Belgium launches official probe into alleged German-US espionage

BelgacomThe Belgian government has announced the start of an official investigation into allegations that the country’s tele- communications networks were spied on by a consortium of German and American intelligence agencies. A press release issued Friday by the Belgian Ministry of Justice said the minister, Koen Geens, had authorized an examination of claims of espionage by the United States National Security Agency and Germany’s Bundesnach-richtendienst (BND). The statement was referring to EIKONAL, an alleged collaboration between the NSA and the BND, which was revealed last month by Austrian politician Peter Pilz. Pilz told a press conference in Bern, Switzerland, that EIKONAL had targeted European telecommunications carriers for at least four years, from 2005 to 2008. The governments of Switzerland and the Netherlands have already launched their own investigations into EIKONAL.

After speaking with Pilz, Belgian politician Stefaan Van Hecke told Belgian media last month that the BND-NSA consortium had penetrated the network of Proximus, the mobile subsidiary of Belgacom, Belgium’s national telecommunications carrier. Speaking anonymously about the investigation, a Belgian official told the country’s largest French-language newspaper, Sud Presse, that if the alleged espionage is confirmed, it would have “not only legal implications, but will also affect relations between Belgium, Germany and the US”. A Justice Ministry spokeswoman said on Friday that if the allegations of espionage were confirmed “the government would take appropriate action”, but she refused to elaborate.

IntelNews regulars will remember the last time Belgacom surfaced in the news: in 2013, we reported that the company’s technicians had detected an “unidentified virus” that had infected several dozen mainframe computers. The virus specifically targeted telecommunications traffic carried by Belgacom’s international subsidiaries in Africa and the Middle East. Belgium’s Federal Prosecutor’s Office said at the time that the malware’s complexity, coupled with its grand scale, “pointed towards international state-sponsored cyber espionage”.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 8 June 2015 | Permalink: http://intelnews.org/2015/06/08/01-1710/

Switzerland to probe claims it was spied on by US, German agencies

SwisscomThe office of the Swiss Federal Prosecutor has launched an investigation into claims that the country’s largest telecommunications provider was spied on by a consortium of German and American intelligence agencies. The spy project was reportedly a secret collaboration between Germany’s BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst) and America’s National Security Agency (NSA). According to Austrian politician Peter Pilz, who made the allegations on Wednesday, the BND-NSA collaboration was codenamed EIKONAL and was active from 2005 to 2008. Speaking during a press conference in Bern, Switzerland, Pilz said many European phone carriers and Internet service providers were targeted by the two agencies.

Among EIKONAL’s targets, said Pilz, was Swisscom AG, Switzerland’s largest telecommunications provider and one of the successor companies to the country’s national carrier, the PTT (short for Post, Telegraph, Telephone). The government of Switzerland still retains a majority of Swisscom shares, which makes the Bern-based company the closest thing Switzerland has to a national telecommunications carrier. Under the EIKONAL agreement, the BND accessed Swisscom traffic through an interception center based in Frankfurt, Germany. From there, said Pilz, the intercepted data was transferred to a BND facility in Bad Aibling to be entered into NSA’s systems. Pilz shared numerous documents at the press conference, among them a list of key transmission lines that included nine Swisscom lines originating from Zurich and Geneva.

Switzerland’s Office of the Federal Prosecutor said on Wednesday that a criminal investigation was already underway into Peter Pilz’s claims, and that the Swiss Federal Intelligence Service was in contact with Swisscom and other actors targeted by EIKONAL. Meanwhile, Pilz refused to answer questions about where he got the documents about the alleged spy operation. He said, however, that he did not think Swisscom was aware of the BND-NSA actions against it. The company issued a statement on Wednesday saying it had “no agreements with the NSA, the BND, or any other foreign intelligence agency that permit eavesdropping” on company lines.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 28 May 2015 | Permalink: http://intelnews.org/2015/05/28/01-1705/

Germany plans to limit NSA’s access to European communications

Philipp Rösler and Angela MerkelBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The government of Germany plans to implement a series of measures designed to limit America’s access to the communications of European citizens and institutions, according to senior German cabinet officials. The move is part of a broader German response to news in July that the United States spies on the communications of Germany and other European Union countries with the same intensity it spies on China or Iraq. The information was leaked by American defector Edward Snowden, a former computer expert for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA), who is now living in Russia. Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Germany’s Vice Chancellor and Minister of Economics and Technology, Philipp Rösler, said Germany will take action to limit NSA’s ability to spy on European Union communications traffic. The first step in the process will be to build “a strong European information technology industry which can offer alternatives” to American-owned firms that collaborate with the NSA, said Rösler. Further steps will include augmenting the security of European cloud computing processes and structures, and strengthening contacts between established information technology companies and start-up enterprises. At the same time, Germany will enter negotiations with the European Commission (the European Union’s executive arm) aimed at strengthening European data protection legislation and legally forcing the US to stop its indiscriminate surveillance of European communications networks. Read more of this post

