Prism in Afghanistan Conflicting Accounts By German Government
August 30, 2013
In Germany, the scandal surrounding NSA spying is getting odder by the day. A new Defense Ministry memo suggests a claim made by a mass-circulation newspaper that Germany’s army knew about Prism in 2011 is, in fact, true.
The scandal in Germany surrounding spying activities by the United States’ National Security Agency took a surprising twist on Thursday. A report by a German mass-circulation daily that described the use of a program called Prism in NATO-occupied Afghanistan has led to the German Defense Ministry contradicting the foreign intelligence agency BND.
It started on Wednesday when the broadsheet Bild reported that the American intelligence service NSA had deployed the controversial data-collection tool Prism in Afghanistan and that Germany’s armed forces, the Bundeswehr, knew of the program by the autumn of 2011 at the latest.
German government spokesman Steffen Seibert, speaking on behalf of the BND, was quick to deny the Bild report. He said on Wednesday that the software which had been used in Afghanistan was part of “a NATO/ISAF program and was not the same as the NSA’s Prism program.” Seibert said the programs were “not identical.” According to Seibert’s account, there are two different Prism programs — the much discussed NSA Prism program, which has been used in recent years to intensively monitor German communications, as well as an ISAF program for Afghanistan.
But the Defense Ministry is now contradicting that characterization. In a two-page memo obtained by several German media outlets, Rüdiger Wolf, a high-ranking ministry official, states that the Prism program used in Afghanistan is a “computer-aided US planning and information analysis tool” used for the coordination of “American intelligence systems,” that is “operated exclusively by US personnel” and is “used Afghanistan-wide by the US side.”
Prism Accessible Exclusively to Americans
Wolf describes in detail how the Bundeswehr and NATO have no access to the US program. He adds that while there may be computer terminals at the German base in Mazar-e-Sharif that are equipped to access the program, they can only be used by Americans.
If members of the Bundeswehr wanted access to information, they had to send a special form to the IJC command center in Kabul, almost entirely controlled by the US Army — that is, if they wanted US data that went beyond the information possessed by NATO intelligence. When they got the data back, “the origin of the information” was “fundamentally unrecognizable” to the Germans.
It is precisely such procedures that Bild reported on this week, citing a classified September NATO order. In the paper, NATO members, including the German-led Regional Command North in Afghanistan, are called upon to direct requests for the “Prism” system to American personnel — military or civilian (which in this case is a reference to intelligence workers) because NATO has no access to the system. Given that Bild printed a copy of the order in its newspaper, the BND’s portrayal already seemed odd on Wednesday.
According to Wolf’s own admissions, the Germans don’t know very much about the Prism program in Afghanistan. It is unclear, for example, how Prism is deployed at the US Army-dominated headquarters in Kabul and the ministry doesn’t know the “extent of use.” However, Wolf once more reiterated that all information obtained from intelligence sources served to protect German soldiers — including “insights provided by the US side that could have come from Prism.”
A Slap in the Face
The Defense Ministry is also very cautious compared to the BND when it comes to deferentiating the Prism program in Afghanistan from the Prism spying program that was exposed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and involves the systematic monitoring of German communications. The information supplied by the US would have pertained only to the situation in Afghanistan. It was “not a data fishing expedition” on German citizens, according to the memo, and in fact had “no proximity” to the NSA surveillance program in Germany and Europe.
With his cautious formulation, Wolf deliberately avoids saying whether or not the two programs are identical.
This representation of the facts, which was already made to some extent on Wednesday by Defense Ministry spokesman Stefan Paris, is like a slap in the face for the BND. Shortly after Seibert appeared at the press conference, insiders wondered why the intelligence agency would so unambiguously commit itself to the position that the Prism program in Afghanistan is part of the composite ISAF system. But the BND didn’t pull back on its position, although Paris clearly said that the Prism program in Afghanistan is operated exclusively by Americans.
Members of the opposition were quick to attack the BND for its assertions. “The Chancellery, acting on behalf of the BND, deliberately lied to the public on Wednesday,” Green Party defense expert Omid Nouripour told SPIEGEL ONLINE. According to Nouripour, Wolf’s description makes it clear that there is no NATO Prism program. The German government, he says, should stop making excuses and finally begin to seriously investigate the spying scandal.
