29 October 2013, 13:33

United States of Espionage: timeline of NSA's blatant spy programs

United States of Espionage: timeline of NSA's blatant spy programs

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed that the US National Security Agency (NSA) spied on its world's foes and allies, including Russia, China, Iran, Cuba, Israel, several Latin American countries and Europe: Germany, Italy, Spain and others. Here is Part One of the timeline of the NSA's blatant spy programs from June to September 2013. (INFOGRAPHIC MAP)

6 June – Media reveal that the US National Security Agency (NSA) has been spying on communications of Verizon customers in the US as part of the Prism surveillance program. The leak blows the lid off the NSA scooping up data directly from the servers of major US Internet providers.

7 June – The Guardian newspaper publishes a memo that lists potential targets for US surveillance and outlines its methods.

It is further revealed that the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in the UK helped itself to the data from NSA’s communications tapping program.

9 June – Michael Hayden, who headed the NSA under George W. Bush, says Obama’s presidency saw a hike in US surveillance.

11 June – The Guardian discloses NSA's tool for cataloguing global data that shows the agency has received a total of 30 billion data reports on web traffic over thirty days, with over 97 billion reports collected globally over March 2013.

14 June – The South China Morning Post says the NSA hacked Hong Kong and China servers.

16 June – The Guardian reports that US and UK intelligence spied on foreign diplomats at the G20 summit in 2009. One of them being Russia’s Dmitry Medvedev. The NSA is revealed to have bugged South Africa’s foreign office and planned to spy on delegates at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 2009.

British Ambassador David Reddaway is summoned to the Turkish Foreign Ministry to officially comment on the Guardian’s claims about its tapping of the Turkish delegation led by Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek at the G20 summit in 2009.

19 June – The New York times accuses Skype of creating a program in 2008 that gave intelligence access to its customers’ message exchange. As of 2011, over 633 million users were registered with Skype.

21 June – The Guardian shed some light on spying programs, such as Prism-like Tempura, run by the British-based GCHQ. The Government Communications Headquarters collected phone data of an estimated 600 million people daily. The tempura program let the GCHQ access communications of two billion Internet users.

27 June – It emerges that the Obama administration kept running the Internet-traffic assessing Stellar Wind program well past George Bush’s presidency.

The Guardian reports that by December 2012 a special NSA unit had scooped up data on the Internet traffic of over a trillion users.

20 June – The Guardian says the NSA spied on 38 foreign embassies and diplomatic missions. The list of tapped embassies includes those of Middle East countries, as well as France, Italy, Greece and several US allies such as Japan, Mexico, South Korea, India, and Turkey.

Germany’s Der Spiegel claims US intelligence was tapping a total of 20 million phone calls and 10 million internet connections in Germany every single day.

28 June – UK journalist Glenn Greenwald claims he possesses documents that prove the US can process a billion of phone calls a day.

2 July – Turkish foreign office summons a high-ranking US official to question him about the alleged US-run intelligence program that was said to have bugged diplomatic missions.

4 July – Le Mond reveals that French intelligence was monitoring the majority of phone calls and Internet traffic in the country for two years.

6 July – Brazil’s O Globo newspaper publishes an article by Glenn Greenwald that deals with NSA’s Fairview, a secret mass surveillance program that collected phone and traffic data across Brazil.

9 July –Greenwald’s second article in O Globo reveals that the US spied on citizens of most Latin American countries, including Mexico, Venezuela, Columbia, Ecuador, Argentina, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Paraguay, Chile, Peru, and Salvador.

10 July – The Washington Post releases information on PRISM's brother called Upstream, which collects from the fiber-optic cable networks.

20 July – Der Spiegel claims German intelligence was cooperating with US spies, lobbying hard against tougher data protection rules to have more leeway for surveillance.

31 July – The Guardian publishes a presentation on NSA’s surveillance program Xkeyscore that has 500 servers around the world and can track virtually every step made on the Internet. The paper says it collected data on 1-2 billion connections daily.

