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SPYING

‘Free world’ countries among worst for spying

Governments in the "free world" are some of the worst offenders when it comes to spying, France-based media watchdog "Reporters Sans Frontières" declared on Wednesday. America's NSA and Britain's GCHQ are among the worst offenders, the group said.

'Free world' countries among worst for spying
France's Reporters Sans Frontieres (RFS) say governments inthe first world are among the worst for spying. Photo: Phil Campbell/Sergei Supinsky/AFP

Shady agencies at the service of democratically elected governments are among the worst online spies in the world, media watchdog Reporters Sans Frontières said on Wednesday, putting them on the same level as offenders in Iran, China and Saudi Arabia.

In the latest installment of the "Enemies of the Internet" report, wholesale spying by "free world" services – much of it exposed by US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden – is offered no distinction from the unabashed surveillance carried out by the world's worst dictatorships.

In July last year, just days after France reacted angrily to claims its Washington DC embassy was spied on by the US, French daily Le Monde published 'revelations' that French intelligence services have been operating a similar mammoth spying operation in France.

According to the newspaper, the French intelligence services record the signals from all computers and telephones through the country and information surrounding phone calls, emails and text messages is all stored. The actual content of the messages is not, however.

“The goal is to know who is talking to who and to establish links between certain targets and identify certain cells,” Le Monde writes.

“Politicians know about it, but keeping it secret is the rule. This French Big Brother is illegal and not subject to controls,” the newspaper claimed at the time.

To RSF, agencies such as the US National Security Agency, Britain's GCHQ and the Centre for Development Telematics in India embrace the worst methods of snooping in the name of governments that purportedly hold freedom of speech as a national priority.

They have "hacked into the very heart of the Internet" and turned a collective resource "into a weapon in the service of special interests" that flout the "freedom of information, freedom of expression and the right to privacy".

"The NSA and GCHQ have spied on the communications of millions of citizens including many journalists," the report by Reporters Sans Frontieres said.

The methods used, many of which NSA contractor Snowden revealed to the world last year before going into hiding in Russia, "are all the more intolerable" because they are then used by authoritarian countries such as Iran, China, Turkmenistan and Saudi Arabia, the report said.

Also singled out by RSF are private companies that provide their most up-to-date powers of snooping at trade fairs that have become giant spying bazaars selling the best that technology can offer.

It is at these shows hosted regularly around the world that profit-driven spy-ware firms link up with government agents or nervous multinationals that are in search of the newest ways to observe and control the Internet.

RSF argued that the censorship carried out by the Enemies of the Internet "would not be possible without the tools developed by the private sector companies to be found at these trade fairs."

With these tools, spies can track journalists anywhere in the world, RSF said.

Governments keen to impose censorship also help one another.

Iran has asked China to help it develop a local version of the electronic Great Wall that cuts off billions of Chinese from the Internet as seen by the rest of the world. China is active in Africa and central Asia too.

To stop this proliferation of snooping, RSF said a whole new legal framework to govern surveillance was "essential" with states needing to embrace transparency regarding the methods being used.

The fight for human rights, it warned, "had spread to the Internet".

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RUSSIA

Senior French officer held on suspicion of spying for Russia

A senior French military officer stationed at a NATO base has been indicted and jailed on suspicion of spying for Russia, local media and sources said on Sunday.

Senior French officer held on suspicion of spying for Russia
A change of command ceremony at the base of NATO’s Alliance Ground Surveillance Force in Sigonella, Italy. It is not known at which Italian Nato base the officer was stationed. Photo: Falk Plankenhorn
The French army officer was stationed abroad, a judicial source said confirming details from Europe 1 radio. According to the report, the soldier was stationed on a NATO base in Italy and is suspected of espionage on behalf of Russia.
   
The French government confirmed it was investigating a senior military officer over a “security breach”.
   
“What I can confirm is that a senior officer is facing legal proceedings for a security breach,” Defence Minister Florence Parly told Europe 1 radio, CNews and Les Echos newspaper. She gave no further details.
   
The judicial source said the officer had been indicted and jailed on charges involving “intelligence with a foreign power that undermines the fundamental interests of the nation”.
   
He is being prosecuted for “delivering information to a foreign power”, “collecting information harming the fundamental interests of the nation with a view to delivering them to a foreign power” and “compromising the secrecy of national defence”, the source said.
 
   
Europe 1 said the officer was a lieutenant-colonel stationed with NATO in Italy and had been placed under investigation on suspicion of spying for Russia.
   
He speaks Russian and was seen in Italy with a man identified as an agent of the GRU, the Russian military intelligence
service, the report said. It said he is suspected of having supplied sensitive documents to Russian intelligence.
   
The man was arrested by DGSI intelligence service as he was about to leave for Italy at the end of his holidays in France, and is being held at a prison in Paris, Europe 1 said.
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