An exclusive investigation by The Grayzone reveals new details on the critical role Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands played in an apparent CIA spying operation targeting Julian Assange, and exposes the Sands security staff who helped coordinate the malicious campaign.
by Max Blumenthal
“I was the CIA director. We lied, we cheated, we stole.”
–Mike Pompeo, College Station, TX, April 15, 2019
Part 4 - One camera feed for Ecuador, another for “the American client”
Two former UC Global workers and the ex-business partner said Morales began implementing a sophisticated spying operation at the embassy in London in June 2017. His testimony was corroborated by emails Morales sent to employees who oversaw the surveillance.
Before that point, the cameras in and around Ecuador’s embassy in London were standard CCTV units. Their sole function was to detect intruders. Most importantly, they did not record sound.
To transform the cameras from security instruments into weapons of intrusion, Morales emailed a friend, “Carlos C.D. (spy),” who owned a surveillance equipment company called Espiamos, or, “We Spy.” He informed Carlos that “our client” demanded new cameras be placed in the embassy that were equipped with undetectable microphones.
On the 27th of the same month, Morales wrote to the same employee: “the client wants to have streaming control of the cameras, this control will have to be possessed from two different locations.” He requested a separate storage server that could be operated “from out of the enclosure where the recorder is located.”
By altering the cameras so they could be controlled from the outside, and outfitting them with hidden microphones, Morales put in place the mechanism to snoop on Assange’s intimate conversations with friends and lawyers. He also took steps to feed the footage to a separate, exterior storage server, thus keeping the operation hidden from Ecuador’s SENAIN. His marching orders came from an organization he described simply as “the American client.”
Every 15 days or so, Morales sent one of the workers to the embassy to collect DVR recordings of the surveillance footage and bring it to company headquarters in Jerez, Spain. Some important clips were uploaded to a server named “Operation Hotel,” which was later changed to a website-based system. In cases when the DVR size was too large to upload, Morales personally delivered it to his “client” in the US.
In December 2017, Morales was summoned to Las Vegas Sands for a special session with “the American friends.” On the 10th of that month, he sent a series of emails from a static IP address at Adelson’s Venetian Hotel to his spy team. The messages contained a new set of instructions.
“Nobody can know about my trips, mainly my trips to the USA,” Morales emailed his employees, “because SENAIN is onto us.”
To further limit the Ecuadorian government’s access to the surveillance system installed in the embassy, he instructed his workers, “We can’t give them access to some of the program’s services, so they don’t realize who has more log-ins or who is online inside the system… [but] everything must look like they have access to it.”
Morales sent his team a powerpoint presentation containing instructions for the new system. The aim of the instructions was to create two separate users: an administrator for the Ecuadorian client with no access to the log-in so they would not be able to notice the second user; and a separate security log-in for the Americans, who would be in full control of the system’s surveillance features.
Obtained by The Grayzone, the slides were composed in perfect English by a native speaker who was clearly not Morales.
“David Morales obviously didn’t have the technical knowledge,” a former UC Global IT specialist who received the instructions, “so the document must have been sent by another person. Because it was in English, I suspect that it could’ve been [created by] US intelligence.”
Whoever authored the powerpoint instructions was clearly an expert in cyber-security with experience in electronic surveillance and hacking. That person demonstrated their tradecraft by erasing all of the document’s metadata except for the username, “PlayerOne.” The powerpoint was handed down in the apparent physical presence of Morales, who proceeded to tell his employees, “these people have given me the following instructions, drafted in English.”
In Adelson’s orbit, there was at least one cyber-security expert with a long record of collaboration with US law enforcement and intelligence: senior vice president and global head of security at Las Vegas Sands, Brian Nagel.