Security vendors help covert agencies spy on their own citizens: WikiLeaks

Documents show partnerships between developers and intelligence agencies

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Agencies whose contracts are documented in the WikiLeaks release include the U.S. National Security Agency and England's Government Communications Headquarters.

I'm stunned you're killing people with my software that doesn't work

According to information released as The Spy Files at WikiLeaks, the NSA and CIA are among the most eager collectors of secret cell-phone and computer monitoring data. In January, the NSA began building a $1.5 billion facility in Utah to store "terabytes of domestic and foreign intelligence data forever and process it for years to come," according to the WikiLeaks announcement.

The CIA, for example, bought the right to use location-based analytics software called the Geospatial Toolkit from Intelligence Integration Systems, Inc. (IISI) in Massachusetts, according to WikiLeaks' documents.

The CIA also bought a version of the same software that had been reverse-engineered and hacked by former IISI business partner Netezza, Inc. The hacked version was designed to work while installed in remote-piloted drone aircraft such as the U.S. Air Force's Predator, which the CIA has consistently used to track and kill members of al-Queda and other terrorist groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

IISI's conclusion, stated in a lawsuit it lodged to stop Netezza from selling the hacked software, was that the CIA was using IISI's software to listen in to cell phone conversations being picked up by remote-piloted drones in the hope of locating specific terrorist targets and killing them using the Hellfire missiles carried by the drones.

The problem, according to testimony from IISI founder Rich Zimmerman, was that the Geospatial Toolkit could locate the source of each end of a conversation, but only within about 40 feet – far from the pinpoint accuracy that would allow an intelligence agency to kill one target with a reasonable expectation of not either missing or of killing bystanders.

Zimmerman's "reaction was one of stun, amazement that they (CIA) want to kill people with my software that doesn’t work."

Phone makers step up to help the government – any government

Another bit of convolution and conflict-of-interest inherent in the mesh of relationships described in The Spy Files is the complex relationship of phone manufacturers – most of which are multinational corporations – with various governments.

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