Posts Tagged ‘WikiLeaks’

Turkmenistan/Oman: WikiLeaks-Enthüllung – Spionage-Software made in Germany?

Mittwoch, September 4th, 2013

Turkmenistan and Oman Negotiated to Buy Spy Software: Wikileaks

by Pratap ChatterjeeSpecial to CorpWatch
September 4th, 2013

Turkmenistan and Oman have been negotiating with a consortium of British, German and Swiss companies to buy “FinFisher” software to spy on phone calls and Internet activity of unsuspecting targets, according to a new trove of documents just released by Wikileaks, the global whistleblowing organization.

Previously released promotional materials for FinFisher – a suite of software products manufactured by Gamma International, a UK company – claim that it can track locations of cell phones, break encryption to steal social media passwords, record calls including Skype chats, remotely operate built-in web cams and microphones on computers and even log every keystroke made by a user.

The new Wikileaks release includes contracts with the two countries that appear to be drawn up by Dreamlab Technologies in Bern, Switzerland, and Gamma International offices in Munich, Germany. If the documents are real, they will confirm claims by activists and researchers that the companies have attempted to sell surveillance software to governments with a decidedly mixed record on human rights.

"The corporate surveillance industry works hand in hand with governments throughout the world to enable illegitimate spying on citizens,” said Julian Assange, the editor in chief of WikiLeaks, in a statement issued with the documents. “WikiLeaks is committed to exposing and educating about this industry, with the goal that together we can build the understanding and the tools to protect ourselves, and each other, from its gaze."

Egypt

Gamma first came to public notice when similar contract documents for its FinFisher software were discovered by Egyptian human rights activists inside the headquarters of former dictator Hosni Mubarak’s State Security Investigations service, which was notorious for repressing dissidents. The activists broke into the building after Mubarak was toppled in the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011 and found Egyptian evaluations of Gamma technology stored alongside hundreds of police batons and other equipment used for torture.

While Gamma did not deny that the FinFisher technology had been tested by the Egyptian government, the company did release a carefully worded statement saying that it had never “supplied any of its FinFisher suite of products or related training etc to the Egyptian government."

The new Wikileaks documents shed light on two projects that appear to have gone much further.

Turkmenistan

According to the new company documents released by Wikileaks, Nicolas Mayencourt, the CEO of Dreamlab, took a trip to Turkmenistan in 2010 with Thomas Fischer of Gamma International, with the objective of helping the government build “an Infection Proxy Infrastructure and Solution applicable nationwide for all international traffic the Turkmentel and TMCell networks” ie a way to monitor calls on the national mobile phone network.

An initial proposal was submitted to the Turkmen government by the two companies on October 11, 2010, according to the documents released by Wikileaks, followed by a revised 61 page agreement between Fischer and Mayencourt dated December 13, 2010 titled “Infection Proxy Project 1.”

The documents include an invoice from Dreamlab to Gamma for 874,819.70 Swiss Francs ($789,000) for a custom designed hardware package of Cisco switches, HP computers and Intel adaptors to be installed in the country together with Gamma software named FinSpy and FinFly, that comprise the FinFisher suite.

It is not clear from the documents if Turkmenistan actually signed the contract.

But Bill Marczak, a fellow at Citizen Lab and a PhD student at the University of California at Berkeley, who has published several reports on government spying technology, says that his prior research showed that FinFisher software was deployed on a Turkmenistan ministry of communications server last August.

On September 3, 2013, Marczak ran a check that confirmed that the software was still in place, and reviewed the company contracts for CorpWatch.

“The Turkmenistan documents match our finding of a FinSpy server on a network belonging to the Turkmenistan government,” Marczak said. “Gamma provides spyware … that gets injected into downloaded files and viewed webpages. DreamLab provides the hardware and software components necessary for the injection to work: the "infection proxy" that actually performs the injection of the spyware by rewriting webpages and files on-the-fly (hence the name "FinFly"), and hardware and software to target people based on DSL/cable/dial-up account names, mobile phone numbers etc.”

