State of Surveilance

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1360859569_extra_bigBeyond the never ending tear gas and rubber buckshot, it turns out the security forces have a second line of defense against the protests. Both the National Guard and the Bolivarian National Police (under orders of the Defense and Interior Ministries) are using spying tactics to infiltrate protests and identify its leaders.

This excellent report by El Nacional’s Javier Mayorca gives a detailed look at the nuts and bolts of this operation:

According to documents obtained by El Nacional, this espionage works by analyzing the activity of certain telephone numbers, tracking Whatsapp conversations, and scanning through video cameras and photographs to identify protest leaders, their support groups, slogans, methods, and areas of influence. If the authorities detain someone, in the follow-up investigations the cellphones of those arrested are held in order to cross-check calls and identify communication patterns…

The documents also describe the duties of police agents. In the case of the Bolivarian National Police (PNB), their officers must write a report about every street protest. It must indicate the time it began and the time it ended, the number of participants, the place where it took place, and if it’s possible, its leaders…”

The overall role of the National Guard and its handling of the protests in the last weeks has been harshly questioned by human rights activists. Special mention goes to the GNB’s actions and/or omissions in the deaths of several protesters.

1 COMMENT

  1. I have stated this years ago: the Venezuelan government uses a lot of spying techniques Venezuelans should be aware of.
    Here you can watch in German with English subtitles how Siemens Nokia provided a system for Iranian authorities to monitor people.

    Currently both Iran and Venezuela are using similar and perhaps more intrusive systems from Huawei. I am absolutely positive about this.

    This doesn’t allow them to just follow someone they have an eye on.
    Actually, it can deliver information about where a whole group of people – who get clustered – or automatically provide a lot of information about those who are at a degree of X from a given vertex or point in a graph of…people.

    This is not NSA-stuff, this is more simply.
    Additionally, people should not assume that by using a Blackberry they are protected. The government has access to the entry points.
    That’s why we need to inundate them with false information, use other mechanisms, etc.

    And I haven’t gone into the ways in which they try to hack into our systems. The promiscuous way in which Venezuelans handle documents and all kinds of files and links makes their work easier.

    • Ya know, I just watched your referenced program on ZDF and am stunned, shocked beyond words at what was presented. How in the hell can something like this happen? Siemens? Nokia Siemens selling THAT kind of equipment to Iran? My God, the world’s gone nuts. If I were THOSE Iranian students interviewed on the program I would confront any Siemens official I came across There should be protests all over Germany concerning this outrageous conduct by one of Germany’s largest corporations. This is a disgrace against humanity. Iran has been doomed to yet more decades of political insanity….

      • Faustus,
        It’s not only Siemens. Siemens Nokia is no longer doing it in Iran, as far as I know, but they might be selling similar stuff to Saudi Arabia and any other dictatorship. And it’s not only them. The US Americans are doing the same, the Italians, the Israelis, the British, you name them.

        As I said: the Chinese are doing it in Venezuela now with Huawei (c). And the technology is not as out of this world as many think. There are very fascinating patterns you can find out when you link data – also the now slightly better known meta data – into a network and start automatically analysing that network.

        That is why I have been saying and asking people to tell others: we need sometimes to switch off digital or use digital in such a way that there is enough noise or be sure not only that we are using encryption methods but that any part of the transmission chain is protected.

        Sometimes we need to be as open as possible, so that the regime knows it cannot use the information

        • Just in case: by no means do I excuse what Siemens did. Not at all. I am just saying the whole surveillance thing is more pervasive than what most think. There are two things that few commented out of this Snowden thing:
          1) how companies providing surveillance end up being a big big part of the revolving door phenomenon, thereby becoming a player in what foreign policies and real or unreal threats are and
          2) how our data, even if it is the most innocent data, can be used to train all kinds of surveillance systems – either “traditional” surveillance or proper SIGINT. And it is because when you want to catch what is weird you need to train also with reference of what is regular.

          • Yes, but as I said: when it comes to Venezuela now, it’s mostly Huawei. They are very involved into it.
            And not for nothing the Venezuelan regime is using those Chinese satellites.

            On a related note, late Müller Rojas told a Dutch journalist, Edwin Koopman, shortly before dying that the government was also heavily supported by the Cuban intelligence.
            This is not something new, but it was kind of irritating to read how open Rojas Müller was, something the journalist also noted. It was probably because Müller was already sure he was dying…or perhaps he felt that by telling that to some Dutch journalist we would not be hearing about it.

