The Cyber-Cave

Reflections on the political, technological, cultural and economic trends of the world

Five Eyes



It is operated by the Five Eyes (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, UK, USA). The Secret Services of the Five Eyes have been signing multilateral agreements since the 1940s to establish a framework for sharing intelligence (mainly signal intelligence). The origins of this collaboration come from the 1941 Atlantic Charter, which established the Allied world strategy including security alliance. The 1943 BRUSA Agreement formally established intelligence co-operation between the US and the UK.
The Five Eyes have pledged not to spy on each other, whereas third party allies of the Five Eyes (such as France and other NATO countries) are not exempt from eventual espionage. The Echelon program encouraged the Five Eyes to expand their common networks. Only in 1973 did the Prime Minister of Australia (Gough Whitlam) discover the existence of such agreements (the most notable being the UKUSA).

Echelon was created during the Cold War to intercept military and diplomatic communications which might reveal details of the Soviet operations. The Echelon satellite spy system can hover up millions of emails and phone calls a minute. Whilst Echelon captures traffic (with satellites and antennaes) from live communications, intelligence agencies can use keywords to find something specific. A Commission of the European Parliament has criticised Anglo-American spy agencies for abusing of the Echelon capabilities to conduct espionage for commercial advantages (such as helping American companies against their competitors). Some claim that after the end of the Cold War Echelon has been mainly used for commercial purposes.

Former CIA Director James Woolsey wrote in a WSJ article that Echelon does conduct some forms of commercial espionage (even implicitly admitting that US spy agencies may steal information on European companies that have adavanced technology). However Woolsey claims that the spying is done because European companies (due to their lack of superior technology compared to American companies- always according to Woolsey) have to resort to bribing to win a big contract with a foreign country.
“When we have caught you at it… we go to the government you’re bribing and tell its officials that we don’t take kindly to such corruption. They often respond by giving the most meritorious bid (sometimes American, sometimes not) all or part of the contract. This upsets you, and sometimes creates recriminations between your bribers and the other country’s bribes, and this occasionally becomes a public scandal. We love it.” (James Woolsey, from “Why We Spy On Our Allies” in the Wall Street Journal).

-According to an NSA memo, aggressive surveillance operations (such as intercepting the communication of phones and emails) against UN delegates in 2003 so that Bush officials could be updated on the voting intentions of the delegates on the eventual Iraq war. The memo indicated that such information was needed to enhance QRC “Quick-Response Capability”.

-According to former UK cabinet minister Clare Short, the GCQH spied on Kofi Annan (when he was UN Secretary General) so that UK officials could read the transcript of Annan’s private communications. Also GCQH whistleblower Katharine Gun allegedly leaked e-mails from US spies which appear to show that the UK asked assistance to their American counterparts in spying UN delegates.
-Ahead of the Iraq War UN weapons inspector Richard Butler was bugged by the Five Eyes
-In the 1990s, after having conducted espionage, the NSA exposed the French bribing scheme to win a 6$ billion contract for the sale of Airbus planes to Saudi Arabia. As a result Airbus lost the contract, while McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) won instead.
-Similarly Raytheon won a multibillion contract with the Brazilian governments once the CIA exposed that the French competitor Thomson-Alcatel intended paying bribes.
-In the 1990s US Trade Representatives gained inside information on Nissan and Toyota as a result of combined CIA and NSA eavesdropping. The intelligence operation was conducted due to negotiations between the USA and Japan on trade deals involving the car industry. According to Sanger and Weiner of the NYT in the 1995 article ‘EMERGING ROLE FOR THE CIA: ECONOMIC SPY’
“Spying on allies for economic advantage is a crucial new assignment for the C.I.A. now that American foreign policy is focused on commercial interests abroad. President Clinton made economic intelligence a high priority of his Administration, specifically information to protect and defend American competitiveness, technology and financial security in a world where an economic crisis can spread across global markets in minute… It [a report] focused on tactics used by France, England, Germany, Japan and Canada to win deals, mostly in Asia. Most of the tactics were legal; many are practiced by Washington, including having the President press foreign countries to award business to American firms.
But the unclassified version of the report also cited “almost 100 cases of foreign firms using bribery to undercut U.S. firms’ efforts to win international contracts worth about $45 billion,” adding, “The foreign firms that offer bribes typically win about 80 percent of the deals.”
According to the main media outlets, enemies of Trump in the Republican Party have contacted former MI6 officer Christopher Steele to create a dossier on the extent of the relations between the American tycoon and the Kremlin. Senator John McCain, instead, is said of having passed the dossier to the FBI.  Democratic Senator Harry Reid wrote a letter to the FBI director to ask for more information about the dossier.
Mr Steele is considered to be the co-founder of Orbis, a private intelligence company. Apparently Mr.Steele has been leaking to journalists bits of information about his research on Trump.  According to Mr. Steele the FSB could have compromising information on Trump-for instance ‘perverted sexual acts’ conducted in Moscow. In a press conference, Putin denied the accusations of the dossier. The dossier cites Carter Page, Michael Cohen (Trump’s lawyer) and Paul Manafort as three individuals close both to Trump and to Russian insiders. Apparently top journalists from the main outlets like the CNN have been known for a long time about the existence of this 35-pages dossier on Trump and Russia.
In a tweet Trump hinted that former CIA director John Brennan may be behind the dossier leak.



