Although wars have increasingly moved into cyberspace in recent years, the leading players remain the same, with the United States “leading the way.”
This is confirmed by the occasional scandals with unauthorized control of the phones and emails of political leaders, with the US always holding the “palm.” Of course, the US, through its media and its allies who are still with it, is always trying to quickly localize the spread of such scandals by using the capabilities of its intelligence services to shift the shadow of criticism to Russia, China, and Iran to unleash its own information wars on this topic through allies from NATO and the European Union. But the world community still manages to learn and understand the scope of such subversive illegal work by Washington against the leaders of even Washington’s allied states. Then what about politicians in other countries?
There is more than enough evidence of this, even if you look at media publications from the last ten years alone.
The German edition “Der Spiegel” concerning internal documents of the US. National Security Agency (NSA), dated June 2010 and marked as Top Secret, described in great detail how, using technical means and secret programs, the US spied on the French diplomatic missions in New York and Washington and the Qatari TV channel Al-Jazeera. Internal documents of the US department, which came into the newspaper’s possession, showed that US intelligence agencies used a high-tech spy program Genie. As noted by the publication, the NSA was particularly interested in the virtual private network (VPN) connecting the computers of embassies, consulates, and the headquarters of the French Foreign Ministry in Paris, and this activity was assessed in the NSA document as “successful.” European journalists have learned that US specialists have allegedly hacked into foreign networks, injecting spyware into operating systems, routers, and network defenses in millions of computers. Additional details of this scandal were then very much discussed in the French media, which in particular accused the US of spying on global electronic communications as part of the “PRISM program targeting the European Union offices in Brussels, the EU diplomatic mission in Washington and at the United Nations. It was reported that the NSA was using US embassies in 80 countries in this work of total surveillance without foreign governments being aware. As stated in one of the NSA document, this surveillance of political leaders was conducted in the strictest secrecy “to avoid causing significant damage to US relations with the host countries of American embassies.
In 2013, the Guardian reported that the US NSA monitored the telephone conversations of 35 world leaders. As the British publication pointed out, secret NSA documents claim that the agency encouraged top US executives to increase their phone files of foreign colleagues so that they could add new phones of foreign leaders to the list of subjects of surveillance by US intelligence agencies. Earlier, the Guardian reported that US intelligence agencies monitored the correspondence at the G20 summit of diplomats from Turkey, South Africa, and Russia.
In 2016, WikiLeaks published documents containing additional evidence of wiretapping of world leaders by the US National Security Agency. In particular, it follows from the released data that the US intelligence agencies intercepted telephone conversations between UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and his Italian counterpart Silvio Berlusconi, the ministers of trade of key EU countries, and Japan. The new portion of revelations of the scandalous portal reveals that the agency was more active and systematic in wiretapping conversations of world leaders than previously thought. As noted in the abstract on the website, some documents have the highest level of secrecy (TOP SECRET//COMINT-GAMMA) ever made public.
More recently, it became known that Danish intelligence agencies helped the American National Security Agency to eavesdrop on German politicians, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and the current candidate of the ruling German Social Democratic Party, Peer Steinbrück, as reported by Süddeutsche Zeitung. According to the newspaper, Denmark gave the NSA access to a particular station near Copenhagen. The US intelligence agency bugged Merkel and other German politicians by connecting to underwater cables of Internet service providers. In addition to politicians, the NSA also monitored the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark and the Ministry of Finance of Denmark.
However, all the revelations that have already become known about the total wiretapping of foreign leaders by US intelligence services can hardly be surprising to anyone, especially given the public revelations of US intelligence leaders during the October 29, 2013, hearing before the US Congress. In particular, Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper explicitly stated that obtaining information about the plans of foreign leaders is a fundamental task of American intelligence agencies. “The intentions of foreign leaders are an important part of the external landscape for decision-makers,” Clapper said so floridly in response to questions posed to him by congressmen. And Former Director of National Security Agency, General Keith Brian Alexander added that “the information we and our NATO allies were gathering was to protect our countries and to support military operations.”
And here is another wave of revelations with wiretapping of foreign political leaders using Pegasus, spyware developed by Israel. As the journalists of The Washington Post discovered, the list of 50,000 numbers believed to be under complete surveillance includes the phones of leaders and high-ranking officials from around the world, including the King of Morocco, French President Emmanuel Macron, European Council President Charles Michel and many others.
The Pegasus spyware by Israel’s NSO Group is considered one of the best spyware programs for smartphones. Tracking can be done in real-time and bypass messenger encryption. NSO Group is known to sell the program exclusively to government agencies, ostensibly to fight terrorism and crime. Still, it has been used to spy on progressive journalists and even foreign political leaders.
Of course, in the face of these new revelations, Washington will, as before, try to show that it is allegedly ultimately “not involved” in this. However, given the above facts that American and Israeli intelligence agencies cooperate very closely, would you believe that the US was not involved in the Pegasus spyware scandal? Was it not the American intelligence agencies that were once again caught bugging foreign political leaders?
Vladimir Platov, expert on the Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.