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Sunday, January 5, 2014




Documents leaked by Edward Snowden and jointly disclosed by Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) and Norddeutscher Rundfunk revealed that several telecom operators have played a key role in helping the British intelligence agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) tap into worldwide fiber-optic communications.[114][115] The telecom operators are:
Each of them were assigned a particular area of the international fiber-optic network for which they were individually responsible. The following networks have been infiltrated by the GCHQ: TAT-14 (Europe-USA), Atlantic Crossing 1 (Europe-USA), Circe South (France-UK), Circe North (The Netherlands-UK), Flag Atlantic-1Flag Europa-AsiaSEA-ME-WE 3 (Southeast Asia-Middle East-Western Europe), SEA-ME-WE 4 (Southeast Asia-Middle East-Western Europe), Solas (Ireland-UK), UK-France 3, UK-Netherlands 14,ULYSSES (Europe-UK), Yellow (UK-USA) and Pan European Crossing.[117]
Telecommunication companies who participated were "forced" to do so and had "no choice in the matter".[117] Some of the companies were subsequently paid by GCHQ for their participation in the infiltration of the cables.[117] According to the SZ the GCHQ has access to the majority of internet and telephone communications flowing throughout Europe, can listen to phone calls, read emails and text messages, see which websites internet users from all around the world are visiting. It can also retain and analyse nearly the entire European internet traffic.[117]
The GCHQ is collecting all data transmitted to and from the United Kingdom and Northern Europe via the undersea fibre optic telecommunications cable SEA-ME-WE 3. Singaporean intelligence co-operates with Australia in accessing and sharing communications carried by the SEA-ME-WE-3 cable. The Australian Signals Directorate, is also in a partnership with British, American and Singaporean intelligence agencies to tap undersea fibre optic telecommunications cables that link Asia, the Middle East and Europe and carry much of Australia's international phone and internet traffic.[118]
The U.S. runs a top-secret surveillance program, code named Special Collection Service, based in over 80 consulates and embassies worldwide, including Frankfurt Germany and Vienna, Austria.[84] The NSA hacked the United Nations' video conferencing system in Summer 2012 in violation of a UN agreement.[84] The Bundesnachrichtendienst is providing the NSA with metadata collected from German systems. In December 2012 alone, Germany provided the NSA with 500 million metadata records.[119][120][121] The N.S.A. is not just intercepting the communications of Americans who are in direct contact with foreigners targeted overseas, but also searching the contents of vast amounts of e-mail and text communications into and out of the country by Americans who mention information about foreigners under surveillance.[122] It also spied on the Al Jazeera and gained access to its internal communications systems.[123]
The NSA has built a surveillance network that has the capacity to reach roughly 75% of all U.S. Internet traffic.[124][125][126] U.S. Law-enforcement agencies use tools used by computer hackers to gather information on suspects.[127][128] An internal NSA audit from May 2012 identified 2776 incidents i.e. violations of the rules or court orders for surveillance of Americans and foreign targets in the U.S. in the period from April 2011 through March 2012, while U.S. officials stressed that any mistakes are not intentional.[129][130][131][132][133][134][135]
The FISA Court that is supposed to provide critical oversight of the U.S. government's vast spying programs has limited ability to do and it must trust the government to report when it improperly spies on Americans.[136] A legal opinion declassified on August 21, 2013 revealed that the NSA intercepted for three years as many as 56,000 electronic communications a year of Americans who weren’t suspected of having links to terrorism, before FISC court that oversees surveillance found the operation unconstitutional in 2011.[137][138][139][140][141] By the Corporate Partner Access Project for major U.S. telecommunications providers these providers receive hundreds of millions of dollars a year from the NSA for clandestine access to their communications networks and filtering vast traffic flows for foreign targets.[142]
A letter drafted by the Obama administration specifically to inform Congress of the government's mass collection of Americans’ telephone communications data was withheld from lawmakers by leaders of the House Intelligence Committee in the months before a key vote affecting the future of the program.[143][144]
The NSA paid GCHQ over £100 Million between 2009 and 2012, in exchange for these funds GCHQ "must pull its weight and be seen to pull its weight." Documents referenced in the article explain that weaker laws regarding spying are "a selling point". GCHQ is also developing the technology to "exploit any mobile phone at any time."[145] The NSA has under a legal authority a secret backdoor into its databases gathered from large Internet companies enabling it to search for U.S. citizens' email and phone calls without a warrant.[146][147]
