NSA’s Mideast spying ‘intense’ amid regional upheaval, say experts

Al Arabiya reports: Leaked documents disclosed earlier this week revealed that the U.S. National Security Agency intercepted 125 billion phone calls and SMS messages in January 2013, many of them originating in the Middle East.

The NSA’s attention on the Middle East and the surrounding region is far more “intense than anything comparable in Europe,” according to Matthew Aid, a Washington, DC-based intelligence historian and expert.

Strained relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia over resolving the Syrian conflict could be a possible reason for the NSA’s particularly large targeting of Saudi Arabia – over 7.8 billion times in one month – said Aid.

Saudi-U.S. tension may have also resulted in Obama’s administration being “quite curious” over the kingdom’s thoughts on Syria, as the countries have consistently disagreed on the issue.

Aid, who in 2009 published a history on the NSA entitled “The Secret Sentry: The Untold History of the National Security Agency,” said that most of the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s leaks have not focused on the agency’s surveillance in the Middle East.

“We’re waiting for that shoe to drop, but it hasn’t,” Aid told Al Arabiya News, stating that leaks by Snowden’s associates have been largely focused “on those countries which will generate immediate reaction in the press and from the governments in question.”

Saudi Arabia and Iraq witnessed 7.8 billion wiretapping incidents from the NSA each, while Egypt and Jordan saw 1.8 billion and 1.6 billion respectively, according to Cryptome, a digital library that publishes leaked documents.

Additionally, over 1.7 billion wiretapping incidents were recorded in Iran. [Continue reading…]

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