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America’s Expanding Aggressive Signals Intelligence Operations

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TND Guest Contributor:  Wayne Madsen | 

As recently witnessed by the “ferret” mission conducted by a U.S. Air Force RC-135 Rivet Joint spy plane near the Russian airspace of Kaliningrad, a mission designed to force the Russians to fire up radar and other electronic intelligence systems to gather profile data, the U.S. National Security Agency has adopted an aggressive stance. NSA’s recently-expanded operations against Russia and China come as President Obama’s Cold War-style rhetoric has become more aggressive toward both countries…

The RC-135 ferret mission against Kaliningrad was on July 18, the day after Malaysian Airline Flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine. NATO insiders are beginning to leak information that the Malaysian jetliner was shot down by aircraft-to-aircraft machine gun fire, not a ground-launched missile as was previously stated by Western governments and the Kiev regime. Only Ukraine had the air force assets present in the area that could have shot down the Malaysian plane. The July 17 downing of the Malaysian plane during NATO operations in the Black Sea, which was the day before the penetration of Russian air defense systems by the RC-135 in the Baltic, strongly suggest that the Obama administration and NATO have decided to engage militarily with Russia. Furthermore, the United States has informed Sweden that it can expect further violations of its airspace by U.S. spy planes as occurred after the confrontation between the RC-135 and a Russian fighter jet over the Baltic on July 18.

Sweden, like other European nations, is not an innocent bystander in the increased tensions between NATO and Russia. Sweden, a non-member of NATO, has been inching ever so closely to full NATO membership and it is also an official “Third Party” to the NSA “FIVE EYES” alliance of signals intelligence partners. In fact, Sweden’s Forvarets Radioanstalt (FRA) signals intelligence agency has maintained a classified relationship with NSA since 1954. The FRA permits NSA to tap Baltic undersea communications cables from Swedish territory. The 2011 agreement between FRA and NSA permit NSA to collect from undersea cables intercepted traffic targeting Russian “leadership, internal politics, and energy.” Sweden and Finland, officially “neutral,” are as much a part of NSA’s aggressive intelligence operations as are their Nordic NATO neighbors, Norway and Denmark.

In fact, a PowerPoint slide revealed by Edward Snowden shows that a number of “non-aligned” nations have struck Third Party relationships with NSA and its partners in Canada, Australia, Britain, and New Zealand. They include Algeria, Ethiopia, India, Pakistan, and Tunisia.

Released copies of NSA travel documents clearly indicate that NSA personnel have traveled to India, Saudi Arabia, Japan, and other countries to work with NSA partners in setting up new communications surveillance systems. NSA personnel have also trained foreign signals intelligence in the use of modernized signals intercept, analysis, and processing system. The travel documents also point to a number of overseas and domestic visits by NSA technical personnel as being part of “classified” projects.

According to the documents, the travel and per diem costs for NSA personnel to travel to partner countries have been defrayed by the host countries’ signals intelligence agencies.

In June 2013, NSA engineers traveled to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for an unspecified reason. However, it has recently been disclosed from the documents revealed by Snowden that NSA and the Saudi Ministry of the Interior have established a signals intelligence “Third Party” alliance.

The costs for the travel of the NSA engineers to Saudi Arabia were born, according to the document, by the “Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

In 2013, NSA personnel traveled to Tachiarai, Japan for “partner training” and to Chitose and Tokyo for the “IBIS-1″ program review.  Tachiarai in Fukushima prefecture is the location of a major Japanese signals intelligence station.

The Chitose work required an NSA “Space Systems Analyst,” an indication that IBIS is a satellite interception operation, most likely one primarily directed against Chinese military and communications satellites. Such a mission would be in keeping with Obama’s stated goal of “pivoting” U.S. military and intelligence assets to Asia in order to confront China. The costs for the travel to Japan were defrayed by the Japanese Directorate for SIGINT (DFS).

But China is not alone in facing NSA’s increased aggressive intelligence operations. Finland and joined Sweden in hosting NSA operations directed across its eastern border toward Russia.

