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datagate 1

There are no limits or ethics that can condition the workings of the world of intelligence. It is thus superfluous to discriminate between what is considered right or correct and what isn't.

Information Services operate in the interest and tutelage of a country's national security. With this objective in mind, everything is permitted. There exist no rules and no limits. A good example of this is the case of Jonathan Jay Pollard, the spy who was caught in 1985 while he was stealing US secrets and delivering them to Israel.

The cooperation on which bilateral and multilateral relations between intelligence Services are based are always the product of convergent national interests. Weddings based on interest, never on love. This does not mean that certain Services are not more cooperative amongst them than other similar organizations are. Yet even among these more cooperative organizations, there prevails a context of diffidence. This because there exists information and disinformation as well. Because sometimes those that are tagged with the epitaph of terrorists by one nation may be patriots to another nation. The elimination of a target may be a murder or it may be self-defense, the betrayal against one nation may be patriotism to another nation. It is a gray world, where right and wrong is not so important, as is particular interest.

In the world of spies there are two sectors that are considered of the utmost secrecy and are thus very rarely shared with other intelligence Services: the encrypting, decrypting and wiretapping activities.

The encrypting of a message, news or information, prevents others from accessing its content. No Service ever tells another Service what or how it operates in a specific sector. Such revelation would compromise that country's security. It's sources, contacts, evaluations, intentions, operative circumstances, apparatuses and other sensitive activities would be invariably compromised as well. The more sophisticated a cryptographic system is, the more protected are a Service's communications and the more difficult it is to decrypt them. The defensive activities that protect communications always go hand in hand with offensive activity used to decrypt the communications of others. Those who manage to decrypt the communications of others never admit that they did so. They silently intercept messages, decrypt them, and thus come to know things that other countries would want to hide. It is the AISE motto: "Arcana Intellego" (Latin for "understanding secrets")

Most people do not realize that all of the electronic and radio emissions that move through the ether are systematically intercepted or are at least the potential target of interception. This sector goes by the name of SIGINT (Signal Intelligence) and ELINT (Electronic Intelligence). These two sectors are developed by all Information Services.

As far as concerns the Italian context, the encrypting (including the procurement of encrypting systems and methods to the State apparatus) and decrypting activity is of exclusive competence of the AISE. Law 124 of 2007 assigns to AISE the exclusive competence in terms of SIGINT (projected abroad, not on the national territory, of course).

edward snowden
Edward Snowden

Getting to the heart of the matter: a technician working for the US National Security Agency, Edward Snowden, has recently divulged news that the organization that he worked with was intercepting everything, US and foreign citizens, friends and enemies, allies and foes, diplomatic seats and members of international organizations alike. The NSA was doing so in a systematic and massive way, as its technical and human capabilities allowed it to. That's was the "scandal". The countries that realized that they were targets of the US "attentions" rebelled and asked for explanations.

Suddenly the public realized that many of the embassies located on the US territory, Italy included, were the object of espionage. The same happened to some UN delegations and representatives. It then emerged that the EU structures were also under tight monitoring.

The diatribe immediately took a political turn. Some countries expressed disdain, as if they had been betrayed or as if their pride had been wounded by someone they deemed to be a reliable ally. Yet it must be said that among all this disdain there are ample doses of hypocrisy.

The embassies of foreign countries in any part of the world are the object of informative interest. Their offices are monitored, their communications are systematically intercepted and, where possible, informers within the embassies themselves are sought and paid. It is an operative routine that is largely used in the field of counter-espionage.

One could object on the fact that the US intercepting and monitoring activity was so strongly concentrated on countries that are considered political friends. Thus, even though Snowden hasn't spoken about it much, one can imagine what kind of activity is reserved for countries that are considered hostile. It is on this front that the US technician will probably negotiate his own future by ingratiating himself with the SVR ( Sluzba vnesnej razvedki), the Russian international intelligence service, heir of the KGB.