07/18/2013 09:26 PM
By Matthias Gebauer
Find this story at 18 July 2013
© SPIEGEL ONLINE 2013
Top secret MI6 counter-terror intelligence feared stolen by disgruntled Swiss IT worker who walked out with millions of data files in backpack
December 7, 2012
Suspect walked out of Swiss intelligence service NDB with stolen data after becoming ‘disgruntled’ with his job
MI6 and CIA both warned secret information could have been compromised
Switzerland’s NDB security procedures now under scrutiny
MI6 intelligence on counter- terrorism operations may have been stolen by a rogue Swiss official, it emerged last night.
Security chiefs in the UK have been warned that hugely sensitive information they provided to the NDB, Switzerland’s spy agency, could have been ‘compromised’.
Hundreds of thousands of pages of classified documents were copied by a senior IT technician for the NDB, which he then copied for himself on to portable storage devices carrying them away in a backpack.
Warned: The Secret Intelligence Service, based in London (pictured), was warned top secret information may have been compromised by the data theft
Swiss officials believe the suspect intended to sell the stolen data and have alerted both MI6 and America’s CIA.
The information was shared between Britain, Switzerland and the United States and the CIA has also been warned about the risk.
The technician, whose name has not been made public, was arrested by Swiss authorities last summer.
He was later released from prison while a criminal investigation by the office of Switzerland’s Federal Attorney General continues.
A European security source said it is believed the IT worker became disgruntled when he felt his advice on operating the data systems was not being taken seriously.
The technician downloaded hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of printed pages of classified material from the Swiss intelligence service’s servers onto portable hard drives.
He then carried them out of government buildings in a backpack.
Investigators now believe warning signs were missed in the months leading to his arrest.
The source said that the suspect became so disgruntled earlier this year that he stopped showing up for work.
Share: MI6, headed by Sir John Sawers, pictured, regularly shares information with the CIA and Swiss intelligence service
He worked for the NDB – or Federal Intelligence Service, which is part of Switzerland’s Defense Ministry – for about eight years.
He was described by one source as a ‘very talented’ technician.
The worker also had ‘administrator rights’, which gave him unrestricted access to most or all of the NDB’s networks, including those holding vast caches of secret data.
Swiss investigators seized portable storage devices containing the stolen data after they arrested the suspect.
The information was impounded before he had an opportunity to sell it.
However, Swiss investigators could not be positive he did not manage to pass any of the information on before his arrest.
Representatives of U.S. and British intelligence agencies had no immediate response to detailed queries about the case submitted by news agency Reuters.
Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber and a senior prosecutor, Carolo Bulletti, announced in September they were investigating the data theft and its alleged perpetrator.
A spokeswoman for the attorney general said she was prohibited by law from disclosing the suspect’s identity.
A spokesman for the NDB said he could not comment on the investigation.
Security procedures and structures at the NDB, which was set up relatively recently, have now come under increased scrutiny.
It conducts both foreign and domestic intelligence activities for the Swiss government.
Danger: The CIA, based in Virginia (pictured), was warned secret information may have been compromised
Human resources staff are currently linked within the organisation to the agency’s information technology division.
This potentially made it difficult or confusing for the subdivision’s personnel to investigate themselves, the source said.
Despite warning signs, Swiss news reports say the NDB did not realise something was amiss until the largest Swiss bank, UBS, expressed concern to authorities about a potentially suspicious attempt to set up a new numbered bank account, which then was traced to the NDB technician.
By Becky Evans and James Slack
PUBLISHED: 17:23 GMT, 4 December 2012 | UPDATED: 09:01 GMT, 5 December 2012
Find this story at 4 December 2012
Published by Associated Newspapers Ltd
Part of the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday & Metro Media Group
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Swiss spy agency warns U.S., Britain about huge data leak
December 7, 2012
ZURICH (Reuters) – Secret information on counter-terrorism shared by foreign governments may have been compromised by a massive data theft by a senior IT technician for the NDB, Switzerland’s intelligence service, European national security sources said.
Intelligence agencies in the United States and Britain are among those who were warned by Swiss authorities that their data could have been put in jeopardy, said one of the sources, who asked for anonymity when discussing sensitive information.
