Fwd: NSA Whistleblowers
- Subject: NSA Whistleblowers
The Men Who Knew Too Much? NSA Wiretapping
Whistleblowers Found Dead in Italy and Greece
Adamo Bove and Costas Tsalikidis: Both uncovered
a secret bugging system and both met untimely ends.
Was That Just A Coincidence? And Who Made Your Cell Phone?
Guest blogged by Joseph Cannon
Is someone murdering people who know too much about NSA wiretapping overseas?
Two whistleblowers one in Italy, one in
Greece uncovered a secret bugging system
installed in cell phones around the world. Both
met with untimely ends. The resultant scandals
have received little press in the United States,
despite the profound implications for American
critics of the Bush administration.
Last month, Italian telecommunications security
expert Adamo Bove either leapt or was pushed from
a freeway overpass; he left no note and had no
history of depression. Last year (March, 2005),
Greek telecommunications expert Costas Tsalikidis
met with a similarly enigmatic end. Both had
uncovered American attempts to eavesdrop on
government officials, anti-war activists, and private businessmen.
The Bove case relates to the long-standing
controversy over the CIA's kidnapping of cleric
Abu Omar, who was flown to Egypt and tortured.
The post-Berlusconi government of Italy is
attempting to arrest and try all of the CIA
personnel involved. Bove used mobile phone
records to trace more than two dozen American agents.
Bove had also revealed that his employer, Telecom
Italia, had allowed illegal
"spyware" undetectable wiretaps to infest
Italy's largest communications system. His
testimony helped to uncover the unsettling
relationship between SISMI chief Marco Mancini
and Telecom Italia head Giuliano Tavaroli.
(Mancini, recently arrested by Italian
investigators, has also come under some suspicion
for his possible role in the strange affair of
Major General Nicola Calipari, killed by American
troops in Iraq.) In the 1990s, Bove had received
wide praise for helping to secure convictions of
two bosses in the Camorra, Naples' answer to the Sicilian Mafia.
The case of Costas Tsalikidis an engineer for
Vodaphone, Greece's top telecommunications
firm offers a similar picture. Tsalikidis
discovered an extraordinarily spohisticated piece
of spyware within his company's network. The
Prime Minister and other top officials were
targeted, along with Greek military officers,
anti-war activists, various business figures and
a cell phone within the American embassy itself.
This page gives a full list of the targets, very
few of whom could be considered as having even a
remote connection to terrorism.
As investigative journalists Paolo Pontoniere and Jeffrey Klein report:
The Vodaphone eavesdropping was transmitted in
real time via four antennae located near the U.S.
embassy in Athens, according to an 11-month Greek
government investigation. Some of these
transmissions were sent to a phone in Laurel,
Md., near America's National Security Agency.
According to Ta Nea, a Greek newspaper,
Vodafone's CEO privately told the Greek
government that the bugging culprits were "U.S.
agents." Because Greece's prime minister feared
domestic protests and a diplomatic war with the
United States, he ordered the Vodafone CEO to
withhold this conclusion from his own authorities investigating the case.
The CEO of Vodaphone in Greece, George Koronias,
has like Giuliano Tavaroli, his Italian
counterpart come under the suspicion of having a
hidden relationship with American and British
intelligence. At least three Vodafone
comunications hubs (one expert says the number
could be as high as 22) were compromised by the
eavesdropping technology. Koronias had reported
only two of these bugs, and had failed to alert a
watchdog agency of the discovery of further listening devices.
Vodafone is a British company, comparable to
Sprint in the United States. Testifying before a
Greek parliamentary committee, Koronias insisted
that no-one in the U.K. could have had any
connection to the ultra-sophisticated spyware.
'Only Ericsson's staff could have set up such a
device,' he said. Ericsson furiously countered
that Vodafone not only knew about the illegal
software but had activated it at the request of British intelligence agents.
More on Ericsson's official response:
Ericsson, the company that produces the software
used by Vodafone, issued an announcement
clarifying that two types of software were
employed for tapping the phone conversations.
The first one employed legally had been developed
by Ericsson and had been installed in Vodafone,
yet it was not activated. The second software,
which was of unknown origins, namely it had not
been developed by Ericsson, had been illegally
installed in Vodafones system to activate the
legal software and erase the traces of the phone-tapping.
This is, by any measure, a troubling
admission especially since Ericsson manufactures
many mobile phones used in the United States.
Vodaphone insists they were never informed of
this "feature" in Ericsson phones, although
Ericsson executive Bill Zikou has testified that
the company disclosed the truth via its sales force and instruction manuals.
American security expert John Brady Kiesling
reveals further details about the bugging devices in Ericsson cell phones:
Built into the Ericsson (Sweden) software that
runs the Vodafone (UK-owned) mobile telephony
network switching system in Greece, and similar
GSM service providers around the world, is a
little-known "Legal Interception" software
package designed to be used by law enforcement
authorities. This software allows incoming and
outgoing conversations from allegedly up to
5000-6000 mobile phone numbers to be recorded, on
presentation of a valid judicial warrant. [A
friend in telecoms claims governments require
that telephone companies give law enforcement
authorities the capability to monitor up to 5% of
active calls as one precondition for an operating
license]. However, to unlock and use the
eavesdropping package, the company must pay
Ericsson a hefty fee (allegedly four million
euros). The Greek government allegedly refused to
pay this fee, despite its desire for wiretapping
capability during the 2004 Athens Summer
Olympics. One reason was that a clear legal basis for such
eavesdropping was not yet in place.
Apparently someone persuaded a Vodafone or
Ericsson employee with access to the switching
network to install a software parasite in at
least four and possibly more of the 22 call
management centers that Vodafone operates in Greece.
The family of Costas Tsalikidis, the
whistleblower who was found hanged in his
apartment, does not accept the verdict of
suicide. Neither does his fianc��e. The Greek
press has hinted at further skullduggery:
The prosecutor also visited the lawyer of
Taslikidis family, Themistoklis Sofos, who
announced that his clients will be filing a
lawsuit against unknown parties for embezzlement
and falsification of documents pertaining to the
deceaseds emails. In addition, they will subpoena
all those who participated in the much-publicised
meeting just before the revelation of the
wiretappings; a meeting Vodafone denies ever having taken place.
Perhaps most disturbing of all, Vodaphone had
eliminated the spyware from its system before
Greek intelligence could conduct an examination.
Greek spy chief Ioannis Korantis testified that
this move amounted to destruction of evidence.
Are Ericsson cell phones the only ones with the
built-in spy technology? We can't be sure. But
one thing is certain: When the fellow on TV asks
"Can you hear me now?", the person he's
addressing may not be the only one who can say yes.
Ryugen C Fisher
-Serving our clients since 1984-
7:01:36 AM Sunday, August 27, 2006
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