What makes the software “sneaky” is that it allows the Turkmen government to inject spyware into trusted webpages that are otherwise benign, says Marczak.

Other data released by Wikileaks shows that Holger Rumscheidt, the managing director of Elaman, another German company that often collaborates with Gamma, made a four day trip to Turkmenistan this past January, and another two day trip in mid-June. (Gamma offers two annual maintenance visits as part of the annual license fee)

Turkmenistan’s surveillance of its citizens has been documented in the past. “Servers … registered to the Ministry of Communications operated software that allowed the government to record Voice over Internet Protocol conversations, turn on cameras and microphones, and log keystrokes,” notes the most recent U.S. State department report on human rights in the country.

In addition to tracking its citizens, Turkmenistan government has long occupied one of the lowest ratings in the world for human right, according to activist groups like Amnesty and Human Rights Watch. “The country is virtually closed to independent scrutiny, media and religious freedoms are subject to draconian restrictions, and human rights defenders and other activists face the constant threat of government reprisal,” says the New York-based Human Rights Watch in its 2013 report on the country. “The government continues to use imprisonment as a tool for political retaliation.”

Oman

Gamma and Dreamlab also apparently collaborated in Oman.

The Wikileaks documents also show that Mayencourt of Dreamlab sent Fischer of Gamma an invoice for 408,743.55 Swiss Francs ($369,000) on June 12, 2010, for a very similar project to be installed in the Middle Eastern country. Payment was authorized by Stephan Oelkers of Gamma.

A subsequent 41 page agreement between Fischer and Mayencourt dated December 21, 2010 lays out the details for the “Monitoring system for iproxy-project” in Oman.

Marczak says that while the documents make it clear that the system is up and running, he has not identified FinFisher technology on any Omani servers yet.

The Omani government has also been criticized by activist groups like Human Rights Watch, which reported that authorities “restricted the freedoms of association and assembly, both in law and in practice.”

The latest U.S. State department report on Oman says that 32 individuals “received prison sentences for directly or indirectly criticizing the sultan in online fora and at peaceful protests” noting that three individuals, Mona Hardan, Talib al-Abry, and Mohammed al-Badi were imprisoned for 18 months for Facebook postings and Twitter comments deemed critical of the sultan.

Formal Complaint


Spying Is Cheaper By The Dozen

Newly released Wikileaks documents provide a fascinating insight into the cost of tracking people with Gamma’s Finfisher software suite.

A 2011 price manual  offers governments FinSpy software at four price levels, starting at €80,000 ($104,000) for up to 10 targets at the entry level, but the price drops dramatically for the “open” level which allows clients to target as many at 500 individuals for €200,000 ($260,000).

Additional options include a voice recording server at €20,000 ($26,000) and several different kinds of five day “intrusion” training modules either in the customer’s country or in Munich, Germany, for two to four students for €15,700 to €20,250. ($15,700 to $26,325)

Gamma’s sale of surveillance software to repressive regimes is currently the subject of formal complaint to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) by Privacy International, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights and Reporters Without Borders.

Unregulated trade with surveillance technologies in authoritarian states is one of the biggest threats to press freedom and human rights work on the Internet,” said Christian Mihr, Executive Director of Reporters Without Borders Germany when the groups filed their complaint on February 1 this year. “Exports of such digital arms have to be made subject to the same restrictions as foreign dealings with traditional arms.”

Email requests from CorpWatch to Fischer, Mayencourt and Rumscheidt, for comments on the Wikileaks documents were not returned by press time.

However, the company has responded to previous queries about sales to Turkmenistan. “The nature of our business does not allow us to disclose our customers, nor how they use our products and the results that are achieved with them,” Gamma International’s Munich-based managing director, Martin Muench, told EurasiaNet.org by email last August. Gamma “complies with the national export regulations of the UK, United States and Germany and has never sold its products to any states that are restricted.”

