Oil Espionage: Targeting OPEC
by Stephen Lendman
NSA and Britain's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) spy globally. It's largely unrelated to protecting national security.
The only enemies both countries have are ones they invent. Claims otherwise ring hollow.
Spying is for control. It's for economic advantage. It's to be one up on foreign competitors. It's for information used advantageously in trade, political, and military relations.
It's longstanding. It's institutionalized. It's lawless. It doesn't matter. It continues undeterred.
Both agencies invent pretexts to do so. They manufacture fear. They defend the indefensible. Their extrajudicial aggressiveness is breathtaking.
Invoking terrorist threats don't wash. NSA and GCHQ are extensions of rogue governments. They facilitate lawless practices. They commit plenty of their own.
They don't make the world safer for democracy. They don't enhance stability and security. They add greatly to police state harshness. They commit espionage on a global scale.
On November 11, Der Spiegel headlined "Oil Espionage: How the NSA and GCHQ Spied on OPEC."
Snowden released documents explain. They're the gift that keeps on giving. New revelations follow earlier ones.
NSA and GCHQ "infiltrated" OPEC's computer network. NSA did so in 2008. Information on individual oil exporting companies existed earlier.
Now, "for the first time," NSA an GCHQ "infiltrate(d) OPEC in its entirety." It's comprised of 12 member states.
In alphabetical order, they include Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela.
Gabon and Indonesia are former members. As an Iraqi occupying power, America is a de facto member.
NSA infiltration discovered an OPEC Research Division report. According to Der Spiegel, it said:
"OPEC officials were trying to cast the blame for high oil prices on speculators."
"A look at files in (their) legal department revealed how the organization was preparing itself for an antitrust suit in the United States."
"And a review of the section reserved for the OPEC secretary general documented that the Saudis were using underhanded tactics, even within the organization."
Riyadh tried keeping increased oil production secret "as long as possible." Its OPEC governor, Yasser Mufti, chairs OPEC's Board of Governors.
NSA got FISA court authority to target him. Documents showed surveillance stopped when he visited America.
It resumed when he returned home. NSA monitors his communications. In 2010, agency analysts determined that he released incorrect oil production figures.
According to Der Spiegel:
"The typical 'customers' for such information were the CIA, the US State Department and the Department of Energy, which promptly praised the NSA for confirming what it had suspected for years."
GCHQ targets OPEC's Vienna headquarters. A secret 2010 document says it traditionally had "poor access" to OPEC.
The same year, it infiltrated computers of nine OPEC employees. It did so using the "Quantum Insert" method. It creates a "gateway" into OPEC.
A separate Der Spiegal article headlined "Quantum Spying: GCHQ Used Fake LinkedIn Pages to Target Engineers."
Snowden released information showed computers of targeted candidates were infected with computer malware. It was done using Quantum Insert infiltration technology.
It permits deep infiltration. High-speed servers are used. They're located at key online switching points.
When a target calls a specific web site, servers are activated. Instead of the chosen site, an exact duplicate is supplied. It infiltrates a spy code onto the targeted computers.
It's an extremely sophisticated NSA developed exploitation tool. It comes in various versions. GCHQ used it to penetrate OPEC's Vienna computer network.
Britain's spy agency "wants to turn the mobile web into an all-seeing surveillance machine," said Der Spiegel.
In 2011, GCHQ spies described their "vision" as "Any mobile device, anywhere, anytime!"
Once mobile phone networks are infiltrated, "completely new monitoring possibilities" follow.
GCHQ infiltrators ideally want to turn every mobile phone everywhere to a "bugging device." Doing so "would be game changing," they say.
GCHQ analysts already gained access to two OPEC secret servers. They contain "many documents of interest," they said.
OPEC appears in the National Intelligence Priorities Framework. US intelligence agencies have access to it.
OPEC remains targeted. Fracking and new oil discoveries make America less dependent on foreign supplies.
OPEC is less of a priority now than earlier. Individual companies are targeted. Brazil's state owned Petrobras is monitored.
At stake is giving big US oil giants a competitive advantage. Reports indicate Petrobras intends spending around $9.5 billion in the next five years improving security.
President Maria das Gracas Foster announced it, saying:
"This is a policy that is so important it has been personally approved by the board of directors."
"The management of our goods, people, information and the wealth we create is of crucial importance."
At stake is much more than security. Communications Minister Paulo Bernardo said Brazil intends requiring all data exchanges based in Brazil to include locally produced equipment.
Doing so will adversely impact major US suppliers. Online companies Google, Yahoo, Facebook and others are affected.
New mandates require internal servers for all data involving Brazilians. Its privacy laws will have to be obeyed.
In mid-September, Brazil and Argentina approved a broader military cooperation agreement. It calls for improved cyber defense capabilities.
Other countries are likely upgrading their own protections. NSA and GCHQ conduct global espionage.
Intelligence collected is sweeping. It's all embracing. It's economic warfare. It targets virtually everywhere all the time.
It does so with technological ease. It improves incrementally over time. It does so extrajudicially. It doesn't matter. US and British authorities support it.
Rogue states operate that way. America seeks unchallenged global dominance. Britain is a willing junior partner.
Their operations menace freedom. It's the new normal. It's a frightening new world order. It's not one fit to live in.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."