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Saturday, July 13, 2013

American Government Spies via Foreign Telcos

The American government has somehow managed to sign deals with fibre companies from abroad which allowed it to spy on other nations. It turned out that during months of private talks, the FBI lawyers, along with the departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security, demanded that one Asian company maintain an internal corporate cell of US citizens with government clearances. The demand included ensuring that surveillance requests got fulfilled quickly and confidentially.

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The deal was dubbed a “Network Security Agreement”, got signed a decade ago by Global Crossing and became a model for other deals since September 2003. Although the agreements don’t officially authorize spying, they still make sure that when the American government agencies demand access to the massive amounts of information flowing via their networks, the organizations should have systems in place to provide it.

So, the foreign firms are actually forced into the deal because American spooks have the power to order the FCC to forbid them cable licenses. According to media reports, in deals involving a foreign entity, the FCC has held up approval for many months while the team of lawyers developed security agreements which went beyond what was required under the legislation governing electronic eavesdropping. For instance, the security agreement for Global Crossing – an organization whose fibre-optic network connected over two dozen nations and 4 continents – required the entity to have a “Network Operations Centre” on American soil and could be visited by American officials.

Press reports confirmed that all surveillance requests had to be handled by American citizens screened by the authorities and sworn to secrecy. In the meantime, firm’s executives and directors weren’t allowed to know the information being shared.

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