Swiss authorities arrested the technician suspected in the data theft last summer amid signs he was acting suspiciously. He later was released from prison while a criminal investigation by the office of Switzerland’s Federal Attorney General continues, according to two sources familiar with the case.
The suspect’s name was not made public. Swiss authorities believe he intended to sell the stolen data to foreign officials or commercial buyers.
A European security source said investigators now believe the suspect became disgruntled because he felt he was being ignored and his advice on operating the data systems was not being taken seriously.
Swiss news reports and the sources close to the investigation said that investigators believe the technician downloaded terrabytes, running into hundreds of thousands or even millions of printed pages, of classified material from the Swiss intelligence service’s servers onto portable hard drives. He then carried them out of government buildings in a backpack.
One of the sources familiar with the investigation said that intelligence services like the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, also known as MI6, routinely shared data on counter-terrorism and other issues with the NDB. Swiss authorities informed U.S. and British agencies that such data could have been compromised, the source said.
News of the theft of intelligence data surfaced with Switzerland’s reputation for secrecy and discretion in government and financial affairs already under assault.
Swiss authorities have been investigating, and in some cases have charged, whistleblowers and some European government officials for using criminal methods to acquire confidential financial data about suspected tax evaders from Switzerland’s traditionally secretive banks.
The suspect in the spy data theft worked for the NDB, or Federal Intelligence Service, which is part of Switzerland’s Defense Ministry, for about eight years.
He was described by a source close to the investigation as a “very talented” technician and senior enough to have “administrator rights,” giving him unrestricted access to most or all of the NDB’s networks, including those holding vast caches of secret data.
Swiss investigators seized portable storage devices containing the stolen data after they arrested the suspect, according to the sources. At this point, they said, Swiss authorities believe that the suspect was arrested and the stolen data was impounded before he had an opportunity to sell it.
However, one source said that Swiss investigators could not be positive the suspect did not sell or pass on any of the information before his arrest, which is why Swiss authorities felt obliged to notify foreign intelligence partners their information may have been compromised.
Representatives of U.S. and British intelligence agencies had no immediate response to detailed queries about the case submitted by Reuters, although one U.S. official said he was unaware of the case.
SECURITY PROCEDURES QUESTIONED
Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber and a senior prosecutor, Carolo Bulletti, announced in September that they were investigating the data theft and its alleged perpetrator. A spokeswoman for the attorney general said she was prohibited by law from disclosing the suspect’s identity.
A spokesman for the NDB said he could not comment on the investigation.
At their September press conference, Swiss officials indicated that they believed the suspect intended to sell the data he stole to foreign countries. They did not talk about the possible compromise of information shared with the NDB by U.S. and British intelligence.
A European source familiar with the case said it raised serious questions about security procedures and structures at the NDB, a relatively new agency which combined the functions of predecessor agencies that separately conducted foreign and domestic intelligence activities for the Swiss government.
(Reporting by Mark Hosenball; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
Tue, Dec 4 2012
By Mark Hosenball
Find This story at 4 December 2012
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Swiss intelligence employee stole ‘millions’ of classified pages
December 7, 2012
Swiss authorities have warned Western intelligence agencies that their secrets may have been compromised by a disgruntled intelligence employee who stole “thousands or even millions of pages of classified material”. Citing “European national security sources”, Reuters said the employee at the center of the case worked for the NDB, Switzerland’s Federal Intelligence Service. He had been employed by NDB for eight years as a network technician with “full administrator rights” and had unrestricted access to the NDB’s computers, as well as to those of Switzerland’s Federal Department of Defense, under which the NDB operates. About a year ago, however, the unnamed technician apparently became disgruntled after his views on how to structure the NDB’s databases were allegedly sidelined or ignored. He eventually decided to use several portable hard drives to download countless classified documents from Swiss government servers and managed to carry them out of the office building where he worked, using a backpack. According to Swiss authorities, he intended to sell the classified information to foreign governments or black-market operatives. He was apprehended, however, after he tried to set up a numbered bank account with Swiss-based UBS bank, using what bank security officials described as “suspicious identification documentation”. The former NDB network technician is currently the subject of a criminal investigation by the Office of the Swiss Federal Attorney General, and authorities say they think they arrested him before he was able to sell the stolen information.
December 5, 2012 by Joseph Fitsanakis 2 Comments
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Find this story at 5 December 2012