From May 5 to 10, 2013, NSA personnel traveled to Lockheed Martin’s Sanders plant in Merrimack, New Hampshire for the factory acceptance test for a SIGINT system being acquired by the Finnish Intelligence Research Establishment. The NSA-Finland “Third Party” relationship targeting Russia and Belarus is in violation of Finland’s longstanding neutral foreign policy commitment.

In June and July 2013, NSA personnel traveled to Warsaw and Olsztyn, Poland for the installation of a SIGINT system codenamed AMBERWIND. The costs were assumed by the “Polish Foreign Intelligence Agency.” Olsztyn is a Polish SIGINT station directed against Russian military and other communications in Kaliningrad, which is also the headquarters of the Russian Baltic Fleet. With the NSA operations at Olsztyn and the Rivet Joint ferret missions targeting Kaliningrad, the NSA has signaled that it is returning to a Cold War stance with regard to aggressive operations directed against Russia and is using Finland, Poland, and Sweden to carry its water locally.

A 2013 agreement between NSA and Israel’s Unit 8200 signals intelligence agency, authorizes increased cooperation between NSA and Israeli personnel in engaging in cyber-operations targeting Russia and China and sharing intelligence collected on the Islamic central Asian former republics of the Soviet Union.

With NSA improving military revanchist Japan’s intelligence collection capabilities against China, it is also increasing its cooperation with India in focusing signals intelligence assets on China’s southern frontier regions in Tibet and Yunnan.

In August 2013, NSA personnel traveled to New Delhi, India for the installation of a SIGINT system code-named TIGERFIRE. The costs were picked up by the Indian Aviation Research Center (ARC). It is believed that the NSA personnel installed TIGERFIRE at the main Indian Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) satellite intercept station at Secunderabad in the new state of Telangana. Indian websites constantly advertise for “SIGINT” personnel for job openings, for companies like “Comint Systems and Solutions Pvt Ltd.,” in Secunderbad.

Australiais also an important “Second Party” ally of NSA in eavesdropping on China, particularly from the satellite intercept station at Geraldton, near Perth in Western Australia.

NSA personnel have also traveled to NSA’s “Second Party” allies, including Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Britain — traditional English-speaking nations known as the FIVE EYES — to make improvements to surveillance systems and conduct training.

In 2013, NSA engineers traveled to Blenheim, New Zealand to discuss a new signals intelligence site with New Zealand Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) personnel. New Zealand is the NSA partner responsible for monitoring the communications of the South Pacific island nations, as well as trans-Pacific satellite communications. Much of the intercepts involve the current satellite interception station located at Waihopai, near Blenheim.

In January and February of this year, NSA training personnel visited Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) to conduct such training. CSE shares responsibility with NSA for targeting the communications of Latin American and Caribbean communications. CSEC has been particularly aggressive against the communications of Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela, and Bolivia.

NSA also received funding from Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in Cheltenham, England for classified work at NSA Washington (NSAW), which is the NSA headquarters at Fort Meade, Maryland. Funded by GCHQ, NSA personnel traveled to Cheltenham last year for a “WB Quad” installation. “WB” stands for wide band which describes a system used to intercept wideband satellite communications. “Quad” may be a reference to the “Quad” intelligence architecture developed by NSA, the National Reconnaissance Office, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and the Defense Intelligence Agency to share databases across the four agencies.

Last year, NSA personnel traveled to Honefess, Norway to WB Quad installation. The costs were picked up by the Norwegian Intelligence Service (NIS). NSA personnel were also at CSEC in Ottawa for a “WB Quad” installation.

Also in 2013, NSA personnel traveled to Cheltenham and the GCHQ submarine cable-tapping and satellite intercept station in Bude, Cornwall to train GCHQ signals intelligence analysts. In April 2013, GCHQ personnel visited Bowie, Maryland for a workshop on “GCHQ’s Data Mining Research.”

Just as the Central Intelligence Agency under Obama has seen fit to spy on U.S. Senate computers, the NSA is also aggressively leading a neo-Cold War intelligence collection campaign against Russia and China.

This article appeared at the Strategic Culture Foundation on-line journal and is reprinted with permission.

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