1 August – The NSA is revealed to have paid GCHQ a total of $155 million from 2010-2013, since UK laws allowed for wider surveillance.

2 August – Brazil’s Epoca publishes information that implicates US diplomats in using intelligence data to gain an edge on UN partners at the Iran nuclear talks and the Summit of Americas in 2009.

Die Sueddeutsche Zeitung reveals that seven communication giants, including BT, Vodafone, and Verizon Business, let the GCHQ access their fiber-optic cables networks and analyze some 600 million phone calls a day.

9 August – Journalists find out that NSA guidelines allow it to log onto US servers without a warrant. Senator Ron Wyden admits the NSA could not tell the number of Americans they have been spying on.

15 August – The Washington Post reports 2776 incidents of the NSA violating its own surveillance rules from March 2011 until March 2012. It says NSA employees used the agency’s enormous eavesdropping power to spy on their love interests.

21 August – The NSA declassifies three secret court rulings that prove the agency collected an average of 56,000 emails a year that were sent by American nationals not suspected of terrorist activities.

Ecuador's President Rafael Correa claims several Latin American countries have been spied on, although he doesn’t name whose intelligence stood behind this mass surveillance. The president says the unnamed spies intercepted emails and phone calls and stresses he has enough evidence that government communications have also been tapped.

26 August – The Independent announces that Britain runs a secret Internet-monitoring station in the Middle East to intercept data from fiber-optic cables passing through the region. However Glenn Greenwald later denies this information may have stemmed from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

29 August – The Washington Post says US intelligence paid tens of millions of dollars to communications companies for clandestine access to their fiber-optic cables networks.

The US secret surveillance budget is estimated at $52.6 billion. Primary targets are revealed to be Russia, China, Iran, Cuba and Israel.

30 August – US intelligence is accused of carrying out 231 cyber-attacks over 2011, every third of them targeting servers in Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.

August 31 - Der Spiegel reports that NSA hacked into the secure internal communications systems of the Aljazeera TV network.


United States of Espionage: timeline of NSA's blatant spy programs. Part 2

After former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed that the US National Security Agency (NSA) spied on its world's foes and allies, major world powers started to summon US ambassadors and demanded explanations. Here is Part Two of the timeline of the NSA's blatant spy programs from September to October 2013.

September 1 -The Washington Post reports that the NSA has been spying on Pakistan, a US ally, more than on any other country.

Journalist Glenn Greenwald reveals that the NSA wiretapped the phone calls of Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. The Brazilian leader cancels her official visit to the United States.

September 5 - It’s been reported that the NSA cracked the private data encryption codes of millions of web users.

September 7 - Der Spiegel reports that the NSA accessed smartphone data from all leading makers. Both mass smartphone surveillance and spying on individual smartphones was practiced.

September 9 - Brazil’s Fantastico reports that the NSA infiltrated the computer networks of the Brazilian oil company Petrobras, the French Foreign Ministry and the SWIFT banking system, disproving allegations of the NSA’s non-involvement in corporate espionage.

September 11 - The US and Israeli secret services publish a memorandum on NSA data sharing with Israel. The NASA refuses to disclose how many Americans the Israeli intelligence agencies wanted to check.

September 16 - It emerges that the NSA has been monitoring VISA and Mastercard credit card transactions. Britain’s GCHQ says that plenty of "irrelevant" private data was collected along the way.

September 17 - NSA spy scandal breaks out in Belgium. Der Spiegel reports attempts by Britain’s GCHQ to infiltrate the Belgian telecommunication company Belgacom. Not only the NSA but also Israel’s secret services have possibly been involved in cyber espionage against Belgacom. Ten years ago, the company acquired an Israeli-based technology that enabled foreign secret agencies to intercept its client data.

September 23 - The Hindu newspaper accuses the US secret services of accessing data on India’s nuclear and space programs and domestic policy. India’s embassy and UN mission in the United States have both been under surveillance.

September 25 -Investigative reporter Glenn Greenwald comes up with revelations showing that opponents of the use of drones in the war on terrorism are referred to in NSA documents as a "threat."