 

(Quelle: CorpWatch.org)

USA: Wiederholungshandlung

Montag, November 12th, 2012

“Julian Assange says victorious Barack Obama ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’

London: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Wednesday described re-elected US President Barack Obama as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and said he expected his government to continue attacking the anti-secrecy website.

Speaking to AFP by telephone from Ecuador’s London embassy, where he sought asylum in June in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden over sex crime allegations, Assange said Obama’s victory was no cause for celebration.

“Obama seems to be a nice man, and that is precisely the problem,” the 41-year-old Australian said, after the president defeated Republican Mitt Romney on Tuesday night to sweep back into the White House.

“It’s better to have a sheep in wolf’s clothing than a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

He added: “All of the activities against WikiLeaks by the United States have occurred under an Obama administration.

“The Republican party has not been an effective restraining force on government excesses over the last four years.

“There is no reason to believe that will change -in fact, the Republicans will push the administration into ever greater excesses.”

Assange called on the United States to free Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of leaking a huge cache of classified military documents to WikiLeaks and has been held in solitary confinement in a military prison for over two years.

“The re-election of Barack Obama coincides with the 899th day of Bradley Manning’s confinement,” Assange said.

WikiLeaks enraged Washington in 2010 by leaking thousands of classified US documents on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and embarrassing diplomatic cables from US embassies around the world.

Assange was arrested that same year.

He denies the allegations of rape and sexual assault and claims that if he is extradited to Sweden he could be passed on to the United States and prosecuted, facing treatment similar to Manning’s or even the death sentence.”

 

(Quelle: NDTV.com)

Afghanistan: AfghanLeaks… (HÖR-TIPP)

Dienstag, Juni 5th, 2012

“AfghanLeaks

Vom Verschwinden der Threat Reports

Tausende geheimer US-Armeeberichte, die so genannten Afghanistan-Warlogs stellte Wikileaks im Juli 2010 ins Netz. Ihr Herzstück: rund 15.000 Threat Reports afghanischer Agenten und Doppelagenten. Für die US-Regierung war es Verrat, für Wikileaks ein Akt der Transparenz, um der Weltöffentlichkeit ungefiltert Informationen über die Situation in Afghanistan zugänglich zu machen. Nur wenige Medien erhielten diese Reports, damit sie zeitgleich als Coup ihre Auswertungen veröffentlichen. So auch Marc Thörner. Doch wer heute im Internet nach den Threat Reports sucht, wird sie nicht finden. Was ist mit den 15.000 Quellen geschehen? Und was steht in den Dokumenten?”

Sender:         WDR 5
Sendedatum:    Sonntag, 17.06.2012
Sendezeit:      11:05 – 12:00 Uhr
Wiederholung:  Montag, 18.06.2012, 20:05 Uhr
Autor:           Marc Thörner
Produktion:      WDR 2012
Redaktion:       Dorothea Runge

(Quelle: WDR 5.)

Haiti: UN go home!

Donnerstag, November 24th, 2011

“Haitians to U.N.: Please Leave

Amid allegations of serious abuses, a growing number of Haitians want peacekeeping forces out of their country.

BY Rebecca Burns

Haitians demonstrate against the U.N. in Haiti on September 23, in Port-au-Prince. (Photo by Thony Belizaire/AFP/Getty Images)

Haitians demonstrate against the U.N. in Haiti on September 23, in Port-au-Prince.
(Photo by Thony Belizaire/AFP/Getty Images)

On October 14, the U.N. Security Council voted to renew the mandate of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), paving the way for the peacekeeping force’s eighth year of operations in the Caribbean nation. The unanimous decision was made with little discussion of allegations that peacekeepers in Haiti have committed serious abuses, including sexual assault, killing protestors and complicity in forced evictions. Amid widespread distrust of MINUSTAH, which is backed and financed in large part by the U.S. government, a growing number of Haitian and international organizations are calling for the withdrawal of the U.N. force and an end to the militarization of Haiti’s reconstruction.

