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News 30 Jun 14

Macedonia Tight-Lipped on US Secret Surveillance

Macedonian officials are making no comment about a leak revealing an alleged secret deal to allow the US National Security Agency to tap into its internet data-carrying fibre-optic cables.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje

Photo by: wikimedia commons

Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski claimed that he did not have enough information to say anything about the allegations mentioned in recent leaked data from whistleblower and former National Security Agency, NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

“I cannot comment on the case because I don't know the details. In any case, we as a government are doing everything in order for all citizens to be protected on the internet,” Gruevski told media last week.

Macedonia's parliamentary commission tasked with civil control over the work of the secret services was unavailable for comment because it has not yet been formed after the April general elections.

The leak, first published by journalists at The Intercept and Denmark’s Dagbladet, reveals that the NSA through its surveillance program codenamed RAMPART-A is able to intercept huge volumes of private emails, phone calls and internet chats thanks to the secret cooperation of 33 countries worldwide, including Macedonia.

Croatia, Romania, Hungary, Greece and Turkey are also alleged to have the same kind of cooperation with the US.

Croatia Authorities Silent
While Croatia’s officials have remained silent on the matter, Gordan Bosanac from the Croatian Peace Studies told Balkan Insight “This looks like a clear case of violation of rights of privacy, since Croatian legislation permits that access into the content of private communication only with court warrant,” and added that is a gross violation of rights that can only be justified with a possibility of a serious threat.

“The Parliamentary Committee for National Security should intervene and look through the agreement with the NSA, while the Committee for Human Rights should look for human rights violation,” Bosanac said.

In a similar tone, Sanja Sarnavka, human rights activist says “It’s a scandalous that decisions like this are made without consulting the interested and expert public.“

The NSA declined to comment on specifics about the subject when approached by both media outlets.

The former chief of Macedonia's Intelligence Agency, Kire Naumov, said that a tight-lipped response was to be expected, which only adds to suspicion that such covert surveillance deals do exist.

“Macedonia is part of the so-called Anti-Terrorist Coalition led by the United States and as such it has no reason not to accept other forms of cooperation with the US, including in the tracking of internet activities. That is true especially now when we hear reports of the participation of Macedonian citizens in the Syrian conflict,” Naumov said.

IT expert Mikko Hypponen explained to Dagbladet that the US had cut deals with other countries in order to broaden the scope of its surveillance program.

“The goal must be to cover the most of the world with as few [internet] access points as possible. A lot of internet traffic flows through the US but a bunch doesn’t. So you’re going to look in places in the world where the data is, if not in the US,” Hypponen was cited as saying.

“If your country is in a key location, and if a lot of interesting traffic happens to flow through it, that makes you an important partner,” he added.

Former NSA contractor Snowden is currently in exile in Russia after fleeing the US in fear of prosecution. He left the US with a stockpile of classified NSA files that he obtained during his work as a system administrator for the US government.

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