Wikileaks Latest Info-Dump Shows, Again, That The NSA Indeed Engages In Economic Espionage Against Allies

from the with-friends-like-these dept

With all the revelations that have come out about the NSA and our foreign and domestic spy programs, it can, at times, become difficult to parse out exactly what we’re supposed to be getting pissed off about and what is the exact kind of spy-work we ought to expect the alphabet agencies to conduct. Some of the groups that are involved in getting these revelations out there don’t make it much easier, of course. Take as an example the latest Wikileaks info-dump, which chiefly concerns the NSA’s spy program against our ally Japan. From the press release accompanying the documents:

Today, Friday 31 July 2015, 9am CEST, WikiLeaks publishes “Target Tokyo”, 35 Top Secret NSA targets in Japan including the Japanese cabinet and Japanese companies such as Mitsubishi, together with intercepts relating to US-Japan relations, trade negotiations and sensitive climate change strategy. The list indicates that NSA spying on Japanese conglomerates, government officials, ministries and senior advisers extends back at least as far as the first administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which lasted from September 2006 until September 2007. The telephone interception target list includes the switchboard for the Japanese Cabinet Office; the executive secretary to the Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga; a line described as “Government VIP Line”; numerous officials within the Japanese Central Bank, including Governor Haruhiko Kuroda; the home phone number of at least one Central Bank official; numerous numbers within the Japanese Finance Ministry; the Japanese Minister for Economy, Trade and Industry Yoichi Miyazawa; the Natural Gas Division of Mitsubishi; and the Petroleum Division of Mitsui.

Now, what Wikileaks is doing is mashing together the NSA spying on the Japanese government, our ally, with Japanese industry. That’s silly, in my estimation. In fact, much of the hand-wringing that goes on about our spy networks spying on allies seems naive in the extreme, as if to suggest that our closest allies aren’t conducting similar spy programs on our government. You can insist, if you like, that America should not be spying on her allies, but then I get to insist that you grow up, because that’s exactly the kind of work you want the NSA doing.

But on the economic side, things get a little murkier. The NSA has insisted for years that the agency does not engage in economic espionage, actions which would put it out of the norm for how we treat our allies. It’s also been clear for some time that the NSA is full of crap in this regard. This latest Wikileaks dump fleshes out just how much economic espionage we do against our allies, even very close allies like Japan.

The documents demonstrate intimate knowledge of internal Japanese deliberations on such issues as: agricultural imports and trade disputes; negotiating positions in the Doha Round of the World Trade Organization; Japanese technical development plans, climate change policy, nuclear and energy policy and carbon emissions schemes; correspondence with international bodies such as the International Energy Agency (IEA); strategy planning and draft talking points memoranda concerning the management of diplomatic relations with the United States and the European Union; and the content of a confidential Prime Ministerial briefing that took place at Shinzo Abe’s official residence.

It’s just more egg on the face of government and security officials who have claimed to have kept their hands clean of economic espionage. There’s sure to be more of interest in the documents as they get parsed out, but if nothing else we can be reminded that the NSA is a spy agency and that its officials have been caught lying over and over again.

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Comments on “Wikileaks Latest Info-Dump Shows, Again, That The NSA Indeed Engages In Economic Espionage Against Allies”

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Ninja (profile) says:

It’s just more egg on the face of government and security officials who have claimed to have kept their hands clean of economic espionage.

By now I think we agree they couldn’t care less about these metaphorical eggs or public outrage. They don’t care one bit. I’d say they secretly envy the Kim dynasty since they don’t need to go through these annoying due process and pseudo democratic procedures and can just order the execution of whoever at will.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

You can insist, if you like, that America should not be spying on her allies, but then I get to insist that you grow up, because that’s exactly the kind of work you want the NSA doing.

The idea has an honorable pedigree, at least. Anyone interested in such matters ought to be familiar with the historical significance of the phrase, “Gentlemen do not read each other’s mail.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Well DUH!!!