White House review ‘found no evidence’ of Huawei spying for China

Huawei TechnologiesBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A review commissioned by the government of the United States has reportedly found no evidence that Chinese telecommunications hardware manufacturer Huawei Technologies spied for the Chinese government. The 18-month-long review, which was ordered directly by the White House, examined the question of security vulnerabilities posed by telecommunications hardware suppliers, which could theoretically harm US service providers and pose a danger to US national security. The report, which was allegedly aided by several US intelligence agencies and other federal government departments, was based on detailed interviews with nearly 1,000 telecommunications equipment consumers across the United States. It was concluded at the start of 2012, but remains largely classified. However, Reuters news agency cites “two people familiar with the probe”, who claim that the probe contains “no clear evidence” that Huawei spied for the government of China. At the same time, however, the probe concluded that Huawei telecommunications hardware contains numerous structural vulnerabilities which could help hackers exploit telecommunications networks supported by the Chinese company. According to one source quoted by Reuters, the White House report found that the telecommunications hardware sold by Huawei was “riddled with holes”. Read more of this post

Situation Report: China’s Huawei Going Mobile? (Exclusive)

Huawei TechnologiesBy TIMOTHY W. COLEMAN | intelNews.org |
The Chinese firm, Huawei Technologies, a provider of information and communications technology, has been constantly under fire in the United States and around for the world for its supposed deep ties to China’s military and intelligence establishment. It is not without some justifiable concern either. Prior to starting Huawei Technologies, the company’s founder and CEO, Ren Zhengfei, served for more than 10-years in China’s People’s Liberation Army’s engineering corps. This reality, rightly or wrongly, has added fodder for concerns that Chinese government interests are intertwined with those of Huawei. On September 13, Huawei Technologies and another Chinese firm, ZTE, were the subject of a Congressional hearing titled “Investigation of the Security Threat Posed by Chinese Telecommunications Companies Huawei and ZTE”. The purpose of the hearing, as explained by the US House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, was to assess the potential danger of “telecommunications equipment manufactured by companies with believed ties to the Chinese government”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #724

Shakil AfridiBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Aid group denies link to US intelligence in Pakistan. Aid group Save the Children denied accusations it has ties to US intelligence agencies in Pakistan. The organization’s denial came shortly after Dr. Shakil Afridi, a doctor the CIA recruited to help in the search for Osama bin Laden, told Pakistani interrogators that Save the Children played a role in his becoming involved with the CIA. Following Afridi’s interrogation, the Pakistani government banned some Save the Children members from leaving the country and aid supplies –including medical supplies– have been blocked by customs.
►►Is MI6 double spy’s case linked with Gareth Williams’ death? In 2010, British authorities jailed for a year MI6 employee Daniel Houghton, after he was caught trying to sell classified documents to MI5 spooks posing as foreign agents. According to newspaper The Daily Mirror, British police are now “probing a possible link between the Houghton’s case and the death of MI6 employee Gareth Williams, who was found dead in his London apartment in 2010. According to the paper, police detectives “want assurances from MI6 that Williams’ details [and] identity were not compromised” by Houghton.
►►Fears of spying hinder US license for China Mobile. China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile provider, applied in October for a license from the Federal Communications Commission to provide service between China and the United States and to build facilities on American soil. But officials from the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department’s National Security Division are concerned that the move would give the company access to physical infrastructure and Internet traffic that might allow China to spy more easily on the US government and steal intellectual property from American companies. This is according to The Los Angeles Times, which cites “people familiar with the process who declined to be identified because the deliberations are secret”. US officials and lawmakers have expressed similar concerns about a Chinese telecommunications hardware manufacturer Huawei Technologies, which is alleged to have contacts with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army and the Ministry of State Security.

News you may have missed #666 (superstition edition)

Gevork VartanianBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Soviet spying legend Gevork Vartanian dies. Legendary Soviet spy Gevork Vartanian, who helped foil Operation LONG JUMP, a Nazi plot to kill the three main Allied leaders in Tehran during World War II, has died in Moscow, aged 87. Operating in Tehran during World War II, he tracked German commandos, including the infamous Nazi operative Otto Skorzeny, who had arrived to attack a summit attended by Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill.
►►Turkey arrests ex-armed forces chief over coup charges. Turkish government prosecutors allege that Ilker Basbug, who retired as Turkey’s chief of staff in 2010, led a terrorist organization and plotted to overthrow the government. Remarkably, most English-language sources, including the Financial Times, managed to report Basbug’s arrest without mentioning Ergenekon, the ultra-nationalist network uncovered by Turkish police in 2007, which has resulted in hundreds of arrests, including that of Basbug.
►►Lebanon claims arrest of ‘longtime’ Israeli spy. The Lebanese army has detained a man on suspicion of collaborating for years with Israel’s Mossad spy agency. The man, identified as Elias Younes, is a retired employee of the state telecommunications company Ogero. Hezbollah-affiliated sources said Younes had been dealing with Israel for “over 35 years”. See here if you are wondering where you have heard before about Lebanese telecommunications employees allegedly spying for Israel.

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