Oil Espionage: New Leak Reveals Spy Agencies Tapped Int'l Oil Group

Both the NSA and the U.K. spy agency, GCHQ, have infiltrated the computer networks of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), according to documents disclosed by whistleblower Edward Snowden and reported on by Der Spiegel Monday.

As critics note, this latest disclosure illustrates, once again, the expanse of the U.S. and U.K. spy networks and the breadth of their “collect-it-all” mandate despite attempts to frame their spy activities as strictly “counterterrorism.”

According to a January 2008 document, the NSA department in charge of energy issues reported it had “accomplished its mission” of infiltrating OPEC, the 12-member consortium built to control the global oil market. Der Spiegel reports:

Sharing such information with “customers” such as the CIA, the U.S. State Department and the Department of Energy, NSA analysts concluded that the Saudis had released incorrect oil production figures and were “promptly praised,” according to a leaked 2010 report.

In response to this latest disclosure, journalist and blogger Marcy Wheeler tweeted, “Golly. It sounds like GCHQ did to OPEC PRECISELY what Snowden did to GCHQ. So confusing. I thought using Admin privileges to steal was bad?”

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And another online observer added, “Why does the #NSA have a ‘department in charge of energy issues’ when they are supposed to be all about Terrorism™®?”

Britain’s GCHQ reportedly had similar success in obtaining “many documents of interest” after tapping into the oil consortium’s database with their hacking software. Der Spiegel reports:

Despite frequent claims by both governments that surveillance is a necessary defense against terrorism, these latest documents further reveal that the NSA and GCHQ are employing their “spying superpowers to the full limits of ‘foreign intelligence information,'” as Trevor Timm at the Electronic Frontier Foundation writes, “while trying to keep the conversation in a narrow band.”

Timm continues:

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