TEMPORA: to tap transatlantic fiber optic cables to intercept internet browsing, phone calls, emails.

Leaked memos written by officials the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) show that energy companies should be aware of possible cyber attacks [1]. Foreign entities, for instance, may hack the networks of Canadian companies to access confidential information. Such risk increases whenever Canadian companies are involved in a transaction with a foreign country. According to Reuteurs, a 2012 document by the CSIS had warned the Canadian “government that takeovers by Chinese companies may threaten national security. At the time, China’s state-owned CNOOC Ltd had bid for Canadian producer Nexen Inc.” [1].


It was created in 1952 by President Truman. It incorporated the previous agencies that during WWI and WWII had a role in cryptography.
The NSA has two roles: collection of foreign communication (analysis and also code-breaking if necessary) and protection of internal communication.
In 2010 a new branch of the NSA was established: the Cyber Command. According to Gen. Keith Alexander, former director of the NSA, the Cyber Command “enables network warfare operations” [4]. The Cyber Command has three goals: defending the USA from cyber attacks, defending the networks of the USA’s Defense Department and conducting operations in the cyberspace to support a military action.

According to Gen. Alexander “There is an enormous amount of espionage taking place. Most of it is not against individual citizens…But there is industrial-scale espionage against private companies, the research and development repositories of our intellectual property, and any target that affords an international competitor a commercial or military edge against us.
The extent of espionage today is far greater than most people understand. In fact, my assessment is that the intellectual property that has been stolen from America over the last decade or two represents the largest and most rapid involuntary transfer of wealth in human history.
What we need to focus on is getting better at hardening the networks that store and sustain our intellectual property, and upon which our critical infrastructure relies. That’s the information assurance side of NSA’s business…..
When you look at the investments government has made in protecting its most valuable information assets, I think we are obliged to help the private sector do the same thing…
Deputy Secretary of Defense Bill Lynn and I have talked about creating a “secure zone”—a place where individuals and private companies could opt-in to secure their data with the best protections government possesses.” [4]

FAA 702 Program: this law requires American technology companies to hand data to government agencies if needed It also allows intelligence agencies to potentially conduct espionage (such as monitoring online activities) on non-US citizens outside the USA.
SECTION 215 of the PATRIOT Act: allows the NSA, after approval by FISA court, to access data from third party companies (generally the most well-known telephone companies like AT&T). The NSA has large databases to keep data like MAINWAY and MARINA (this for metadata).According to Gen. Alexander queries to find specific data are tightly regulated.

ANZUS (or Pacific Security Treaty): a 1951 collective security treaty between Australia, New Zealand and USA to establish a framework for mutual aid in case one of the three countries is attacked.
In 2013 the Australian government banned China’s Huawei from bidding for a $38bn contract on a new national broadband network. This was due for security concerns since Huawei (a company known for having links with the Chinese government) may have the chance to access confidential data. Huawei was funded in 1987 by a former PLA officer. The U.S House intelligence Committee warned American firms not to do any business with Huawei. Gen. Alexander approved the decision of the Australian government.

According to Gen. Alexander, Edwad Snowden is probably being manipulated by Russian intelligence [4].
-QUANTUM: hacking networks (of foreign governments or foreign corporations) to access information on the servers or hard drives. Known targets of QUANTUM operations: the OPEC headquarters in Vienna and ‘Belgacom’ (a telecom company, based in Belgium, having many clients from the European Parliament and the European Commission) [6]. WINTERLIGHT operation (conducted by NSA, GCHQ and the Swedish FRA)
-PRISM: data collection program

When in 2013 the NSA surveillance program was leaked by Snowden, the UK and Sweden vetoed the creation of any EU ‘working group’ to investigate American espionage. Germany and France in particular, however, expected greater investigation since the leaks revealed that the NSA had spied on both Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande.
The British reaction is not surprising since the close relationship between the GCHQ and the NSA is well known. The Swedish veto, however, may be surprising for those not up to date with the incresing partnership between the FRA and the NSA. According to the New York Times, the FRA’s modus operandi is very similar to that of the NSA:
“In the early 2000s, it [the FRA] began developing technology to tap into the undersea fiber optic cables on which nearly all intercontinental e-mails, phone calls, and other communications now travel, and in 2007 and 2008 the Swedish government….proposed the law giving the FRA broad access to cable traffic. The spy agency would also be able to store the metadata it extracted—reportedly on a huge database called Titan—for a year.” [7]
In recent years both Sweden and the UK have passed laws requiring telecom companies to store the data of the customers for temporary periods.
In 2013 it was revealed by a Norwegian newspaper that the intelligence services in Norway hand massive amounts of data to the NSA- in addition the Norwegian intelligence services conduct espionage on relevant Russian targets (politicians, military officers, oil companies) [7].
With the support of the NSA, the Norwegian intelligence services are trying to buy a supercomputer called ‘STEELWINTER’ which has the capabilities to analyse encrypted data.