Beginning on September 11, 2001, the National Security Agency has grown enormously, both in terms of financing (about 5 billion additional dollars annually), of personnel (it is esteemed that the Agency employs from 50 to 60 thousand technicians in addition to the contractors that are employed through outsourcing like Snowden) and of importance in the US intelligence community (where it presently plays a primary role). The NSA is in charge of encrypting, decrypting, SIGINT and ELINT which, as we mentioned, are the more delicate aspects of information activity. From its unique central headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland, the NSA has expanded to other operative centers in San Antonio (Texas), Denver (Colorado), Salt Lake City (Utah), Kunia (Hawaii) and Fort Gordon (Georgia).

Yet the so-called "Datagate" scandal is also tied to the fact that the NSA, together with other Agencies of other countries, is the central part of a global interception system (satellite, radar, radio, telephone, internet, etc.) that leaves nothing unobserved. The component that goes by the name of "Echelon" is in a position to intercept radio, electronic and telephone communications. It's main structure is in Harrogate, Yorkshire, UK. There are ?listening? centers in Sugar Grove (Virginia) and Yakima (Washington). To these main structure we must add other "listening" centers around the world that take care of regional monitoring, such as the Sigonella, Sicily, radar center that is in construction and that is under the formal control of the US Navy and which directs its "ear" towards the middle east.

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NSA headquarters in Fort Maede, Maryland

The following Agencies have adhered, together with the NSA, to the Echelon program: the British "Government Communications Headquarters", New Zeland's "Government Communications Security Bureau", Australia's "Defense Signal Directorate" and the Canadian "Communications Security Establishment".

It is not by hazard that all of these are English-speaking countries and that they have a strongly rooted alliance with the US. They are thus supportive and obviously benefit from all that is intercepted around the world.

One could argue that what the NSA did against the UN, the embassies, the EU and the European central bank was not done by the US alone, but by all the participants in the Echelon project. It is also a fact that the aforementioned countries (especially the UK) have been particularly silent with regards to the indignation of the world against Washington's obsessive curiosity.

The more serious problem is that this sharing of sensible intelligence data derived from the more or less justified wiretapping (the term "legitimate" would be inappropriate) has become in time a preferential lane for intelligence cooperation. A sort of exclusive club to which other intelligence Services that - although they are equally qualified - were denied access.

The more devastating effect of this "conventio ad excludendum" (agreement to exclude) was felt during the war in Iraq. Since 2003 there existed two distinct doors to the access of intelligence information: one for the Echelon countries and the other for all the other sides that were fighting alongside the US. As if the war and the risks thereof justified this distinction in the sharing of information. It often emerged that news of primary interest for the security of a country's contingent did not reach the interested country because they circulated within this reserved and exclusive club.

Countries such as Italy and France did not lament this discriminating and dishonorable system in a context of war and thus worsened the situation of their own men fighting abroad. To accentuate the importance of this flux of information it is sufficient to say that the telephone communications throughout Iraq were administered by the US. In practice, all that was said over the telephone was automatically intercepted, heard and turned into operative information.

As can be easily imagined, there is a substantial difference between systematic access to information within a context of political, commercial and financial war (all of it shared selectively) and what should be shared automatically among so-called friends in a context of all out war.

What has emerged through Snowden's revelations is but the tip of the iceberg of an intrusive intelligence-gathering system over the internet - the so-called PRISM - that is surely even more diffused than people may think. Soon we will find out that all of the important search engines provide the US with data on the world's internet users, allowing to spy contacts, e-mails, phone calls and any kind of communication between any person, be they American, Chinese or European. Every country does it within its own context. Italy does it through a decree approved by the Monti government. France does it on its own people. There are even some accords that allow the US to cooperate with the individual national Agencies of other countries. The only difference is that the US does it abroad.

Today, nobody pays attention to the fact that in Fort Meade, where the General Keith B. Alexander's NSA headquarters are located, they are now creating a task force of another 10 or 15 thousand men and with great financial backing. We speak of cyber-warfare, which in this case means not only to disturb foreign systems, but also to know what goes on inside other countries' computer systems. The targets: Any and all. Without distinction between friend and foe. We'll speak of it again soon.