While the Security Council also authorized a reduction in the force’s size from 13,000 troops and police to about 10,500, Beverly Keene of Jubilee South (a global network of anti-debt movements) told In These Times that the decision “does not respond in any way to the need to confront the reality of an occupying force.” Haiti is the only country in the world where a peacekeeping mission operates under a U.N. Chapter VII mandate—permitting it to use force—absent an active conflict or an enforceable peace agreement. Critics argue that MINUSTAH, which began in 2004 following the U.S.-backed overthrow of President Jean Bertrand Aristide, violates Haitian sovereignty.

Jubilee South is currently calling for the force’s withdrawal as part of its “Haiti No MINUSTAH” campaign, which has been endorsed by Nobel Peace Prize laureates Perez Esquivel, Mairead Corrigan Maguire and Betty Williams, as well as School of the Americas Watch and hundreds of organizations in the troop-contributing countries of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, among others.

In a recent survey of perspectives on MINUSTAH in Port-au-Prince, 65 percent of respondents wanted the force to leave immediately or within the next year. A large majority was also skeptical of the force’s accountability, a likely testament to incidents that have occurred since the mission’s arrival in 2004.

In 2005, MINUSTAH raids into the impoverished community of Cite Soleil led to the deaths of between 25 and 30 civilians, according to human rights observers on the ground (the U.N. disputes the number of dead and claims victims were gang members). In several incidents, peacekeepers’ use of tear gas, rubber bullets and firearms to break up anti-U.N. demonstrations led to the death and injury of protesters. The apparent rape of an 18-year-old man by Uruguayan peacekeepers—caught on video and circulated widely in September—sparked fresh outrage.

While this latest incident has become the subject of internal investigation, U.N. peacekeepers are typically granted broad immunity from criminal prosecution in the country where they operate. In Haiti, the issue of U.N. accountability is particularly contentious given evidence that the country’s cholera epidemic, which has killed more than 6,000 Haitians since October 2010, originated with U.N. peacekeepers who dumped sewage into the Artibonite river. Haitian organizations have called for reparations to victims and a redirection of MINUSTAH’s nearly $800 million annual budget toward funding for cholera prevention.

Responding to calls for withdrawal, MINUSTAH spokesperson Sylvie Van Den Wildenberg told In These Times that in order for Haiti to become a fully functioning democratic state, MINUSTAH needs to continue building the country’s institutions. But a recent report from the group Harvard HealthRoots charges that MINUSTAH failed in its mandate to support the democratic process when, despite being charged with monitoring the 2010 national elections, it raised no objections to the exclusion of the country’s most popular political party.

The United States was instrumental in backing and financing these elections. A series of diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks reveal MINUSTAH’s role in advancing U.S. interests within Haiti and the region. MINUSTAH is described in a 2008 cable from the U.S. embassy in Port-au-Prince as a way to develop “habits of security cooperation in the hemisphere that will serve our interests for years to come.” Keene explains that the “Haiti No MINUSTAH” campaign seeks to oppose Haiti “being used as a laboratory for new forms of intervention and control” in Latin America, noting that Brazilian soldiers returning from Haiti are already being used for pacification programs in the slums of Rio de Janeiro.

“The biggest forms of violence that people are experiencing in Haiti are structural,” argues Daniel Beeton, a policy analyst at the Center for Economic and Policy Research who recently returned from a human rights delegation to Haiti. “That’s how MINUSTAH could help—if instead of having an armed force, the U.N. were to take that money and invest it in ways to help Haiti recover.”


ABOUT THIS AUTHOR

Rebecca Burns holds an M.A. from the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, where her research focused on global land and housing rights. She currently serves as a research assistant for a project examining violence against humanitarian aid workers, and is an In These Times editorial intern.