The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board urged the U.S. intelligence chiefs to draft stronger US surveillance guidelines on domestic spying after finding that several of those guidelines have not been updated up to 30 years.[148][149] U.S. intelligence analysts have deliberately broken rules designed to prevent them from spying on Americans by choosing to ignore so-called "minimisation procedures" aimed at protecting privacy.[150][151][152]
After the Foreign Secret Intelligence Court ruled in October 2011 that some of the NSA's activities were unconstitutional paid millions of dollars to cover the costs of major internet companies involved in the Prism surveillance program.[153]
"Mastering the Internet" (MTI) is part of the Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP) of the British government that involves the insertion of thousands of DPI (deep packet inspection) "black boxes" at various internet service providers, as revealed by the British media in 2009.[154]
In 2013, it was further revealed that the NSA had made a £17.2  million financial contribution to the project, which is capable of vacuuming signals from up to 200 fibre-optic cables at all physical points of entry into Great Britain.[155]

As part of disclosures about the XKeyscore surveillance tool, The Guardian released a classified NSA powerpoint slide explaining the importance of monitoring the HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) usage of "typical" Internet users. Notice the orange bar on top with the following line of text: "TOP SECRET//COMINT//REL TO USA, AUS, CAN, GBR, NZL". This is used to indicate that the presentation is part of a top secret document about communications intelligence (COMINT) that is related to the "Five Eyes" of the United States, Australia, Canada, Great Britain, and New Zealand.


The Guardian and the New York Times reported on secret documents leaked by Snowden showing that the NSA has been in "collaboration with technology companies" as part of "an aggressive, multipronged effort" to weaken the encryption used in commercial software, and the GCHQ has a team dedicated to cracking "Hotmail, Google, Yahoo and Facebook" traffic.[156][157][158][159][160][161]
Germany's domestic security agency Bundesverfassungsschutz (BfV) systematically transfers the personal data of German residents to the NSA, CIA and seven other members of the United States Intelligence Community, in exchange for information and espionage software.[162][163][164] Other countries such as Israel, Sweden and Italy are also cooperating with American and British intelligence agencies. Under a secret treaty codenamed "Lustre", French intelligence agencies transferred millions of metadata records to the NSA.[59][60][165][166]
A special branch of the NSA called "Follow the Money" (FTM) monitors international payments, banking and credit card transactions and later stores the collected data in the NSA's own financial databank "Tracfin".[167] The NSA monitored the communications of Brazil's president Dilma Rousseff and her top aides.[168] The agency also spied on Brazil's oil firm Petrobras as well as French diplomats, and gained access to the private network of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of France and the SWIFTnetwork.[169]
In the United States, the NSA uses the analysis of phone call and e-mail logs of American citizens to create sophisticated graphs of their social connections that can identify their associates, their locations at certain times, their traveling companions and other personal information.[170] The NSA routinely shares raw intelligence data with Israel without first sifting it to remove information about U.S. citizens.[7][171]
In an effort codenamed GENIE, computer specialists can control foreign computer networks using "covert implants,” a form of remotely transmitted malware on tens of thousands of devices annually.[172][173][174][175] As worldwide sales of smartphones began exceeding those of feature phones, the NSA decided to take advantage of the smartphone boom. This is particularly advantageous because the smartphone combines a myriad of data that would interest an intelligence agency, such as social contacts, user behavior, interests, location, photos and credit card numbers and passwords.[176]
An internal NSA report from 2010 stated that the spread of the smartphone has been occurring "extremely rapidly"—developments that "certainly complicate traditional target analysis."[176] According to the document, the NSA has set up task forces assigned to several smartphone manufacturers and operating systems, including Apple Inc.'s iPhone and iOS operating system, as well asGoogle's Android mobile operating system.[176] Similarly, Britain's GCHQ assigned a team to study and crack the BlackBerry.[176]
