Silver Lining

Food for thought

Classified docs: US executes cyber and spy ops, fears intelligence breach

by Carlos Latuff

Al Ahed news

The US government suspects that roughly one out of every five individuals applying for jobs in the US intelligence community has connections with “hostile” groups, according to a classified budget document.

The US intelligence agencies reinvestigated thousands of employees in a bid to minimize the risk of disclosure of secrets, according to the document, which was provided to The Washington Post by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

Last year, the NSA planned to launch around 4,000 investigations of potentially suspicious employees, who downloaded multiple documents or accessed classified databases they did not normally use for their work, the newspaper said citing two people familiar with the software used to monitor employee activity.

Despite their multimillion-dollar effort to hunt for potential insider threats, the spy agencies’ detection systems did not notice that Snowden was copying highly classified documents from different parts of the NSA’s networks, the Post pointed out.

Snowden, who in June revealed NSA’s spying activities on American citizens and foreign nationals, managed to flee to Hong Kong and then to Russia, where he remains after being granted temporary asylum.

Moreover, the newspaper revealed that United States has increased its spying operation on Pakistan, a US regional ally, according to top-secret budget documents. In a series of revelations that have put the US intelligence community under a spotlight, The Washington Post reported Tuesday that the CIA has expanded its effort to gather intelligence on Pakistan in a bid to address US concerns about “biological and chemical sites” in the Asian country.

The operation was also seeking “to assess the loyalties of counterterrorism sources recruited by the CIA,” the newspaper said citing the 178-page summary of the US intelligence community’s “black budget.”

“Pakistan appears at the top of charts listing critical US intelligence gaps. It is named as a target of newly formed analytic cells. And fears about the security of its nuclear program are so pervasive that a budget section on containing the spread of illicit weapons divides the world into two categories: Pakistan and everybody else,” the Post said.

Washington has given Islamabad $26 billion in aid over the past 12 years, seeking the Pakistani support in its war against the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan.

“If the Americans are expanding their surveillance capabilities, it can only mean one thing,” the Post quoted Husain Haqqani, who until 2011 served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the US, as saying. “The mistrust now exceeds the trust.”

US spy services also carried out 231 “offensive cyber-operations” in 2011 alone, targeting Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea, according to the documents.

Under an extensive effort code-named GENIE, US computer specialists break into foreign networks so that they can be put under surreptitious US control. Budget documents say the $652 million project has placed “covert implants,” sophisticated malware transmitted from far away, in computers, routers and firewalls on tens of thousands of machines every year, with plans to expand those numbers into the millions.

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