This is what an intelligence agency is for, spying… ON EVERYTHING!

On stupid people are dumb enough to believe that they would ONLY stick to spying on ‘other’ nations and not its own/other people or businesses to boot.

And only an idiot would be dumb enough to believe that these agencies have no bearing on how our politicians go about business as well.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Well DUH!!!

If an intelligence agency’s actions are being withheld from its own oversight committee, at what point do you consider the agency to be acting outside of its responsibilities. Rogue spying doesnt really help the agency’s parent government, especially if the data is only available at the highest security levels.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Well DUH!!!

The NSA is the American government now.

Do you think that there is a single politician in the country that you couldn’t blackmail if you had access to the entirety of their electronic history? They don’t even have to be corrupt; just publicise their porn-viewing history, or the email in which they said what they really believe about any of the many third-rail subjects in US politics, etc etc

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

To be honest they ARE actually tied together and that is just a fact. The problem is that we stupidly tied them together with our trade partnerships so yea… we do need to spy on other nations to keep a competitive edge now.

We literally fucked ourselves in more ways than one out sourcing things. It is no secret that American builds foreign enemies because it is just good business to do it.

Personanongrata says:

For A Few Dollars More...

Wikileaks Latest Info-Dump Shows, Again, That The NSA Indeed Engages In Economic Espionage Against Allies

Do you really believe the hundreds of billions of dollars that were/are squandered in creating/operating the US governments/corporations total surveillance planet is for catching terrorists?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Where's the smoking gun?

Are you familiar with the concept of a literary device?

I have no doubt the effect described in the book – whereby third-world countries are loaded up with debt – is largely accurate. I do however think Perkins’ “Hit Man” story is a lot of BS or sensationalistic – useful to push a narrative in an otherwise dry and dense subject.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Turnabout is Fair Play

You can insist, if you like, that America should not be spying on her allies, but then I get to insist that you grow up, because that’s exactly the kind of work you want the NSA doing.

Well sure. Likewise, Americans will fully understand and accept America’s allies spying on American citizens and their political and corporate leaders.

American lobbyists – the RIAA, NRA, Amway, drug companies etc. – often backed by prominent American politicians – lobby Canadian politicians with fundraising dinners and more. Likewise, Americans fully understand and accept their politicians being beholden to lobby groups from allied countries.

In the first couple years after 9/11 the US kidnapped and imprisoned more than 100 people from EU soil, plus more citizens of other allied countries. Many were tortured. Often not because they were terrorists, but simply to test suspicions that they might have some connection to terrorists.

Likewise, Americans will fully understand and accept that allied countries are free to kidnap those they consider a possible threat off American streets. Including American citizens. No due process, no trial. And they can kidnap American citizens passing through other countries. And then torture them for a few months to test their suspicions. Before releasing them at night on a back road in a third country with no money or ID.

America does it because everyone does it. Americans wouldn’t have it any other way.

Edward Teach says:

Re: It's more than that

That’s exactly correct. We’re seeing the “spy upon” end of the process, but we’re not seeing the “pick who gets the info” end, and that’s possibly the most interesting.

If the NSA is spying for economic ends, then who gets the benefit? Not everyone, that’s for sure. After that, we have to ask ourselves why all the bluster about Free Markets and the Goodness Thereof? If buyers aren’t making the decisions then the invisible hand of the marketplace just isn’t working. We’re getting rather less than optimal market outcomes.

Anonymous Coward says:

Securing an untainted food supply may be one reason any gov agency may be interested in food practices of foreign companies. The same goes for car companies. Hacked cars have been used for terrorism before.

Do we use the information for commercial advantage or for security? Obama’s public statements on the subject suggest security.

Anonymous Coward says:

Economic Espionage is too genteel a euphemism

Call this corrupt stack of crimes what it truly is – theft thrice over. First theft is done by government spies being no different than hired thieves. Second is the misappropriation of tax dollars to pay for them. Since it sure isn’t for security. Third is the enrichment of connected businesses using the proceeds previous two thefts.