Under the heading "iPhone capability," the document notes that there are smaller NSA programs, known as "scripts," that can perform surveillance on 38 different features of the iOS 3 and iOS 4 operating systems. These include the mapping feature, voicemailand photos, as well as Google EarthFacebook and Yahoo! Messenger.[176]


On October 4, 2013, The Washington Post and The Guardian jointly reported that the NSA and the GCHQ have made repeated attempts to spy on anonymous Internet users who have been communicating in secret via the anonymity network Tor. Several of these surveillance operations involve the implantation of malicious code into the computers of Tor users who visit particular websites. In some cases, the NSA and GCHQ have succeeded in blocking access to the anonymous network, diverting Tor users to insecure channels. In other cases, the government agencies were able to uncover the identity of these anonymous users.[178][179][180][181][182][183][184][185][186]
Canada's Communications Security Establishment used a software program called Olympia to map the Brazil's Mines and Energy Ministry communications by targeting "metadata" of phone calls and emails from and to the Brazilian ministry.[187][188] The Australian Federal Government knew about the internet spying program PRISM months before Edward Snowden made details public.[189][190]
The NSA monitored the president's public email account of former Mexican president Felipe Calderón (thus gaining access to the communications of high ranking cabinet members), the E-Mails of several high-ranking members of Mexico's security forces and text and the mobile phone communication of current Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto.[191][192] The NSA tries to gather cellular and landline phone numbers—often obtained from American diplomats—for as many foreign officials as possible. The contents of the phone calls are stored in computer databases that can regularly be searched using keywords.[193][194]
The NSA has been monitoring telephone conversations of 35 world leaders.[195] The U.S. government's first public acknowledgment that it tapped the phones of world leaders was reported on October 28, 2013 by the Wall Street Journal after an internal U.S. government internal review turned up NSA monitoring of some 35 world leaders.[196] The GCHQ has tried to keep its mass surveillance program a secret because it feared a "damaging public debate" on the scale of its activities which could lead to legal challenges against them.[197]
The Guardian revealed that the NSA had been monitoring telephone conversations of 35 world leaders after being given the numbers by an official in another U.S. government department. A confidential memo revealed that the NSA encouraged senior officials in such Departments as the White HouseState and The Pentagon, to share their "Rolodexes" so the agency could add the telephone numbers of leading foreign politicians to their surveillance systems. Reacting to the news, German leader Angela Merkel, arriving inBrussels for an EU summit, accused the U.S. of a breach of trust, saying: "We need to have trust in our allies and partners, and this must now be established once again. I repeat that spying among friends is not at all acceptable against anyone, and that goes for every citizen in Germany."[195] The NSA collected in 2010 data on ordinary Americans’ cellphone locations, but later discontinued it because it had no “operational value.”[198]
Under a programme known as MUSCULAR the National Security Agency, working with its British counterpart, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), has secretly broken into the main communications links that connect Yahoo and Googledata centers around the world and thereby gained the abilitiy to collect metadata and content at will from hundreds of millions of user accounts.[199][200][201][202][203]
The mobile phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel might have been tapped by U.S. intelligence.[204][205][206][207][208][209][210]According to the Spiegel this monitoring goes back to 2002[211][212][213] and ended in the summer of 2013,[196] while the New York Times reported that Germany has evidence that the NSA's surveillance of Merkel began during George W. Bush's tenure.[214]According to Der Spiegel Merkel has compared the snooping practices of the US with those of the Stasi. She told U.S. President livid after learning from Der Spiegel magazine that the Americans were listening in to her personal mobile phone: "This is like the Stasi."[215]
On October 31, 2013, Hans-Christian Ströbele, a member of the German Bundestag, met Snowden in Moscow and revealed the former intelligence contractor's readiness to brief the German government on NSA spying.[216]
