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Monday, October 21, 2013

More Fallout from the NSA Spying...


The National Security Agency (NSA) has a division for particularly difficult missions. Called "Tailored Access Operations" (TAO), this department devises special methods for special targets. 
That category includes surveillance of neighboring Mexico, and in May 2010, the division reported its mission accomplished. A report classified as "top secret" said: "TAO successfully exploited a key mail server in the Mexican Presidencia domain within the Mexican Presidential network to gain first-ever access to President Felipe Calderon's public email account." 
According to the NSA, this email domain was also used by cabinet members, and contained "diplomatic, economic and leadership communications which continue to provide insight into Mexico's political system and internal stability." The president's office, the NSA reported, was now "a lucrative source." 
This operation, dubbed "Flatliquid," is described in a document leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden, which SPIEGEL has now had the opportunity to analyze. The case is likely to cause further strain on relations between Mexico and the United States, which have been tense since Brazilian television network TV Globo revealed in September that the NSA monitored then-presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto and others around him in the summer of 2012. Peña Nieto, now Mexico's president, summoned the US ambassador in the wake of that news, but confined his reaction to demanding an investigation into the matter. 
Now, though, the revelation that the NSA has systematically infiltrated an entire computer network is likely to trigger deeper controversy, especially since the NSA's snooping took place during the term of Peña Nieto's predecessor Felipe Calderón, a leader who worked more closely with Washington than any other Mexican president before him.
Ars Technica reports on anger in France over an NSA spying program:

 "Amongst the thousands of documents extracted from the NSA by its ex-employee there is a graph which describes the extent of telephone monitoring and tapping (DNR—Dial Number Recognition) carried out in France," wrote Follorou and Greenwald. "It can be seen that over a period of thirty days—from 10 December 2012 to 8 January 2013, 70.3 million recordings of French citizens' telephone data were made by the NSA. This agency has several methods of data collection." 
The paper added that when a targeted number is used in France, "it activates a signal which automatically triggers the recording of the call. Apparently this surveillance system also picks up SMS messages and their content using keywords. Finally, the NSA apparently stores the history of the connections of each target—or the metadata."
In response, the French government has summoned the American ambassador and has demanded answers from Washington.
 
"We work in a meaningful way in the field of the fight against terrorism, but it does not justify everything," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters in Paris, adding that it will require "a very quick clarification," from the US Secretary of State John Kerry, whom he is scheduled to meet (Google Translate) in Paris on Tuesday.
As Ars has reported before, the French prosecutor’s office has already opened an investigation into possible violations of French law sustained during the NSA’s data collection of French citizens. France itself is also conducting some degree of NSA-style metadata gathering with the DGSE, its own foreign intelligence and signals intelligence agency.
 
As a former intelligence agency head also told Le Monde earlier this summer, "We've been operating in a zone of virtual authorization for years, and each agency is quite content with this freedom, which is possible thanks to the legal vagueness surrounding metadata."
 Just because you can do something, doesn't mean that you should; and the end does not always justify the means.

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