Scandinavian phone company helps ex-Soviet republics spy on citizens

TeliaSonera CEO Lars NybergBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A highly profitable cellular telecommunications company, which is jointly owned by a Swedish-Finnish public-private consortium, is enabling some of the world’s most authoritarian regimes to spy on their own citizens, according to a new report. TeliaSonera AB, the dominant telephone company and mobile network operator in Sweden and Finland, is currently active in nearly 20 countries around the world. In 2011, it posted a net profit of nearly $3 billion, 25 percent of which came from the company’s operations in countries of the former Soviet Union. They include some of TeliaSonera’s most lucrative franchises, such as Geocell in Georgia, Kcell in Kazakhstan, Ucell in Uzebekistan, Tcell in Tajikistan, and Azercell in Azerbaijan, among others. But a new investigation by Sweden’s public broadcaster, Sveriges Television AB  (SVT), accuses TeliaSonera of knowingly giving some of the world’s most oppressive governments the means to spy on their own citizens. The report, which is available online in English, effectively states that TeliaSonera is directly complicit in some of the world’s most severe human rights abuses. The accusation is bound to cause embarrassment among senior officials in the Swedish government, which owns nearly 40 percent of TeliaSonera’s stock. The SVT investigation singles out Uzbekistan, Belarus and Azerbaijan, where TeliaSonera operates monopoly cellular networks on behalf of the state, “in exchange for lucrative contracts”. While running the networks, TeliaSonera allegedly grants local intelligence agencies complete and real-time access to the all telephone calls, pen-register data, and content of text messages exchanged by users. This, says the SVT report, has in turn facilitated several arrests of pro-democracy activists and political dissidents in countries like Belarus and Azerbaijan. Read more of this post

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Thuraya satellite telephone

Thuraya phone

►►Libya bans unauthorized cell phone use. The government of Libya warned Thursday that any of its citizens found using a Thuraya satellite phone without a permit will be treated as spies for NATO, and may face the death penalty. The reason, according to an official statement, is that “spies [of] NATO use the Thuraya telephones to give crusaders the coordinates of some locations to be bombed, which has caused the deaths of a large number of civilians”. Thuraya is a popular satellite phone provider based in the United Arab Emirates, with over a quarter of a million subscribers in the Middle East and Africa.
►►Uzbekistan jails senior mining scientist for spying. A court in Uzbekistan has convicted Said Ashurov, who worked as chief metallurgist for British mining company Oxus Gold, to 12 years in prison on charges of industrial espionage. Ashurov was arrested in March as he tried to cross the border into Tajikistan. A lawyer for the mining company described Ashurov’s case as a fabrication and said that the Uzbek government was using him as a pawn in their battle to take control of the Amantaytau Goldfields project, which is developing “some of the world’s most promising gold fields”.
►►Ex-White House official claims CIA tried to recruit 9/11 hijackers. Richard Clarke, who served in two US administrations as a White House counterterrorism adviser, says he now suspects the CIA hid its knowledge that two of the September 11 hijackers had entered the United States Read more of this post

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CIA deployed agents disguised as journalists, says ex-NSA analyst

Wayne Madsen

Wayne Madsen

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Former NSA analyst and US Navy intelligence officer Wayne Madsen has said that the CIA deployed at least two operatives posing as journalists in several world hotspots after 9/11. The two operatives, both US Special Forces veterans, were subcontracted to the CIA by private mercenary company Blackwater, and were accredited as journalists by Korean-owned United Press International (UPI). Madsen, who authors the daily Wayne Madsen Report, says the two operatives were active in Uzbekistan shortly after 9/11. One of them secured a travel visa to enter Iran in 2003, where he allegedly “engaged in target analysis and spotting for a planned US attack on Iran” (this was presumably before Washington decided to axe the rumored plan to launch a direct military attack on Iran in favor of an intensive plan of covert sabotage, as detailed by The New York Times last January). Read more of this post

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Analysis: US may lose its most important base in Afghan war

Bakiyev

Bakiyev

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
US Pentagon officials routinely describe the US Air Force base in Manas, Kyrgyzstan, as “hugely important”. It became even more so in 2005, after the government of Uzbekistan shut down the US Air Force base in Karshi-Khanabad, under Russian pressure. Since then, the Manas airbase has become the “primary logistics hub” for the US military’s Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, as it offers US forces a vital northern supply line to Afghanistan “in the face of ongoing insurgent attacks along the Khyber Pass route through Pakistan”. Pentagon officials were therefore stunned when Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev announced last Tuesday that his government “has made the decision on ending the term for the American base on the territory of Kyrgyzstan and in the near future, this decision will be announced”. Read more of this post