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August 30, 2011

Gaddafi Hired International Firms to Spy on Libya Uprising

Posted in: Cyberspace,Right to Dissent,Technology,Uncategorized

Muammar Gaddafi (photo: BRQ Network)

The Wall Street Journal has a report in today’s newspaper on how Muammar Gaddafi hired firms from around the world to help his regime spy on Libyans. The article that appears in the newspaper is behind a paywall but other news organizations are publishing details in their own posts. Here’s a cobbling together of some of the details from the report that news outlets are covering—

According to CBS News, the Chicago-based Boeing Company held a meeting in Barcelona, Spain, with a Libya telecommunications official on the possibility of installing an “Internet-monitoring system.” An “unnamed source” with Narus, the Boeing unit that would have conducted the cyber-monitoring, told the Journal the offer from Libya was rejected. A Narus spokeswoman said Narus does not comment on “potential business ventures.” But, the fact that Boeing even was interested in the meeting is shady.

Unnamed sources and materials discovered in Tripoli, where the regime’s spies monitored telecommunications, show Amesys, a unit of the French company Bull SA, assisted in the spying. Sources and materials also indicate Chinese company ZTE Corp provided equipment to Gaddafi.

ZTE Corp has a history of spying. In October 2009, India suspected the company of possibly operating equipment with built-in software that had unknown algorithms that were unknown to the government. India suggested the fact the country doesn’t know what hidden instructions the equipment comes with meant the Chinese telecom could be doing anything without them knowing. ZTE Corp denied the allegations.

WSJ‘s tech blog reports VASTech SA, a South African firm, was involved in the selling of technologies that included “deep-packet inspection” as well. The blog also notes Amesys advertises on its website a “strategic nationwide interception” system that has the ability to “detect” Hotmail, Yahoo and Gmail emails and also “see chat conversations on MSN instant messaging and AIM.

That a South African firm was interested in providing support is not surprising when one considers how South Africa tacitly supported Gaddafi throughout the Libya uprising. China has been opposed to the uprising and intervention because of how it will impact the globe geopolitically. China is sure to be denied access to oil and gas reserves now so squelching the uprising was probably in China’s national interest. But, the fact that a French company went ahead and entered a deal with Gaddafi when France was on the forefront of international moves to recognize the Libya rebels is scandalous.

The Journal notes “only 100,000 of the country’s 6.6. million population” has Internet. An unnamed source also informed the Journal “between 30 million and 40 million minutes of phone conversations were stored” by regime spies.

As Free Press’ Timothy Karr wrote in January of this year on the brutal crackdown in Egypt, Narus, of Sunnyvale, California, “sold Telecom Egypt ‘real-time traffic intelligence’ equipment.” The firm was “founded in 1997 by Israeli security experts to create and sell mass surveillance systems” to governments and corporate clients. The company created NarusInsight, which Karr describes as “a supercomputer system” that performs “mass, real-time surveillance and monitoring of public and corporate Internet communications.” [The project has been used by the National Security Agency.]

Narus gave Telecom Egypt “Deep Packet Inspection equipment (DPI), a content filtering technology that allows network managers to inspect, track and target content from users of the Internet and mobile phones, as it passes through routers on the information superhighway.”

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