Why Norway and Sweden are so close with American intelligence?
Norway has a listening post in Vardø, near the border with Russia.
Sweden, instead, is strategically located in the Baltic Sea area where a few fiber optic cables connect Russia with European countries. As the NYT notes by quoting a diplomatic cable of the US embassy in Stockholm leaked in Wikileaks “80 percent of Russia’s foreign cable-based communications flow through Sweden, the law [the surveillance law] legalizes Sweden’s monitoring of the majority of Russia’s trans-border communications.” [8]
A planned undersea cable to connect Finland, Germany and Russia may allow Russia to communicate with European countries by bypassing Sweden’s ‘ears’. Unsurprisingly recent developments in Finland are suggesting that the Finnish government may pass a surveillance law similar to that of Sweden.
On the other hand NATO has raised a growing concern that Russian submarines and military ships may be operating near undersea cables to intercept Internet communication.

-In 2003 it was revealed that the NSA had tapped Merkel’s cellphone. After the revelations, the European Parliament considered fining tech giants which pass private data of any user (whether a public official or an average citizen) to US intelligence agencies. In a 2013 EU summit which was also about data protection both Great Britain and Germany seemed careful not to take any serious retaliation against American agencies. Instead, referring to the Five Eyes, Merkel said “Unlike David [Cameron], we are unfortunately not part of this group” [2]. According to the NYT, Germany has been trying (so far unsuccessfully) to join the Five Eyes club for years.
-Since the NSA can conduct surveillance on anybody except Americans themselves and since the GCHQ can conduct surveillance on anybody except Britons themselves, sometimes the NSA would allow the GCQH to collect information on an American citizen so that the NSA does not break any internal law. This tight cooperation creates the potential for a powerful surveillance system.
-‘BOUNDLESS INFORMANT’: an NSA program which collects metadata of telephone calls in real time- “on an average day last December, the agency gathered metadata from some 15 million telephone connections and 10 million Internet datasets.” [3]. Germany is one of the biggest targets of spying activities.
-Until the early 2000s the NSA had a listening station at Bad Abling (a Bavarian town) to monitor satellite communication. This was part of the ECHELON operations.
-The NSA, allegedly, has an unofficial listening centre at the NATO headquarters in Brussels [3].
-The NSA bugged a building on Washington’s K Street which is used to host the EU’s diplomatic officials. The NSA also penetrated the building’s internal network. Similar tactics have been used to bug EU’s diplomats at the UN in New York.
-The NSA is also specialising in being able to monitor large cables that collect a huge amount of data (in the Middle East, Russia…)
-The PRISM program shows that the NSA collects data from the top US tech companies
-An NSA’s facility has been built in the Utah mountains to store all the data that the US collects from international communications. Apparently at one point all of this data will have to be measured in ‘yottabytes- that is 1 trillion terabytes.
-According to the Australian Financial Review: “In 2007 the secretary of the [US] Air Force said he would “dominate cyberspace” just as “today, we dominate air and space”. The Army has said that in “cyberspace…we must use our strategic vision to dominate the information environment.” [5]
-Plausible deniability
Clandestine operation is about concealing the operation itself, covert operation is about concealing the identity of the agents.

-‘Pulling wire’: dealing with network cables
-‘Secret eyes only’: written in CIA documents as a mark so that only the people with the required rank get to read the document (for example this mark appeared in a 1974 cable by then National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft to alert Kissinger about a collision between Soviet and American nuclear submarines a few miles off coast of Scotland)
-‘tipping’: placing malwares
-SLEEPER: an agent infiltrated in a foreign country to be activated when a certain situation develops.
-NURSEMAID (nyanki in Russian): A KGB agent who would be part of a diplomatic delegation in a foreign country to make sure that none of the officials is defecting or spying for another intelligence agency.
-NUGGET: the bait to induce someone to defect (money, a woman)
-HONEYTRAP: using a woman as a bait (SWALLOW: the female agent executing the honey trap)
-NOVATOR (in russian): a new agent placed abroad
-Throwing off track / red herring / diversion
-To cajole

-[5] ibid
-[7] ibid
-[8] ibid

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