NSA has bugged UN, EU, 80 embassies

According to Der Spiegel, one of Germany’s pre-eminent weekly magazines, the NSA (the Pentagon) has an extensive spy apparatus inside United Nations headquarters in New York, as well as in 80 embassies worldwide.

Because … “terrorism,” right? Because … “keeping frightened Americans safe,” right?

Or because “out-of-control national spook state”?

Reuters, reporting on the Der Spiegel revelations (my emphasis and some reparagraphing):

The U.S. National Security Agency has bugged the United Nations’ New York headquarters, Germany’s Der Spiegel weekly said on Sunday in a report on U.S. spying that could further strain relations between Washington and its allies.

Citing secret U.S. documents obtained by fugitive former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, Der Spiegel said the files showed how the United States systematically spied on other states and institutions. Der Spiegel said the European Union and the U.N.’s Vienna-based nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), were among those targeted by U.S. intelligence agents.

In the summer of 2012, NSA experts succeeded in getting into the U.N. video conferencing system and cracking its coding system, according one of the documents cited by Der Spiegel. “The data traffic gives us internal video teleconferences of the United Nations (yay!),” Der Spiegel quoted one document as saying, adding that within three weeks the number of decoded communications rose to 458 from 12.

Internal files also show the NSA spied on the EU legation in New York after it moved to new rooms in autumn 2012. Among the documents copied by Snowden from NSA computers are plans of the EU mission, its IT infrastructure and servers.

And if that weren’t bad enough:

NSA runs a bugging programme in more than 80 embassies and consulates worldwide[.]

They really do want it all, don’t they, and they have no shame — or legal constraint — in making the attempt.

“Collect it all”

This is what it means when the Pentagon uses the NSA to “collect it all.” From a fawning profile of Gen. Keith Alexander, NSA chief, in the Washington Post:

NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander (Image from Flickr photostream of Georgia Tech)

NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander
(Image from Flickr photostream of Georgia Tech)

[T]he NSA director, Gen. Keith B. Alexander, wanted more than mere snippets. He wanted everything: Every Iraqi text message, phone call and e-mail that could be vacuumed up by the agency’s powerful computers.

“Rather than look for a single needle in the haystack, his approach was, ‘Let’s collect the whole haystack,’ ” said one former senior U.S. intelligence official who tracked the plan’s implementation. “Collect it all, tag it, store it. . . . And whatever it is you want, you go searching for it.”

In his eight years at the helm of the country’s electronic surveillance agency, Alexander, 61, has quietly presided over a revolution in the government’s ability to scoop up information in the name of national security. And, as he did in Iraq, Alexander has pushed hard for everything he can get: tools, resources and the legal authority to collect and store vast quantities of raw information on American and foreign communications.

I’m calling that simply All Data. The Pentagon (the military) wants All Data — all foreign data (for example, from embassies around the world; from international organizations like the U.N.), all domestic data (and please don’t be fooled by their denials).

What will “they” do with All Data?

There are many ways All Data can be used, including corrupt ways. And many “theys” with access to it. All that data and all that access creates a world of possibilities. Here are just a few:

blackmail_envelope▪ Individuals with direct NSA access could spy on lovers and get revenge on ex-lovers and other enemies. (This one is now proved.)

▪ NSA contractor Booz Allen and companies like them could keep tabs on business competitors — on its own behalf and on behalf of their corporate clients — intercepting contracts, contacts, plans, proprietary IP, anything they want.

▪ Anyone with direct access, including government agencies, could set up massive, and potentially lucrative, industrial espionage operations.

▪ Since All Data includes all government data, individuals could sell U.S. secrets to foreign governments (at the link, replace “Snowden” with any name you want).

▪ Government and party officials could blackmail other politicians, other government officials — including those from their own party — to achieve any number of political goals.

▪ The blackmail idea is filled with opportunities. Prosecutors could blackmail innocent people into testifying against other innocent people. Government and party officials could blackmail writers and editors, even media owners. NSA whistle-blower Russell Tice says he had intercepts from Samuel Alito’s in his hand at one time.

▪ Anyone with access, including corrupt prosecutors and cops with mob ties, could sell the access to “friends” or rent it out.

It’s literally all possible, and given that the NSA is a very leaky ship with obviously terrible internal security — one that still, by the way, has no idea what went out the door with Snowden — it’s likely we’ll find out that everything on my list is true, and more. LOVINT, the first link in the list above, is certainly just the first of these shoes to fall.

Waiting for all the shoes to fall

As you can see from the list above, there are a lot of shoes that could fall, over quite a number of months. The Reuters article speculates, lower down, that Angela Merkel could lose her reelection bid if it’s discovered she knew and approved of all this spying. I can’t imagine other governments are pleased with the U.N. and embassy spying either.

Diplomatic repercussions, or worse? We’re about to find out just how strong a grip the U.S. has on the throat of the rest of the world.

And don’t forget the “fair is fair” effect. There are many ways to formulate the Golden Rule. One of them is this — What you do to others, count on it being done back to you, with your own justifications thrown into your face as cause.

The Snowden revelations will also play out into the campaign season, I think, which isn’t that far away. At what point will NSA whistle-blower Russell Tice’s information about political spying come to the 2014 foreground? Tice on that:

Collins: Now Russ, the targeting of the people that you just mentioned, top military leaders, members of Congress, intelligence [committee] leaders and … then executive branch appointees. This creates the basis, and the potential for massive blackmail.

Tice: Absolutely! And remember we talked about that before, that I was worried that the intelligence community now has sway over what is going on.

Now here’s the big one. … This was is summer of 2004. One of the papers that I held in my hand was to wiretap a bunch of numbers associated with, with a 40-something-year-old wannabe senator from Illinois. You wouldn’t happen to know where that guy lives right now, would you? It’s a big white house in Washington, DC. That’s who they went after. And that’s the president of the United States now.

And from another interview with Tice, “blackmail” is discussed starting at 5:38 and continuing through the rest of it. I’ll have more on that interview shortly.


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Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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