September 28 - The New York Times reports that the NSA uses people’s private data to create detailed graphs of their social connections.

September 30 - The Guardian reports that the NSA stores the online metadata of millions of Internet users for up to a year, regardless of whether they are connected to a terrorist target. The newspaper cites expert Jeff Jarvis as saying that the NSA monitors about half of all communications on the Web.

October 4 -The NSA and the GCHQ are accused of attempting to compromise the TOR computer networks that users to protect their data.

October 7 -The Fantastico reports that Canada’s secret services spied on Brazil’s Energy and Natural Resources Ministry in favor of Canadian companies.

October 14 -The Washington Post reports that the NSA has been sifting through 250 million e-mail lists.

October 16 - It’s been reported that the CIA uses NSA data to prepare operations involving unmanned aircraft.

October 20 - Der Spiegel unveils information showing that the NSA was spying on Mexico’s former President Felipe Calderon and Cabinet ministers.

October 21 - Le Monde reports massive spying on French citizens, diplomats and companies by the NSA. The agency intercepted some 70.3 million items of French telephone data and was spying on French diplomats in the United States.

October 23 - Le Monde’s revelations and a scandal around German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone being tapped by the NSA spark calls for a review of the cooperation agreement between the US and European intelligence agencies.

October 24 - The Guardian reports that the NSA was eavesdropping on the phone calls of 35 world leaders.

L’Espresso reports that the NSA and GCHQ have spied on the Italian government, Italian companies and millions of Italians.

October 26 - Allegations emerge that Angela Merkel has been wiretapped by the NSA since 2002 and that a special intelligence center was created at the US embassy in Berlin. The White House denies that a wiretap of Merkel had President Barack Obama’s personal approval.

October 28 - It’s been reported that the NSA intercepted 60.5 million phone calls, texts and e-mails in Spain between December 19, 2012 and January 8 this year. Spanish politicians and Cabinet members were among those whose phones were tapped.



US President Barack Obama has known since as long as 2010 that the NSA tapped German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone.

- In 2010, NSA Director Keith Alexander personally informed Obama about a secret operation targeting Merkel. A well-informed US intelligence source told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper on condition of anonymity that Obama "not only did not stop the operation, but he also ordered it to continue."

- The NSA read Merkel’s sms messages and eavesdropped on her phone calls. Only the stationary phone in her bureau in the Federal Chancellery was inaccessible, according to the Bild am Sonntag.

- Obama apologized and assured Merkel that he had been unaware of the phone bugging or he would have ordered to cease it.

- In 2002, the NSA put Merkel, back then an opposition leader, on its European Target List. Later, she was assigned the code-name "GE Chancellor Merkel". The Bild am Sonntag claims that a joint intelligence unit of NSA and CIA at the US embassy in Berlin monitored cellphone communications in the government quarter.

In a fresh phone bugging revelation, former Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi said that ten years ago when he had been President of the European Commission, his phone had been tapped by US secret services. "My tone of voice and my speech peculiarities were inserted into some database, so all my phone calls were intercepted irrespective of the telephone I was using," Interfax quoted Prod as saying in an interview.

France regularly shares raw intelligence data with the United States Britain under a trilateral data sharing deal, the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper reports, citing information leaked by former CIA contractor Edward Snowden.

Also, France has an intelligence sharing treaty codenamed Lustre with five English-speaking countries, the so-called Five Eyes club that comprises the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. They share electronic surveillance data but pledged not to spy on each other.

The United States used Britain’s Menwith Hill spy base in North Yorkshire to wiretap Merkel and other world leaders. Menwith Hill is an Air Force base and Europe’s largest electronic surveillance base with 33 antennas. The NSA used it to process the intercepted phone and e-mail data.

There were around 80 NSA-CIA intelligence units in the world in 2010, most of them dating from as far as the 1970s, including 19 in Europe – in Paris, Madrid, Rome, Prague and Geneva and also in Berlin and Frankfurt am Mein, Der Spiegel reports.

Voice of Russia

    and share via