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NSA used private firms to snoop on India

india Updated: Jun 26, 2014 01:28 IST
Saikat Datta
Saikat Datta
Hindustan Times
National Security Agency

The National Security Agency (NSA), the US technical intelligence organisation, used private corporations to snoop on India and several other countries, reveal the latest documents released by journalist Glen Greenwald. Marked “Top Secret”, these are documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden to Greenwald.

A power-point slide reveals that some communications and tech companies are among the 80 “corporate partners” working with the NSA in targeting the various countries. “Corporate relationships provide unique access to telecoms and ISPs aggressively involved in shaping traffic to run signals past our monitors,” states another document.

The US embassy’s official spokesperson in New Delhi declined comment on the story.

Among the companies named on the slide are US telecommunication majors AT&T and Verizon, software giants like Microsoft, Oracle and hardware manufacturers like
Cisco, IBM and Intel. The NSA also lists another US telecom firm, codenamed “Fairview”, as a major partner in its operations. The documents, however, don’t recall which of these companies could have collaborated with the NSA in India specifically.

Some of the leaked slides identify New Delhi as a special collection site (SCS) where US assets are based to gather intelligence. The NSA also carries out part of its primary surveillance of foreign satellites from this site. New Delhi has been mentioned as one of the 84 cities worldwide that are part of the NSA’s ‘Global

Interception Network’. The spying is carried out using various methods, including intercepting undersea cables and satellite and telephone communications.

According to the documents, the NSA targets emails, chats, videos, stored data, video conferencing, online social networking and voice over internet protocols (VoIP). The NSA also lists India as one of the targets for its Computer Network Exploitation (CNE) programme by planting malicious software.

India is named as one of the 33 “third parties” which have been designated as “approved signals intelligence partners”, along with Pakistan, Israel, Germany and

France. However, while a “third-party partner” like Pakistan has received over $2.5 million from the NSA, there is no allocation to India in the documents.

Another document shows that the Indian embassy in Washington and the permanent mission to the UN in New York have been repeatedly targeted. An NSA document shows that it managed to place malicious software in the embassy network and used sources in 2010 to get screenshots of the hard drives to gather Indian diplomatic secrets. This seems to have been discontinued subsequently.