national security agency

Spying scandal by the US takes a Latin Twist

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The disclosure that the United States National Security Agency spied on the Mexican president, Enrique Pena Nieto and the Brazilian counterpart, Dilma Rousseff, comes as a rude surprise to the citizens of these countries. For the targeted presidents, this scandal will be a reminder of how the geopolitics works.  After the story was broken on the first of September by the news magazine “Fantastico” of the TV Globo, referring to leaked documents by Edward Snowden, the politicians from Brazil reacted with anger. The country’s lawmaker launched an investigation and President Rousseff convened a meeting attended by her closest minister and also summoned the US ambassador for an explanation.

Spying scandalLuiz Alberto Figueiredo, the Brazilian Foreign Minister, referred to the case as an unacceptable and an inadmissible violation of the sovereignty of Brazil. He also added that the country expected a written explanation to the scandal from the United States president, Barrack Obama. In unofficial terms, the aides of president Rousseff made it known that she could cancel the trip to Washington scheduled for her in October, if the United States failed to provide satisfactory answers. However, it is still unclear of what they meant by “satisfactory”.

O Estado de S. Paulo, a Brazilian newspaper has however dubbed the reactions as exaggerated. The paper stated that if the explanation from president Obama was not regarded to be satisfactory, it was then difficult to imagine what would be. The paper went on ahead to ask what president Rousseff would do after canceling her trip, whether it will be pulling of the Brazilian Ambassador from Washington or freezing the relationship between the two countries. However, president Rousseff seemed determined and she pushed further by cancelling a trip for a team of aides who were to go in advance so as to get ready for her arrival in the United States.

For President Rousseff, there is a reason why she is taking the matter seriously. For one, Brazilian ties to the United States are not as strong as those of Mexico. In addition, any potential disagreement with the United States could boost her wilting popularity. The editorial appearing on Estado suggested as much as that the reaction of president Rousseff would earn her points with an electorate that enjoys hating Americans. The paper added that an image of a powerful and determined woman defending the interest of Brazil from the “evil”, which is represented by the powerful, is a very influential electoral stimulant.

For the Mexicans, a more subtle reaction appeared to be more efficient. In a statement that was carefully worded, the Mexican foreign ministry said that without placing judgment on the veracity of information which was presented in such outlets of the media, the government had rejected and categorically condemned any espionage action conducted against the citizens of Mexico. President Nieto was also did not commit when he told the daily El Universal of Mexico that he raise the matter in an informal meeting with president Obama in the G-20 summit. This however did not sit well with many Mexicans.

Extremist have been trying to infiltrate Central Intelligence Agency

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The Washington Post has reported that Al-Qaeda and other aggressive groups have frequently sought to infiltrate the United States intelligence agencies that are investigating several of their employees so as to counter the threat. While citing a classified budget document, the Washington post reported that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had found out that 20% of the job applicants who had suspect backgrounds had major connection with terrorists and/or hostile intelligence agencies.

Central Intelligence AgencyThe document was made available to the paper by Edward Snowden, a former contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA), who is currently a fugitive in the Republic of Russia under a temporary asylum. Although the document did not define the nature of the ties between the job applicants and the hostile groups, it mentioned Hezbollah, Hamas and Al-Qaeda and their affiliates most of the times. The fear of infiltration by the hostile groups is such that the National Security Agency planed to investigate about 4,000 employees last year who were given security clearances. They became aware of suspicious activity in the midst of the members of staff after they scouted about through trillions of keystrokes from the employees at work.

Two people who are familiar with the software used in the monitoring of the employees told the paper that the suspicious activity included the employees accessing confidential databases that they typically don’t need their work or downloading a number of documents. However, due to serious delays and uneven implementation of the software, the multi-billion dollar effort failed and the intelligence agencies did not detect that Snowden was copying various highly confidential documents of the NSA. He is now wanted by Washington for espionage charges which are connected to disclosures to the media on United States Surveillance Programs.

One official told the post that over the past several years, a small subset of the total job applicants to the CIA were flagged due to a variety of issues or problems. In this period, one in five in the flagged group were found to have major connections with terrorist groups and/or aggressive intelligence services.

According to the document, the NSA is creating a huge database, which is known as WILDSAGE, to help in the sharing of sensitive intelligence amongst the cyber security centers. The move has however raised fear that the database could be infiltrated. The intelligence agencies have increased the monitoring of insider threats, especially following the disclosure of many diplomatic and military files by WikiLeaks 2010. Bradley Manning, a former intelligence analyst who has since changed name to Chelsea Manning, had leaked the files to them.

In the year 2011, the congress ordered James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, to set up a an automated program for insider threat detection to prevent future leaks, identify double agents and stop possible abuses. The project was however delayed severally while the intelligence world dealt with the consequences left in the wake of the leaks by Manning.  The administration has since cracked down on the insider threats and last year, president Obama issued a National Insider Threat Policy which defined the threats as the ones from terrorism, illegal disclosure of information on national security and terrorism.