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The beginning of June 2013 saw the start of what would soon prove a high-profile row over mass surveillance disclosures by a former employee of the United States’ CIA. The first documents that Snowden shared with the dailies The Washington Post and The Guardian hit the headlines on June 6. They contained details of spying by US government agencies on world web users. According to the published documents, the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation had for many years been collecting data about all phone calls by the users of such telecommunication giants in the United States as Verizon, AT&T and Sprint Nextel and also had access to the servers of Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Skype, Youtube, Paltalk, AOL, and Apple. According to media reports the secret services were using super-secret computer software codenamed PRISM to collect audio and video files, photographs, e-mail correspondence, documents and data concerning users’ connections and the sites visited.
Other documents made public in June that Snowden had provided concerned plans by the NSA and the US Cyber Command for drawing up a map of potential targets for cyberatacks in other countries. Snowden told the Hong Kong daily South China Morning Post in an interview US cyber intelligence was gathering computer information in Hong Kong and China.
The Guardian quoted documentary evidence provided by Snowden British and US secret services had been monitoring computers and intercepting telephone calls by foreign politicians and officials at the G20 summit in London in 2009. Both Britain’s Government Communication Headquarters and the United States NSA were involved in the operation. British secret services during the summit tried to tap Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s telephone. A list was published of 38 embassies and diplomatic missions subject to US secret services operations to penetrate computer networks and intercept information. According to the daily the embassies of France, Italy, Greece, Mexico, South Korea, Turkey and India were the in the focus of the US intelligence.
The United States’ Spanish-language broadcast television channel made public classified correspondence among Ecuadorean diplomats, including the foreign minister, the ambassadors in the United States and Britain and also President Rafael Correa.
The Brazilian daily Globo said US secret services were using three special computer programs to keep track of phone calls and Internet traffic. Besides, according to the same daily US secret services ran a special base intercepting information flows transmitted via communication satellites. This joint base of the NSA and the CIA had operated up to 2002 and was an integral element of sixteen other spying stations located in all continents.
The Australian daily Sydney Morning Herald said that the US secret services were using four facilities in Australia – all equipped with powerful servers – to gather various information, including private one, in the Internet. The four facilities are in Alice Springs, Darwin, Geraldton, and also near Canberra.
Britain’s Financial Times said that the United States’ NSA had access to the world’s largest hub DE-CIX in Germany’s Frankfort on the Maine, its focus of interest being traffic from Russia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine said the federal intelligence service BND and the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (counterintelligence) widely used the US NSA’s software – XkeyScore capable of spying on internet users, registering their connections and keeping record of their activity in the world web. As the Guardian says, 700 servers using the program are located at sites in 150 countries around the world, including Moscow, Kiev and Beijing.
The Washington Post, which obtained the findings of internal auditing and the NSA’s other secret documents, said that the United States over the past five years have violated the Americans’ right to privacy thousands of times and very often exceeded the powers it had under the law of 2008.
On August 25 Der Spiegel magazine published a story saying that the United States’ NSA had systematically collected intelligence information at the offices of the European Union in New York and Washington, received access to the United Nations’ internal video conferences and also was considering the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna as a priority target for spying. Der Spiegel also disclosed the details of the secret software Blarney and Rampart-T. The former has been in use since 1978 to encompass such targets as the top diplomats, anti-terror, foreign governments and the economy.” The latter has operated since 1991 to spy on “top leaders and their entourage.” Rampart-T targets 20 countries, including Russia and China.
There were media reports the United States’ NSA tapped telephone conversations by Brazil’s president Dilma Rouseff and Mexico’s President Pena Nieto.
As The Washington Post said on August 31, in 2011 alone US secret services mounted 231 cyber attacks. Three quarters of them were targeted against so-called top priority targets. Former US Administration Officials in the know explained that the list of such targets included Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and also WMD non-proliferation problems. Also, the documents provided by Snowden contained information about the secret 652-million-dollar computer program Genie, capable of penetrating foreign computer networks.
On September 1 Der Spiegel published evidence the United States’ NSA was spying on French offices in New York and Washington.
As the New York Times and the Guardian said with reference to Snowden, the United States NSA and its British counterpart – Government Communication Headquarters – had devised special methods enabling them to hack practically all internet coding standards.
On October 21 the French daily Le Monde on its website quoted documents available from Snowden testifying that the United States’ NSA had been carrying out massive eavesdropping of conversations by French citizens. On December 10, 2012 through January 8, 2013 the NSA intercepted 70.3 million telephone conversations and SMS messages with the secret software US-985D. Le Monde believes that this coded name is a reference to the third group of countries being spied on – Germany, Poland, Austria and Belgium. The second group consists of countries whose policies are the closest to those of the US – Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
On October 23 the news arrived US secret services may have been tapping the mobile telephone of Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel.