WikiLeaks names Afghanistan as being targeted by NSA MYSTIC phone-tapping

WikiLeaks founder and freedom of information campaigner Julian Assange has claimed to name the second country to be a victim of reported NSA phone-tapping through its MYSTIC program. They are supposedly using a cell-phone monitoring utility called SOMALGET to monitor calls placed in locations worldwide from the safety of the USA.

Earlier this week, The Intercept reported that 'virtually every' cell-phone call made from the Bahamas was being actively monitored by the NSA's MYSTIC and SOMALGET programs and added that another nation was also falling victim to the snooping. They did not name the second territory though amid fears that it could lead to increased violence. Now Assange is claiming that the country in question is Afghanistan, however, and says that the NSA stores and records nearly all phone calls originating from the nation.

SOMALGET is reportedly a sub-division of the much larger MYSTIC program. Whereas MYSTIC can only collect call metadata and is supposedly deployed in Mexico, Kenya and the Philippines amongst others, SOMALGET is capable of storing and archiving the actual audio from phone conversations.

Assange did not disclose how WikiLeaks had ascertained that Afghanistan was the monitored country and instead cited that it had been "independently verified through forensic scrutiny of imperfectly applied censorship" to protect his source. He worried about how the NSA seemed to disregard the claims and noted that the Washington Post had originally disclosed details on MYSTIC back on March 18th. Since then, the USA has made no response to the allegations, however, except for to defend the program the day after the article was ran to the US Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.

The WikiLeaks founder is said to be worried that the censorship of a victim state's identity from foreign sources could directly assist the killing of innocent people such as the 'thousands of people' killed through suspected US drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. If these new allegations against NSA snooping are shown to be true, then there could be mass outcry in the affected nations and call for radical reforms to the way in which the USA monitors the data of its own citizens and that of foreign nations. Many Americans were already furious to learn last year that the NSA was capable of viewing their Internet usage through its PRISM program but perhaps the revelations of MYSTIC will stir even more unrest and result in the abolition of the NSA's data snooping - something that could be beneficial for all.

Source: WikiLeaks via PC World | Image via The Guardian

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27 Comments

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I'd be surprised if intelligence agencies were not monitoring phone calls. As long as this is done for legitimate purposes with due process in place and does not involve personal/corporate interests I'm personally good with it.

Breach said,
does not involve personal/corporate interests

an entire country
Sate to say, personal and corporate interests are being captured

I am totally in favor of it!!

How do you expect the security agencies to prevent bad things from happening?! The bad guys won't include you in a conference call before the INSANE acts that they do!!

This needs to be implemented throughout the world without any social and political exemptions nor ties!!

those BAD things as you put it probably wouldn't have happened if the US had kept it's nose in it's own business and let the rest of the world just get on with it without interference the US isn't exactly a shinning example to be looking to unless they want a lesson in being broke racist bigoted or addicted

Yes people were so furious they did nothing and nothings happened. Face it, the world lives in the shadow of big brother.

When you say 'nothing' happened I honestly don't understand what you mean:
-Tor usage has increased
-Google encrypt gmail to gmail emails
-https://protonmail.ch/ has launched
-Blackphone launched https://www.blackphone.ch/
-EU may stop FTA with USA
-Brazil are calling for the internet to be less USA centric
-Tim Berner-Lee has called for internet 'rights'
-People have switched to FOSS

These are just some of the responses to the NSA, please stop talking rubbish.

Paul Hill said,
When you say 'nothing' happened I honestly don't understand what you mean:
-Tor usage has increased
-Google encrypt gmail to gmail emails
-https://protonmail.ch/ has launched
-Blackphone launched https://www.blackphone.ch/
-EU may stop FTA with USA
-Brazil are calling for the internet to be less USA centric
-Tim Berner-Lee has called for internet 'rights'
-People have switched to FOSS

These are just some of the responses to the NSA, please stop talking rubbish.

I think you're speaking rubbish if you believe any of that amounts to a drop in the ocean but more importantly CITIZENS didn't need to change what they were doing, GOVERNMENT and its broad over-reaching policies of spying, data collection and the depths of intrusion it was going to on civilians needed to change - not the other way around!

You can't ever be sure if your data is compromised unless you encrypt it and only you and your recipient hold the private key. James Clapper has lied once, someone could do it again.

the NSA have already admited that TOR is no longer the secure safe haven it once was

as for google encrypting email would you trust a third party with that type of security I know I wouldn't and don't

the Swis are not as impartial as you might think only a court order away from revealing all your secrets

Black Phone = Blackphone's PrivatOS, built on Androidâ„¢ yeah like android is so secure

the US/EU FTA doesn't effect the rest of the world

and who/what do they propose as an viable alternative (considering they're probably more corrupt than the US I wouldn't trust anything they do)

-Tim Berner-Lee has called for internet 'rights' this will never happen because govt wont want to loose the control they have

-People have switched to FOSS just because it's Free and Open doesn't make it better it just makes it easier for those who wish hack it for nefarious purposes to do so

Erm FOSS is easier to find flaws and fix. Microsoft software has been exploited numerously by the NSA and NOBODY COULD TELL THEM IT WAS BROKEN.

What you say about Tor is dishonest. The NSA said it 'stinks' and still offers way more protection than other browsers.

I trust the swiss more than the yanks.

I think the only thing I agree with you on is about google encrypting emails, I wouldn't leave it to them, I'd encrypt the message myself.

US/EU FTA affects 900,000,000 people, that's a lot.

