Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Map: The 193 foreign countries the NSA spies on and the 4 it doesn't

Nsa_spying_authority

It's not exactly a secret that the National Security Agency has wide authority for spying on foreign governments. But just how wide is driven home by a 2010 government document, just published by the Washington Post, that lists every country where the NSA has authority to spy on that country's government. A map of those countries is shown above.

Two things you will notice immediately from this map. The first is that the NSA has authority to spy on almost every single country on Earth — even the Vatican. Presumably, the NSA preemptively asked for (and got) authority in most of these countries before it had a specific reason. Although, it's certainly possible that at some point the NSA decided it really needed explicit permission to spy in San Marino, Saint Lucia, the Grenadies, Samoa, Palau, and other island nations that do not present an immediately obvious intelligence draw.

The second thing you'll notice is the only four nations not included on the list: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. (There is also a fifth, South Sudan, although it was not yet independent as of 2010 and I'd bet everything I own that they're now on the list.) Those four countries, all fellow Anglophone nations of significant English descent and former members of the British Empire, are members with the United States in an agreement known as 5-Eyes.

The 5-Eyes nations initially formed this five-country pact in World War Two as a way to coordinate spying on enemy radio transmissions. They've since remained partners; the point of 5-Eyes is that five countries agree to share intelligence and never to spy on one another. The idea behind it is that the countries are so culturally and politically close that they grant one another a unique degree of trust and access when it comes to intelligence.

Not long after it was revealed that the US had spied on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, both Germany and France expressed interest in joining a 5-Eyes-style no-spying agreement with the US, but there is little chance of this happening given the history of post-war political tensions and trade disputes with these countries.

But the vast, vast majority of the world is not part of 5-Eyes, and that means that they're subject to NSA spying on their government, whether they like it or not. The NSA's authority, according to the government document, comes from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which approved the list of countries. The memo also approves spying on the world's leading inter-governmental bodies: the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Arab League, the European Union, and so on.

Maybe most interesting of all, though, is the list of six political organizations at the bottom of the memo, which the NSA was also granted authority to spy on. Here's the list, with some brief annotations from me:

1. Amal, a Lebanese Shi'a political party that has historically been a rival of the Lebanese Shi'a political party and terrorist group Hezbollah

2. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), India's predominant right-wing Hindu nationalist political party, whose leader Narendra Modi was once blocked from visiting the US because of his history of inciting anti-Muslim violence. Earlier this year, Modi became the Prime Minister of India.

3. The Bolivarian Continental Movement, a South American organization that promotes "the union of the peoples of the Americas" against the "imperialist aggression" of the United States, "defending the Venezuelan revolution from the imperialist threats", and "to reinforce the struggle against the Yankee military bases in Colombia." It is based in Venezuela and associated with the Colombian narco-terrorist group the FARC.

4. The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, which was banned in Egypt up until the 2011 Egyptian revolution, entered politics that year, got a member elected president in 2012, had its president deposed in a military coup in 2013, and is now persecuted under the military government. Ironically, since 2011 the United States has been frequently accused in Egypt of secretly backing the Muslim Brotherhood.

5. The National Salvation Front. The memo does not specify which National Salvation Front it is referring to (there have been several in Europe and the Middle East) but it likely refers to the Syrian opposition party, the only group by that name that was active in 2010, when the memo was issues. (Some articles have claimed this refers to the Egyptian party by this name, but it was not formed until 2012.) Syria's National Salvation Front is an opposition party based abroad, primarily in Belgium.

6. Pakistan People's Party, a popular Pakistani political party that has center-left politics and historically positive ties with the United States.

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