A highly sensitive signals intelligence collection program named Stateroom involving the interception of radio, telecommunications and internet traffic is conducted from sites at U.S. embassies and consulates and from the diplomatic missions of other "Five eyes" intelligence partners including Australia, Britain and Canada in 80 locations around the world. The program conducted at U.S. diplomatic missions is run in concert by the U.S. intelligence agencies NSA and CIA in a joint venture group called "Special Collection Service" (SCS), whose members work undercover in shielded areas of the American Embassies and Consulates, where they are officially accredited as diplomats and as such enjoy special privileges. Under diplomatic protection, they are able to look and listen unhindered. The SCS for example used the American Embassy near the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin to monitor communications in Germany's government district with its parliament and the seat of the government.[210][217][218][219]
As part of a NSA program called Stateroom Australia's used Australian diplomatic embassies Australia's Defence Signals Directorate operates the clandestine surveillance facilities to intercept phone calls and data across Asia.[218][220]
The NSA targeted in France both people suspected of association with terrorist activities as well as people belonging to the worlds of business, politics or French state administration. The NSA monitored and recorded the content of telephone communications and the history of the connections of each target i.e. the metadata.[221][222] According to the Wall Street Journal data allegedly collected by the NSA in France was actually collected by French intelligence agencies outside France and then shared with the United States.[223] This was confirmed by National Security Agency director Keith Alexander on October 29, 2013, when he said foreign intelligence services collected phone records in war zones and other areas outside their borders and provided them to the NSA.[224]The French newspaper Le Monde also disclosed new PRISM and Upstream slides (See Page 4, 7 and 8) coming from the "PRISM/US-984XN Overview" presentation.[225]
In Spain, the NSA intercepted the telephone conversations, text messages and emails of millions of Spaniards, and spied on members of the Spanish government.[226] Between December 10, 2012 and January 8, 2013, the NSA collected metadata on 60 million telephone calls in Spain.[227]


The New York Times reported that the NSA carries out an eavesdropping effort, dubbed Operation Dreadnought, against the Iranianleader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. During his 2009 visit to Iranian Kurdistan, the agency collaborated with the GCHQ and the U.S.'sNational Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, collecting radio transmissions between aircraft and airports, examining Khamenei's convoy with satellite imagery, and enumerating military radar stations. According to the story, an objective of the operation is "communications fingerprinting": the ability to distinguish Khamenei's communications from those of other people in Iran.[228]
The same story revealed an operation code-named Ironavenger, in which the NSA intercepted e-mails sent between a country allied with the United States and the government of "an adversary". The ally was conducting a spear-phishing attack: its e-mails containedmalware. The NSA gathered documents and login credentials belonging to the enemy country, along with knowledge of the ally's capabilities for attacking computers.[228]
According to the British newspaper The Independent, the British intelligence agency GCHQ maintains a listening post on the roof of the British Embassy in Berlin that is capable of intercepting mobile phone calls, wi-fi data and long-distance communications all over the German capital, including adjacent government buildings such as the Reichstag (seat of the German parliament) and theChancellery (seat of Germany's head of government) clustered around the Brandenburg Gate.[229]
Operating under the code-name "Quantum Insert", the GCHQ set up a fake website masquerading as LinkedIn, a social website used for professional networking, as part of its efforts to install surveillance software on the computers of the telecommunications operatorBelgacom.[230] In addition, the headquarters of the oil cartel OPEC were infiltrated by the GCHQ as well as the NSA, which bugged the computers of nine OPEC employees and monitored the General Secretary of OPEC.[230]
For more than three years the GCHQ has been using an automated monitoring system code-named "Royal Concierge" to infiltrate thereservation systems of at least 350 upscale hotels in many different parts of the world in order to target, search and analyze reservations to detect diplomats and government officials.[231] First tested in 2010, the aim of the "Royal Concierge" is to track down the travel plans of diplomats, and it is often supplemented with surveillance methods related to human intelligence (HUMINT). Other covert operations include the wiretapping of room telephones and fax machines used in targeted hotels as well as the monitoring of computers hooked up to the hotel network.[231]