            My translation:
            “and so he tells me one day without any problem what the US Americans and the opposition has been saying for years: that the Venezuelan secret service is in the hands of Cubans. “The government depends on Cubans. They have an excellent experience, not only with infiltration and spying but at technical level, eavesdropping telephone calls and Internet.”

            This comes from “De Oliekoning”, Edwin koopman (you can read a bit of it in Dutch on Google Books). I liked the book a lot, even if Koopman was and still is a wee bit of a comeflor. He did get part of the Chavismo madness, but he didn’t fully grasp the dynamics of world oil prices – through the decades.

            Finally, I ask you to check out today’s El Carabobeno about what happened in Valencia upon Cabriales: “Detienen a dos presuntos infiltrados durante acto de dirigencia estudiantil.”

  2. Similarly, property records, tax records, migration records, filiatory records and why not say it, electoral records are all being crunched and mined at will by this dictatorship 2.0….

  3. While I find the willingness and ability of the government to perform such monitoring worrisome, I am neither surprised nor would expect otherwise in most modern societies. Perhaps I’ve been sold on leftist propaganda, but it strikes me that government snooping has been the rule for a long time. Back in the cold war east and west would keep checks on potential troublemakers and this has just continued and gotten easier.

    In fact, I am not troubled by the fact that the government should bother to monitor demonstrators. You could expect that almost anywhere and I think a competent government should invest in modern intelligence collection. It would be dangerous otherwise. What I find upsetting is that in this particular case it is a misuse and even a waste of resources. To follow up on Belisario post, they’re chasing the wrong cats. And the opportunity such tools offer for the application of repression is obvious of course.

    To paraphrase the NRA, “people repress people, not intelligence”

  4. Here you see the weakness of relying on social media in this kind of totalitarian environment, and I don’t believe that social media has the democratizing effect that people attribute to it. To fight a dictatorship, Venezuelans will have to rely on the old fashioned methods of organizing. If they can work together on that level, there will be something resilient in place other than the military when this mess of a regime collapses. Not good news, but predictable. The only other silver lining to this surveillance state is that they are spying on each other, and if it was driving people in the upper levels of government crazy before, it will be making their lives impossible now.

    • Sorry, but i think they are also good on HUMINT (Human intelligence, “Ingenieria social”) . The only thing you can do is learn about surveillance countermeasures

  5. And we could also watch developments in English Telesur’s programming, Gregory Wilpert (*) at the helm, ready to move to Quito, perhaps not yet with his wife, Carol Delgado Arria, Consul General at the Venezuelan Consulate in New York.

    Does Telesur still receive hefty financing from Venezuela?

    (*) On Feb 21st, ole Greg informed an audience that the protest marches in Venezuela were dying down. Two days later, on the Real News Network, Paul Jay interviewed Wilpert who informed viewers that there really are no significant shortages, in Venezuela. That is, unless one counts those that affected one opposition blogger (Wilpert snicker) who “last year”, complained about not being able to obtain ingredients for a cake (Wilpert snicker redux).

    • It bothers me very much that people such as Gregory Wilpert, Eva Golinger, and Mark Weisbrot can do so much damage and that there is no accountability for their actions and the BS they inject into the serious debate and formation of public opinion that takes place on the internet. I don’t know what the solution is, but the internet needs a tool to inform the public of the reliability (or lack thereof) of such persons.

  6. I think is time to prepare dossier with names, events, attacks and violations, by the regimen forces, both with and without uniform, to take to international tribunals and human rights organizations. This is getting to be a case for international justice. There are excellent reports, photos, video but no one – as far as I know – is putting them together. This is an effort that should not wait any longer and which needs a team put together. I offer my cooperation but I don’t know enough about the technical and legal aspects of putting things together.
    Tennis, anyone?

    • I think the international court is useless, nothing concrete ever comes out of it. However, I do agree that we need to document all the human rights violations the regime has perpetraded so as to when the rule of law comes back to Venezuela, they can be judged accordingly (Specially the GNB, which in my opinion, needs to be dissolved)

  7. If available, some of this can be circumvented by changing the SIMM card in the mobile device. You just have to know where to get one and the have the right device.

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