EvilAstroboy said,
who Cares ? Assange is nothing but a media Wh**e

...
I'm appalled, speechless. Such disdain, such apathy, such... submission.

Chicane-UK said,

The level and depth of NSA spying doesn't concern you? At all?

Are you planning a terrorist attack? Talking about building bombs or killing presidents? If not, why would you care what's being looked at?

You know why people just don't care? Because most people already knew it was going on, but they were called paranoid conspiracy theorists. All Snowden did was put a name to it. Ever heard of Echelon? Just a natural evolution of an earlier program.

You honestly think people in the NSA care about watching you 24/7? "zOMG this guy on Neowin is talking tech again. This dude on Facebook is posting as he takes a dump. We should watch them 24/7 and record everything".

Some type of monitoring has been going on for decades. Plain and simple.

shawnsdada said,

Are you planning a terrorist attack? Talking about building bombs or killing presidents? If not, why would you care what's being looked at?

You know why people just don't care? Because most people already knew it was going on, but they were called paranoid conspiracy theorists. All Snowden did was put a name to it. Ever heard of Echelon? Just a natural evolution of an earlier program.

You honestly think people in the NSA care about watching you 24/7? "zOMG this guy on Neowin is talking tech again. This dude on Facebook is posting as he takes a dump. We should watch them 24/7 and record everything".

Some type of monitoring has been going on for decades. Plain and simple.

Of course I'm not planning a terrorist attack. Nor does the fact that I just browse tech sites and Facebook on the internet concern me especially. But there's two points about that I want to make..

Firstly whatever I do on the internet is my business. I literally have nothing to hide on there honestly.. I email friends, I don't watch any weird porn, or research how to make bombs. But the simple fact of the matter is I've not consented to my information being gathered by these agencies and honestly it offends me that it's somehow going on, and being so widely accepted under such ludicrous pretences. And dismissing it as OK if you have nothing to hide is, frankly, foolish. Where do you draw the line? If this level of observation about every email you send, every phone call you make is acceptable, then what would it take for you to no longer find it acceptable? It feels like this is one step away from listening devices and cameras in your home really.. and I say this as someone who's not some kind of paranoid freak.

But secondly, and probably more importantly, it's not just the spying on me that concerns me... it's simply how deep it goes, and how wide spread it is. Spying on private companies. Industrial espionage. Spying on other governments. Yes I realise we've spied on each other for years but it always felt that there were rules.. now it seems that there are no rules, what so ever. The most recent story about the NSA implanting interception devices into Cisco networking equipment before it gets shipped simply blows my mind.

Does it not ring alarm bells to you? Do you not start to think of things like the stasi with just how pervasive and in depth this all is? Does ridiculing other people make you feel better about it?

it's called a slippery slope. the only reason you don't care about them spying is because right now you're not doing anything they don't like. But once you accept that they spy, and years from now they decide something you do like is outlawed, it'll be too late to stop the spying.

Chicane-UK said,

Of course I'm not planning a terrorist attack. Nor does the fact that I just browse tech sites and Facebook on the internet concern me especially. But there's two points about that I want to make..

Firstly whatever I do on the internet is my business. I literally have nothing to hide on there honestly.. I email friends, I don't watch any weird porn, or research how to make bombs. But the simple fact of the matter is I've not consented to my information being gathered by these agencies and honestly it offends me that it's somehow going on, and being so widely accepted under such ludicrous pretences. And dismissing it as OK if you have nothing to hide is, frankly, foolish. Where do you draw the line? If this level of observation about every email you send, every phone call you make is acceptable, then what would it take for you to no longer find it acceptable? It feels like this is one step away from listening devices and cameras in your home really.. and I say this as someone who's not some kind of paranoid freak.

But secondly, and probably more importantly, it's not just the spying on me that concerns me... it's simply how deep it goes, and how wide spread it is. Spying on private companies. Industrial espionage. Spying on other governments. Yes I realise we've spied on each other for years but it always felt that there were rules.. now it seems that there are no rules, what so ever. The most recent story about the NSA implanting interception devices into Cisco networking equipment before it gets shipped simply blows my mind.

Does it not ring alarm bells to you? Do you not start to think of things like the stasi with just how pervasive and in depth this all is? Does ridiculing other people make you feel better about it?

I'm pretty sure you won't be spied on then.

You're welcome to leave the country if you're so worried about spying.

Dinggus said,

I'm pretty sure you won't be spied on then.

You're welcome to leave the country if you're so worried about spying.

Aside from this being a laughably predictable and stupid response, I have to say I love my country - which is why I hate to see the citizens of it being so ruthlessly abused by the government.

Yeah like leaving the country is going to help pffft idiot... as far as I'm concerned the only place the NSA ( National Security Agency) should be spying on is within it's own damn borders and nowhere else otherwise they need to change their name to oh I don't know maybe to something like CIA OH that's right they already exist and do what they supposed to do which is Spy on the rest of the world fark only in the US can you have several different federal agencies doing the same damn job no wonder your country is broke

Chicane-UK said,

The level and depth of NSA spying doesn't concern you? At all?

I Got nothing to hide, they can listen in to all my calls, read my emails, look under my bed as far as I care ... because they have not got crap on me

Also, tell me what Goverment of the world is not spying on their own and on others ?

EvilAstroboy said,

I Got nothing to hide, they can listen in to all my calls, read my emails, look under my bed as far as I care ... because they have not got crap on me

Also, tell me what Goverment of the world is not spying on their own and on others ?

Ah - so because other countries do it, that makes it OK? North Korea detain, torture and murder their citizens.. perhaps because they do it, we should do that too?