Anonymous Coward says:

The distinction between political and economic espionage makes no sense.

Look at who funds politics to see how separate the so-called public and private sectors are. Look at how politicians spend most of their time to see who they really work for. Look at the transparently corrupt discretionary prosecutions by the DOJ. Look at PRISM. Look at TPP. Look at what politicians do before and after they leave government.

A “state” is a different thing from a “government”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Logical Fallacies

I don’t trust the NSA, CIA, FBI, DHS or any of the other alphabet bandit agencies to do anything.

USA is an aggressive global military empire controlled by a small number of plutocrats/kleptocrats. Why would you think these agencies are capable of doing anything in the public interest?

stimoceiver (profile) says:

Old news is how old? Very.

I’m surprised how few netizens, journalists and regular citizens are aware of Interception Capabilities 2000.

It was a report prepared in 1999 for the Director General for Research of the European Parliament (Scientific and Technical Options Assessment programme office, no less)

“On the development of surveillance technology and the risk of abuse of economic information.

It leads one to wonder: exactly what “abuse of economic information” via international NSA/Five Eyes “COMINT” style surveillance had already occurred circa 1999 to justify an entire report to the EU parliament on the subject.

Also if anyone remembers – I believe it was the William Binney leaks (see I dont remember either, its all so hard to keep up with) circa 2002. He developed NSA software met the legal requirements for respecting citizen privacy and included functionality to mask “content” and “selectors” until the required court orders were obtained. But in their wisdom the NSA went with another package called “Trailblazer”, ostensibly lacking that privacy functionality, as well as severely over-budget and ultimately cripplingly dysfunctional in other ways.

Well, it just so happens that Interception Capabilities 2000 includes screenshots of a NSA software called “Trailmapper”.

So not only does this make a great read for anyone trying to understand the evolution of surveillance technology. It also reveals enough about the state of the art of COMINT surveillance tech circa 2000 to give a nice basis for extrapolating the pace of technological development that led to the “NSA Catalog” era of surveillance, interception, and exfiltration tech.

Anonymous Coward says:

Shit will hit the Japanese fan

Just as soon as the opposition parties get ahold of that report detailing Shinzo Abe’s secret offshore bank accounts.

The NSA does good work, too bad some nasty whistleblower has exposed their intelligence gathering apparatus.

Good news for the Japanese and all those other allied governments that mistakenly trusted the USA to refrain from conducting spy missions on their politicians, financial institutions and large corporations. The gloves are off, you can now retaliate in kind.

Anonymous Coward says:

You can insist, if you like, that America should not be spying on her allies, but then I get to insist that you grow up, because that’s exactly the kind of work you want the NSA doing.

Why? Why do I want the US government spying on allies. I’ve wracked my brain and I can only think of two types of benefits of spying on other countries: military (in that you think they might attack you or you’re thinking about attacking them) and economic (which is what is happening here). Since no one thinks Japan is planning to attack the US, and I highly doubt the US is planning an attack on Japan, that leaves only economic reasons to do this. If you reject economic espionage then what other reasons are left for spying on ally?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Diplomatic and political.

If you know the positions and talking points of the people on the other side of the table, you can research them ahead of time and prepare effective counter-positions and arguments. If you know that they’re willing ahead of time to give ground on one matter, contrary to their public claims otherwise, if it means concessions in another matter, then you can use that against them. Knowing how to push and where are of enormous value when it comes to diplomacy and politics.

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Incredibly incompetent. 🙂

How many years were they able to spy on the world without anyone being the wiser before Snowden??

Any sign of incompetence shown by any federal agency is always good PR and usually preplanned and made public on purpose, since it always makes the public sigh and say shit like:

“Good thing these guys are so incredibly stupid and utterly incompetent, or we’d all be getting spied on 24/7, through all of our communications methods.”

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

“… pretty well known or very strongly suspected.

By who?
Woop shit!

