US embassies ordering spy equipment? China seeks clarification from Washington
Beijing, Dec 26: The government of China has said that it is seeking explanations from its American counterpart after it a leaked database showed that US embassies purchased data forensics software and tactical espionage equipment, said a report in IntelNews. The database was published by anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks of Julian Assange, accused in the US of having breached espionage laws, on December 21. The WikiLeaks has named the database "US Embassy Shopping List" and says it contains over 16,000 procurement requests from various US embassies located across the globe.
The requests include, besides common items and services like heating oil, outdoor freezers or garage gate maintenance repair, "tactical spy equipment" like those ordered by the American embassy in El Salvador.
"These appear to be for miniature surveillance cameras hidden into everyday objects, such as buttons, baseball caps, watches and ties. Nearly 100 such items were requested for procurement by the US embassy in San Salvador," the IntelNews report said.
The report also said that several embassies ordered hardware and software for forensic examination of mobile phones. Like for example, the US embassy in Yerevan, Armenia, which ordered a "cell phone analyser" to help users access data from cell phones while bypassing security measures like passwords. Similar devices were also sought by the US diplomatic units in Berlin and Kiev, the capital of Ukraine which is currently having a tense relationship with Russia.
On Monday, December 24, China's foreign ministry said it was seeking "clarifications" from the US administration over documents made public by WikiLeaks. Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said Washington owed "the rest of the world an explanation [...] for what has recently been revealed by WikiLeaks". Speaking about prior WikiLeaks revelations, including the so-called "PRISM-gate" in 2013, which uncovered extensive intelligence-collection activities by the US on numerous countries including allies like Germany and France, Chunying asked: "Why do American embassies buy so much secret surveillance equipment?".
Washington refused to comment on the WikiLeaks revelation as of Tuesday (December 25) morning.