In November 2013 The Guardian referred to the claim that the Australian intelligence agency Australian Signals Directorate(ASD/DSD) attempted to listen to the private phone calls of the president of Indonesia and his wife. The Indonesian foreign minister,Marty Natalegawa, confirmed that he and the president had contacted the ambassador in Canberra. Natalegawa said any tapping of Indonesian politicians’ personal phones “violates every single decent and legal instrument I can think of—national in Indonesia, national in Australia, international as well”.[232] Other high ranking Indonesian politicians targeted by the ASD include:
Carrying the title "3G impact and update", a classified presentation leaked by Snowden revealed the attempts of the ASD/DSD to keep up to pace with the rollout of 3G technology in Indonesia and across Southeast Asia. The ASD/DSD motto placed at the bottom of each page reads: "Reveal their secrets—protect our own."[233]
Under a secret deal approved by British intelligence officials, the NSA has been storing and analyzing the internet and email records of UK citizens since 2007. The NSA also proposed in 2005 a procedure for spying on the citizens of the UK and other Five-Eyes nations alliance, even where the partner government has explicitly denied the U.S. permission to do so. Under the proposal, partner countries must neither be informed about this particular type of surveillance, nor the procedure of doing so.[39]
Towards the end of November, The New York Times released an internal NSA report outlining the agency's efforts to expand its surveillance abilities.[234] The five-page document asserts that the law of the United States has not kept up with the needs of the NSA to conduct mass surveillance in the "golden age" of signals intelligence, but there are grounds for optimism because, in the NSA's own words:
"The culture of compliance, which has allowed the American people to entrust NSA with extraordinary authorities, will not be compromised in the face of so many demands, even as we aggressively pursue legal authorities..."[235]
The report, titled "SIGNT Strategy 2012–2016", also said that the U.S. will try to influence the "global commercial encryption market" through "commercial relationships", and emphasized the need to "revolutionize" the analysis of its vast data collection to "radically increase operational impact".[234]
On November 23, 2013, the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad reported that the Netherlands was targeted by U.S. intelligence agencies in the immediate aftermath of World War II. This period of surveillance lasted from 1946 to 1968, and also included the interception of the communications of other European countries including Belgium, France, West Germany and Norway.[236]


According to the classified documents leaked by Snowden, the Australian Signals Directorate, formerly known as the Defence Signals Directorate, had offered to share information on Australian citizens with the other intelligence agencies of the UKUSA Agreement. Data shared with foreign countries include "bulk, unselected, unminimised metadata" such as "medical, legal or religious information".[238]
The Washington Post revealed that the NSA has been tracking the locations of mobile phones from all over the world by tapping into the cables that connect mobile networks globally and that serve U.S. cellphones as well as foreign ones. In the process of doing so, the NSA collects more than five billion records of phone locations on a daily basis. This enables NSA analysts to map cellphone owners’ relationships by correlating their patterns of movement over time with thousands or millions of other phone users who cross their paths.[239][240][241][242][243][244][245][246]
The Norwegian Intelligence Service (NIS), which cooperates with the NSA, has gained access to Russian targets in the Kola Peninsula and other civilian targets. In general, the NIS provides information to the NSA about "Politicians", "Energy" and "Armament".[247] A top secret memo of the NSA lists the following years as milestones of the Norway-United States of America SIGNT agreement, or NORUS Agreement:

  • 1952 - Informal starting year of cooperation between the NIS and the NSA[248]
  • 1954 - Formalization of the agreement[248]
The NSA considers the NIS to be one of its most reliable partners. Both agencies also cooperate to crack the encryption systems of mutual targets. According to the NSA, Norway has made no objections to its requests from the NIS.[248]
On 5 December, Sveriges Television (Swedish Television) reported that the National Defence Radio Establishment of Sweden (FRA) has been conducting a clandestine surveillance operation targeting the internal politics of Russia. The operation was conducted on behalf of the NSA, which receives data handed over to it by the FRA.[249][250] The Swedish-American surveillance operation also targeted Russian energy interests as well as the Baltic states.[251] As part of the UKUSA Agreement, a secret treaty was signed in 1954 by Sweden with the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, regarding collaboration and intelligence sharing.[252]