More information about Rebecca Burns”

 

(Quelle: In These Times.)

Ghana: Konzern wollte Zyanidunfall vertuschen

Freitag, September 30th, 2011

“Zyanidunfall in Goldmine des Bergbaugiganten Newmont – Wikileaks Depeschen bestätigen Vertuschungsversuche

Köln/Wien, 29. September 2011. Im Oktober 2009 ereignete sich ein schwerwiegender Unfall in der Ahafo-Goldmine in Ghana, bei dem hochgiftiges Zyanid austrat. Neue Veröffentlichungen der Enthüllungsplattform Wikileaks decken auf, dass sich das verantwortliche Unternehmen Newmont damals grob fahrlässig verhalten hat. Außerdem wurde versucht, den Unfall zu vertuschen. Diese Dokumente belegen einmal mehr, dass der hochlukrative Abbau von Gold oft verheerende Folgen für Mensch und Umwelt hat, Regulierung und Kontrolle der Unternehmen aber völlig unzureichend sind.

Am 8. Oktober 2009 gelangte hochgiftiges Zyanid aus der Ahafo-Mine in die umliegenden Flüsse. Zwei Tage später entdeckten Anwohner der Mine tote Fische im Fluss und schlugen beim Minenbetreiber Newmont Alarm. Aus den jetzt veröffentlichten Dokumenten geht hervor, dass die Kommission der ghanaischen Regierung, die den Zyanidunfall untersuchte, zu dem Ergebnis kam, dass Newmont sich „fahrlässig verhalten“ habe, „den Vorfall zu vertuschen versuchte“ und erst mit zweitägiger Verspätung an die Behörden meldete. Ein Vertreter der ghanaischen Umweltbehörde beschrieb das Verhalten von Newmont in dem Fall als „sehr unprofessionell“ und bemerkte zudem, dass Newmont „mangelhafte interne Sicherheitskontrollen“ gehabt habe.

Trotz dieses gravierenden Unfalls und breiter Proteste erhielt Newmont im Januar 2010 die Genehmigung für eine zweite Tagebaumine in Ghana in der Region Akyem, von der auch ein Waldschutzgebiet betroffen sein wird. Ghana ist als Unterzeichnerstaat des Pakts über wirtschaftliche, soziale und kulturelle Menschenrechte dazu verpflichtet, das Recht auf Nahrung und Wasser der Menschen in Ahafo und Akyem zu respektieren, zu schützen und zu gewährleisten. Die Regierung muss sicherstellen, dass die Lebensgrundlagen der ländlichen Gemeinschaften, insbesondere die Flussläufe geschützt werden. 

Die Ahafo-Mine wurde im März 2008 unter dem International Cyanide Management Code (ICMC) zertifiziert, als erste Newmont-Mine und erste Mine in Afrika.  Der ICMC ist ein freiwilliger, von der Industrie selbst entwickelter Verhaltenscode. „Das Verhalten des Unternehmens verdeutlicht einmal mehr die Notwendigkeit staatlicher Regulierung und menschenrechtlicher Kontrolle für Bergbauunternehmen. Von der Industrie selbst auferlegte Kriterien bewahren die Minengemeinden nicht vor Verletzungen des Menschenrechts auf Wasser“, so Brigitte Reisenberger von FIAN Österreich und Co-Autorin des Schwarzbuch Gold, das die Vertuschungsversuche Newmonts bereits vor der Veröffentlichung der Depesche thematisierte. „Diese neuen Veröffentlichungen bestätigen nun wie fahrlässig Newmont gehandelt hat. Die Umweltbehörde darf als staatliche Institution nicht davor zurückschrecken, umweltrechtliche Genehmigungen auch wieder zu entziehen.“ so Sebastian Rötters, Bergbau-Referent von FIAN Deutschland.

http://ml.new.fian.de/attachments/110929_PM_Newmont_Wikileaks.pdf

Kontakt: Brigitte Reisenberger, FIAN Österreich, +43-699-1111-4864, brigitte.reisenberger@fian.at

Sebastian Rötters, FIAN Deutschland, +49-163-477-2758, s.roetters@fian.de

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2010/01/10ACCRA84.html

http://www.facebook.com/SchwarzbuchGold

Bitte beachten Sie, dass es sich bei noreply@fian.de um eine reine Absendeadresse handelt. E-Mails an diese Adresse werden nicht beantwortet.

