britain, the Foreign Minister of Ecuador, Mr Ricardo Patino, alleged that a bug had been found in mid-June by technicians who were reviewing the Embassy’s wiring.

Mr Patino accused a British surveillance company of planting the device and is seeking the British government’s cooperation in the investigation of the alleged bugging.

Eyebrows were raised in diplomatic circles about the alleged bugging of the EU offices in New York and Washington as well as targeting 38 different missions. British intelligence also apparently hacked into the smartphones of diplomats at the 2009 G20 Summit.

“This sort of spying on allies was not for reasons of national security but to gain advantage in negotiations. That’s crossing a line,” an envoy told Embassy.

But accusations of spying met with some indifference among diplomats who claim spying is an “age-old practice using new tools”.

As one head of mission remarked to Embassy: “It’s known that we share intelligence and this sort of surveillance happens in many countries. The only reason we don’t hear about it is because in authoritarian regimes these whistle blowers would not see the light of day.”