The Governments are Helping Others to Spy
’Teach ‘em to Phish’ warns that rather than increasing security, state ‘security assistance’ programmes are entrenching authoritarianism, further facilitating human rights abuses against people, and diverting resources from long-term development programmes.
The report explores a range of examples of 'security assistance' programmes:
- The report provides examples of how US Departments of State, Defense, and Justice all facilitate foreign countries’ surveillance capabilities, as well as an overview of how large arms companies have embedded themselves into such programmes, including at surveillance training bases in the US.
- The EU and individual European countries are sponsoring surveillance globally. The EU is already spending billions developing border control and surveillance capabilities in foreign countries to deter migration to Europe.
- Surveillance capabilities are also being supported by China’s government under the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ and other efforts to expand into international markets.
As our report shows, instead of putting resources into long-term development solutions, such programmes further entrench authoritarianism and spur abuses around the world — the very things which cause insecurity in the first place. If these ‘benefactor’ countries truly want to assist other countries to be secure and stable, they should build schools, hospitals, and other infrastructure, and promote democracy and human rights.
Revealed in detail:
World powers stuff spyware kit, how-to guides in dodgy nations' pockets
And tech industry doesn't get off lightly in civil rights probe
The world's most powerful governments are today accused of bankrolling surveillance kit and training for smaller and dubious nations – and the tech industry stands to benefit.
In a dossier published on Tuesday, civil-rights warriors Privacy International said that top governments – from the US, UK and China to France, Germany, and the European Union – are financing, training and equipping countries, including authoritarian regimes, with surveillance capabilities. By doing so, the countries with the most extensive security and military agencies are “transferring their electronic surveillance capabilities, practices, and legislation around the world,” the report said.
It said that some of the funds for such programmes were being badged as development. The US spent more than $20bn in security aid in 2017, with recipients of training and kit over the years including African nations and Afghanistan.
Privacy International said that despite such efforts boosting recipients’ security capacities, it can also play “a defining role in maintaining the ability of recipient governments to exercise functions of the state and political control.”
As more data is being generated and as surveillance technology advances ahead of laws sufficiently regulating them, and while authoritarian leaders continue to use surveillance as tools of political control, such transfers pose a substantial threat to human rights around the world.
The trend is a boon for contractors, as they “already benefit substantially from these surveillance programmes” in the donor states. Spreading surveillance capabilities opens up new markets and creates opportunities to grow.
“Such securitisation is hugely appealing for industry, allowing security companies and contractors to benefit from increased sales of security equipment, training contracts, and increased public financial support for the research and development of their products,” the civil rights fighters noted.
Although there are no specific criticisms of the corporations named in the report, Privacy International argued that their widespread contracts have already given them great influence over public policy and that their importance will likely increase as they implement surveillance technology.
"Historically, one of the consequences of the vast privatisation of US security and military forces over the past 20 years has been an inappropriate influence of contractors on policy,” the report said.
Now, it said, contractors “stand to benefit even more, which will only naturally increase their potentially damaging influence over public policy, as exemplified during the most recent invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq by US-led coalition forces.”
Among the companies named in the report are Leidos Inc, a major contractor for the Pentagon and the NSA that was formed from a merger with the Information Systems and Global Solutions division of Lockheed Martin; intelligence, security and reconnaissance training firm North American Surveillance Systems; and military firms AAR and DynCorp.
The report also noted that the US State Department had financed and granted surveillance equipment acquisitions for foreign countries, which included a monitoring centre for intercepting, analysing, and using information obtained from communications systems in Mexico. Business intelligence, call centre and surveillance outfit Verint scored that deal.
Biometric traveller screening systems, developed by defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, were provided to Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Tanzania, Uganda, Iraq, Jordan, Yemen, Maldives, Afghanistan, and Macedonia, the report added.
Some of the surveillance training was by government agencies. According to the study, last year, the International Law Enforcement Academies – a scheme run by the state department – in Botswana had courses on counter-terrorism and cybercrime delivered by the FBI and on “Investigations of Computers and Electronic Crimes” delivered by the US Secret Service.
Meanwhile, it has been reported that the UK College of Policing has provided training to the Saudi Ministry of the Interior in investigative techniques since 2009, with plans to expand this to include high tech crime and digital forensics, and GSM mobile phone examinations.
The civil rights group warned that some of the recipient countries “lack basic rule of law”, which poses “significant and foreseeable risks” to individuals’ privacy. It also pointed out that the lawfulness of states’ activities in some of the countries exporting surveillance capabilities are themselves being challenged.
The group called for increased focus on due diligence – ensuring that training isn’t provided to states that violate human rights, for example – plus greater transparency and the promotion of best practices and governance of surveillance alongside training programmes.
Intelligence Sharing Between Governments and the Need for Safeguards
‘Secret Global Surveillance Networks’ is a major PI report, based on an unprecedented international collaborative investigation carried out by 40 NGOs in 42 countries.
Our research shows that, globally, the sharing of intelligence is alarmingly under-regulated, opening the door to human rights abuses. Intelligence sharing has evolved dramatically with the rise of new surveillance technologies, enabling governments to collect, store, and share vast troves of personal information, including data collected via mass surveillance techniques. And yet, our research demonstrates that most intelligence sharing arrangements are secret and most countries lack any domestic regulation of this practice. We found that a number of countries' intelligence agencies have no clear legal obligation to even inform oversight bodies when they enter into intelligence sharing agreements.
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