Sebastian Rötters
Pressereferent
FIAN Deutschland e.V.
Briedeler Straße 13, 50969 Köln, Germany
Tel.:  +49-221 / 70 200 72
Durchwahl: +49-221 / 8008 790
s.roetters@fian.de
www.fian.de
 
FIAN (FoodFirst Informations- & Aktions-Netzwerk) ist eine internationale Menschenrechtsorganisation für das Recht auf Nahrung mit Mitgliedern in 60 Ländern.

 

(Quelle: FIAN.)

USA: Auf dem Weg zum globalen Drohnenkrieg?

Donnerstag, September 22nd, 2011

“U.S. assembling secret drone bases in Africa, Arabian Peninsula, officials say

By Craig Whitlock and Greg Miller

The Obama administration is assembling a constellation of secret drone bases for counterterrorism operations in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula as part of a newly aggressive campaign to attack al-Qaeda affiliates in Somalia and Yemen, U.S. officials said.

One of the installations is being established in Ethi­o­pia, a U.S. ally in the fight against al-Shabab, the Somali militant group that controls much of that country. Another base is in the Seychelles, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean, where a small fleet of “hunter-killer” drones resumed operations this month after an experimental mission demonstrated that the unmanned aircraft could effectively patrol Somalia from there.

The U.S. military also has flown drones over Somalia and Yemen from bases in Djibouti, a tiny African nation at the junction of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. In addition, the CIA is building a secret airstrip in the Arabian Peninsula so it can deploy armed drones over Yemen.

The rapid expansion of the undeclared drone wars is a reflection of the growing alarm with which U.S. officials view the activities of al-Qaeda affiliates in Yemen and Somalia, even as al-Qaeda’s core leadership in Pakistan has been weakened by U.S. counterterrorism operations.

The U.S. government is known to have used drones to carry out lethal attacks in at least six countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. The negotiations that preceded the establishment of the base in the Republic of Seychelles illustrate the efforts the United States is making to broaden the range of its drone weapons.

The island nation of 85,000 people has hosted a small fleet of MQ-9 Reaper drones operated by the U.S. Navy and Air Force since September 2009. U.S. and Seychellois officials have previously acknowledged the drones’ presence but have said that their primary mission was to track pirates in regional waters. But classified U.S. diplomatic cables show that the unmanned aircraft have also conducted counterterrorism missions over Somalia, about 800 miles to the northwest.

The cables, obtained by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, reveal that U.S. officials asked leaders in the Seychelles to keep the counterterrorism missions secret. The Reapers are described by the military as “hunter-killer” drones because they can be equipped with Hellfire missiles and satellite-guided bombs.

To allay concerns among islanders, U.S. officials said they had no plans to arm the Reapers when the mission was announced two years ago. The cables show, however, that U.S. officials were thinking about weaponizing the drones.

During a meeting with Seychelles President James Michel on Sept. 18, 2009, American diplomats said the U.S. government “would seek discrete [sic], specific discussions . . . to gain approval” to arm the Reapers “should the desire to do so ever arise,” according to a cable summarizing the meeting. Michel concurred, but asked U.S. officials to approach him exclusively for permission “and not anyone else” in his government, the cable reported.

