Middle East and NSA leaks

nsa-leak-snowden-live-updates2222.siThe latest NSA documents leaked by Edward Snowden[i] sparked constitutional clash in the US and other European countries. These leaks revealed also that Middle East countries were under surveillance in a program called “Boundless Informant”[ii]. This program reminds me of Echelon[iii] project which was (or still) a secret agreement for signal intelligence (SIGNIT). Echelon project is actually a vast network of electronic spy stations located around the world and maintained by five countries (USA, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand).

In 1945, the US started secret project called “Shamrock”[iv] to spy on telegraphic data entering into and exiting from the United States. The NSA was not known at this time but the FBI, CIA and defense department were granted daily access to telegraph messages without any warrant.

In 1952, President Harry Truman established the NSA[v] with a presidential directive to help break secret codes gathered during WWII. But this was just the beginning until the NSA started to be involved in everything.   In my opinion, this is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to surveillance and digital spying. This might be the norm due to unwarranted influence of the military and police state in the US.

Accordingly, the surveillance state is not new in the US but citizens are tend to forget or even don’t have time to search or read history.  One of the well-known scandals related to NSA was the AT&T case in 2006[vi] which brought the Israeli company, NARUS[vii], to the surface.

The latest NSA leaks in addition to AT&T scandal in 2006 revealed the rule of NARUS software and gears in Internet surveillance. NARUS, which acquired by Boeing in 2010, was founded in Israel in 1997. Since 2004, NARUS was major player in Middle East surveillance when it comes to blocking VoIP services[viii]. Arab dictators were overwhelmed by the new VoIP technologies, especially Skype, when governments in Egypt and Saudi Arabia wanted to block it due to economic and political issues. VoIP services helped activists bypass government surveillance in Middle East. It was also very cheap or free when compared to local telephone services. This company, NARUS, helped also Arab regimes in Egypt[ix], Libya[x] and other countries to spy on their citizens using deep packet inspection technology (DPI). They also used these tools to block specific services and websites that might contain materials against governments or religious issues. In Middle East, under the cloak of “National Security”, everything can be blocked, no questions asked!

Do Arab countries understand what they installed in their ICT infrastructure?