Western companies help Bahrain spy on democracy activists

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By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
While Western governments preach to the world about the benefits of democracy, Western companies supply some of the most detestable dictatorial regimes with surveillance technologies for use against pro-democracy activists. One example in point is the repressive government of Bahrain, which, according to Amnesty International, is responsible for some of the most extensive human rights violations anywhere in the Middle East. Bahrain is the kind of place where even medical professionals who treat people wounded by police or soldiers in demonstrations are charged with “incitement”. Despite the fervor of the pro-democracy movement that has risen as part of the Arab Spring, the oil-rich royal clique that rules the nation has managed a series of debilitating hits against the reformists. The success of the crackdown is largely due the use of sophisticated telecommunications surveillance systems that allow Bahraini authorities to spy on cell phones and social networking platforms used by members of the pro-democracy opposition. Who supplied the Bahraini dictators with this equipment? Step forward German engineering conglomerate Siemens AG, and Finnish multinational Nokia. An article published this week in Bloomberg’s Markets magazine, fingers the German company as the primary supplier of telecommunications surveillance systems to the Bahraini royals. The latter rely on contracts with Nokia’s Trovicor GmbH subsidiary to maintain the sophisticated software and hardware. Bloomberg says it was notified of the Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) partnership by two unnamed insiders, “whose positions at the companies gave them direct knowledge of the installations and the sale and maintenance contracts”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #420

  • Nokia and Siemens deny helping Iranian spying. Isa Saharkhiz, a one-time reporter for the Islamic Republic News Agency, is suing Nokia Siemens Networks in US federal court, claiming the companies facilitated his capture and torture at the hands of the Iranian government. The European-based consortium denies the allegations.
  • New Aussie spy agency HQ ‘on time and on budget’. The new ASIO $606 million  (USD $540 million) headquarters in Parkes, Canberra, is progressing on time and on budget, with completion scheduled for mid-2012. Meanwhile, the 270 construction workers on site have been vetted for security clearance, must pass security checkpoints each day, and have signed papers not to discuss anything that happens on site.
  • US Pentagon spends big on outsourced spy imagery. The production and maintenance of US spy satellites used to be in government hands, but now this critical aspect of national security is routinely outsourced. The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), the Department of Defense’s operator of military spy satellites, recently awarded $7.3 billion in contracts for its EnhancedView commercial imagery program.

News you may have missed #0029

  • Iranians revolting against Nokia for alleged spying complicity. Consumer sales of Nokia handsets in Iran have allegedly fallen by up to 50%, reportedly because of the company’s membership in the Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) partnership. As intelNews has been pointing out since last month, NSN allegedly helped supply the Iranian government with some of the world’s most sophisticated communications surveillance systems.
  • Analysis: Why NSA’s Einstein 3 project is dangerous. This editorial argues that US President Barack Obama’s decision to proceed with a Bush administration plan to task the National Security Agency with protecting government computer traffic on private-sector networks is “antithetical to basic civil liberties and privacy protections” in the United States.
  • New US government report says Bush secrecy hampered intelligence effectiveness. A new report from the Offices of Inspectors General of the Department of Defense, Department of Justice, CIA, NSA, and Office of the Director of National Intelligence, says that the Bush administration’s decision to keep NSA’s domestic wiretap program secret seriously hampered the broader intelligence community’s ability to use the program’s output.

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Fears raised of Iranian-style surveillance in the US

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By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Nokia Siemens Networks has denied allegations, published in The Wall Street Journal and reported by intelNews, that it helped the Iranian government acquire what experts describe as “one of the world’s most sophisticated mechanisms” for spying on Iranian telecommunications users. But critics remain unconvinced and are raising concerns about the use of similar intrusive capabilities by Internet service providers (ISPs) in the US. The Open Internet Coalition, a consortium of online business and consumer groups, has sent letters [.pdf] to US Congress members urging them to consider regulating the use of deep packet inspection technology. In addition to blocking or monitoring target communications, deep packet inspection enables ISPs and monitoring agencies to trace and alter the content of messages exchanged between users. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0009

  • Head of Spain’s secret service accused of misuse of public funds. The Spanish Ministry of Defense says it has requested “complete” information on allegations concerning secret service chief Alberto Saiz, who has been accused by the daily newspaper El Mundo of using public money for diving and hunting trips in Mexico, Senegal, Mali and Morocco. Saiz, who heads Spain’s National Intelligence Center, denies the accusations. 
  • No Obama apology for CIA in Latin America. US President Barack Obama declined to apologize on Tuesday for past CIA interventions and coup attempts in Latin America, after talks with Chilean leader Michele Bachelet. Obama was asked by a Chilean journalist whether he would apologize for past CIA operations in the region, like the US-backed coup attempt in Chile in 1973. “I’m interested in going forward, not looking backward”, replied the US President. 
  • Consumers boycott Nokia, Siemens for selling to Iran. As intelNews has been reporting since April, The Wall Street Journal has disclosed that the Iranian government has acquired some of the world’s most sophisticated communications surveillance mechanisms with the help of some of Europe’s leading telecommunications hardware and software manufacturers. The latter appear to have been all too happy to supply Tehran with advanced means to spy on its own people. Now Western consumers are calling for a boycott of Nokia and Siemens, whose Nokia Siemens Networks collaboration is a key supplier of Iran’s extensive surveillance system. 
  • Ex-CIA columnist claims CIA “harrassment”. Former CIA operations manager, Stephen Lee, who now blogs for The Washington Examiner, says he is “being subjected to a campaign of low-level harrassment” by the Agency.

Western companies help Tehran spy on protestors

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By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Numerous celebratory articles have appeared recently in several blogs that praise Western Internet firms for “help[ing] out the pro-democracy movement inside [Iran]”. These articles overlook Tehran’s extremely powerful Internet and telephone spying capabilities, which experts describe as “one of the world’s most sophisticated mechanisms”. Moreover, as intelNews reported last April, the Iranian government acquired these mechanisms with the help of some of Europe’s leading telecommunications hardware and software manufacturers, who were all too happy to supply Tehran with advanced means to spy on its own people. Read more of this post

Western companies sold phone spy equipment to Iran

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
For about a year now, political dissidents in Iran have suspected that the Iranian government’s ability to spy on private communications has intensified, covering for the first time cell phone and instant messaging exchanges. Last Monday it emerged that two European telecommunications hardware manufacturers are actually behind the Iranian government’s increased surveillance capabilities. The Wall Street Journal reports that Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) sold Iran Telecom –Iran’s government-owned telecommunications provider– a sophisticated surveillance system, in the summer of 2008. NSN is an engineering partnership between Finland’s Nokia Corporation and German hardware manufacturer Siemens AG, Europe’s largest engineering firm. Read more of this post