Michel’s chief deputy told a U.S. diplomat on a separate occasion that the Seychelles president “was not philosophically against” arming the drones, according to another cable. But the deputy urged the Americans “to be extremely careful in raising the issue with anyone in the Government outside of the President. Such a request would be ‘politically extremely sensitive’ and would have to be handled with ‘the utmost discreet care.’ ”

A U.S. military spokesman declined to say whether the Reapers in the Seychelles have ever been armed.

“Because of operational security concerns, I can’t get into specifics,” said Lt. Cmdr. James D. Stockman, a public affairs officer for the U.S. Africa Command, which oversees the base in the Seychelles. He noted, however, that the MQ-9 Reapers “can be configured for both surveillance and strike.”

A spokeswoman for Michel said the president was unavailable for comment.

Jean-Paul Adam, who was Michel’s chief deputy in 2009 and now serves as minister of foreign affairs, said U.S. officials had not asked for permission to equip the drones with missiles or bombs.

“The operation of the drones in Seychelles for the purposes of ­counter-piracy surveillance and other related activities has always been unarmed, and the U.S. government has never asked us for them to be armed,” Adam said in an e-mail. “This was agreed between the two governments at the first deployment and the situation has not changed.”

The State Department cables show that U.S. officials were sensitive to perceptions that the drones might be armed, noting that they “do have equipment that could appear to the public as being weapons.”

To dispel potential concerns, they held a “media day” for about 30 journalists and Seychellois officials at the small, one-runway airport in Victoria, the capital, in November 2009. One of the Reapers was parked on the tarmac.

“The government of Seychelles invited us here to fight against piracy, and that is its mission,” Craig White, a U.S. diplomat, said during the event. “However, these aircraft have a great deal of capabilities and could be used for other missions.”

In fact, U.S. officials had already outlined other purposes for the drones in a classified mission review with Michel and Adam. Saying that the U.S. government “desires to be completely transparent,” the American diplomats informed the Seychellois leaders that the Reapers would also fly over Somalia “to support ongoing counter-terrorism efforts,” though not “direct attacks,” according to a cable summarizing the meeting.

U.S. officials “stressed the sensitive nature of this counter-terrorism mission and that this not be released outside of the highest . . . channels,” the cable stated. “The President wholeheartedly concurred with that request, noting that such issues could be politically sensitive for him as well.”

The Seychelles drone operation has a relatively small footprint. Based in a hangar located about a quarter-mile from the main passenger terminal at the airport, it includes between three and four Reapers and about 100 U.S. military personnel and contractors, according to the cables.

The military operated the flights on a continuous basis until April, when it paused the operations. They resumed this month, said Stockman, the Africa Command spokesman.

The aim in assembling a constellation of bases in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula is to create overlapping circles of surveillance in a region where al-Qaeda offshoots could emerge for years to come, U.S. officials said.

The locations “are based on potential target sets,” said a senior U.S. military official. “If you look at it geographically, it makes sense — you get out a ruler and draw the distances [drones] can fly and where they take off from.”

One U.S. official said that there had been discussions about putting a drone base in Ethiopia for as long as four years, but that plan was delayed because “the Ethiopians were not all that jazzed.” Other officials said Ethiopia has become a valued counterterrorism partner because of threats posed by al-Shabab.

“We have a lot of interesting cooperation and arrangements with the Ethiopians when it comes to intelligence collection and linguistic capabilities,” said a former senior U.S. military official familiar with special operations missions in the region.

An Ethio­pian Embassy spokesman in Washington could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

The former official said the United States relies on Ethiopian linguists to translate signals intercepts gathered by U.S. agencies monitoring calls and e-mails of al-Shabab members. The CIA and other agencies also employ Ethiopian informants who gather information from across the border.

Overall, officials said, the cluster of bases reflects an effort to have wider geographic coverage, greater leverage with countries in the region and backup facilities if individual airstrips are forced to close.

“It’s a conscious recognition that those are the hot spots developing right now,” said the former senior U.S. military official.”

 

(Quelle: The Washington Post.)