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Ear to the Ground

The Digital Empire’s Threat to Latin America

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Posted on Jul 9, 2013
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“Every day, hundreds of millions of messages from the entire Latin American continent are devoured by US spy agencies, and stored forever in warehouses the size of small cities,” WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange writes in The Guardian on Tuesday. “The geographical facts about the infrastructure of the internet therefore have consequences for the independence and sovereignty of Latin America.”

“[O]n the internet and on the phone,” he continues, “all roads to and from Latin America lead through the United States. Internet infrastructure directs 99% of the traffic to and from South America over fibre-optic lines that physically traverse US borders. The US government has shown no scruples about breaking its own law to tap into these lines and spy on its own citizens. There are no such laws against spying on foreign citizens.”

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

Julian Assange at The Guardian:

The problem also transcends geography. Many Latin American governments and militaries secure their secrets with cryptographic hardware. These are boxes and software that scramble messages and then unscramble them on the other end. Governments purchase them to keep their secrets secret – often at great expense to the people – because they are correctly afraid of interception of their communications.

But the companies who sell these expensive devices enjoy close ties with the US intelligence community. Their CEOs and senior employees are often mathematicians and engineers from the NSA capitalising on the inventions they created for the surveillance state. Their devices are often deliberately broken: broken with a purpose. It doesn’t matter who is using them or how they are used – US agencies can still unscramble the signal and read the messages.

These devices are sold to Latin American and other countries as a way to protect their secrets but they are really a way of stealing secrets.

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