It was all, prior to Snowden, strictly the stuff of conspiracy, and its pretty damn obvious that the people who count and who might do something about such things give zero credence to anything coming out of the mouths of anyone labeled a Conspiracy Nutter.

Its precisely why conspiracy touting folks are given that label – to make their suspicions and beliefs moot.

Its also why a great many intelligent people who DO suspect such things, keep to themselves and say nothing, in order to avoid being given that very label.

Many even slam others with the label to prove to their peers that they are not like those they have labelled, and thus prove to the world that they harbor no such silly suspicions or beliefs.

It matters not.
Without evidence, suspicion equals diddly squat.

As John Oliver might put it:

How the hell does “pretty well known or very strongly suspected” translate into something becoming an “in your fucking face fact”, without the disclosure of irrefutable evidence, such as was given us by Snowden?

If such was the case, crimes would be nearly impossible to pull off, by anyone, without absolute 100% opacity and total secrecy, as – under your rules – even a suspicion would incriminate them.

What Snowden did that hadn’t been done before was to present unequivocal proof.

Which is the absolutely only thing that matters.

Until that “unequivocal evidence” is public property, it matters not one iota how many people “believe, suspect, or think” that a crime has occurred.

To all intents and purposes, no crime has been committed until evidence of the crime is made public, thus, the world was NOT THE WISER, until after Snowden gave the world that very evidence that proved the suspicions and beliefs of the few who saw through the bullshit.

In my opinion, Wiser, or rather Wisdom, equates to knowledge, not to beliefs, no matter how well founded those beliefs might be.


billy says:

what we’re supposed to be getting pissed off about and what is the exact kind of spy-work we ought to expect the alphabet agencies to conduct

You are supposed to be upset about our agents stealing. Which is wrong. On every level. It appears you think harming others is a grownup position to take? Do you have a source for your claimed suggestion that people believe others don’t steal? Do you believe that any country comes close to the amount of stealing our agents do? When discussing whether something is right or wrong, how is the volume of other wrongs relevant?

conor says:

Economic espionage?

Sorry, but nothing in that list can be classified as economic espionage — it’s all about government policy and at best could provide an advantage in trad negotiations or when looking for treaty violations. That’s the best case. In reality, knowing how Japan plans to subsidize its farms and industry is well neigh useless. But evidence of economic espionage it ain’t. And dollars to donuts anything related to Mitsubishi had to do with it export control monitoring. Show me one case where the NSA provided reporting to US industry to help it get ahead. One could be fairly certain that would be hard to keep secret given how many people would have to know about it.

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Economic espionage?

One could be fairly certain that would be hard to keep secret given how many people would have to know about it.


The Ancient Anti-Conspiracy Meme!

Too many folks would know about it, so it would be impossible to keep them all quiet.

You and Dark Helmet would get along famously.

Odd how it never occurs to those who claim this absolutely inane observation, that the other side of that very same coin actually exists.

One might almost think this consistent and constant over-sight to be willful.
I do, in fact, consider this self delusion to be the result of either fear or greed and entirely willful.

To put in its simplest form.

1. Everyone involved with a conspiracy has broken the law and if any of them squeals, then the squealer too will be charged for the crimes of all who were involved, if he is not simply assassinated the very next day.

2. Everyone involved with a conspiracy has made money or gained favor/position, either from a bribe for silence, or in the form of profits/advancement derived from the successful results of the conspiracy.

They would lose that profit/position and the means to make even more profit, or higher advancement in future were they to admit their participation in the successful conspiracy.

The ancient, oft-repeated, bullshit statement, once corrected for reality, then becomes:

One could be fairly certain that it would be un-necessary to even try and keep a successful conspiracy secret given as how all the people who know about it are also making money from keeping it all secret or are the very people who planned and initiated the scheme in the first place.

Amazing how greed and fear can make a person lie to themselves and others, about absolutely anything, for decades, going so far as to allow the destruction of others simply to uphold their own fantasy.

Sometimes, human beings just suck.

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