By M Ghazanfar Ali Khan
Arab News: As controversy continues to encircle the American surveillance program, Cryptome, the digital library host that was created by the US as a repository for secret documents and material, revealed that the CIA spied on 7.8 billion calls in Saudi Arabia.
The Cryptome report said that “Saudi Arabia was the target of espionage operations,” besides several other countries in the Middle East and Asia.
Arab News could not reach officials at the Communications & Information Technology Commission of Saudi Arabia (CITC), the Kingdom’s regulatory authority, for official comment.
However, a top-notch IT expert working for a major telecom operator, who identified himself as R. K. Hussain, said that, “such monitoring of phone calls, though unethical, is regularly conducted by intelligence agencies from different countries, including the US.”
Hussain said many “target” international calls pass through US carriers because they are cheaper and more accessible. Phone calls, e-mail messages or chat windows make for the cheapest paths, making it easy for an agency to monitor. “But there are safeguards against phone monitoring or tapping, which can be applied to prevent leaks,” he added.
The Cryptome website said that around 124.8 billion espionage operations were made by the US on a global scale during January 2013, which included Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The report said that Egypt was targeted with 1.9 billion operations, Jordan with 1.6 billion, Iraq with 7.8 billion, Iran with 1.73 billion and Pakistan with 12.76 billion.
The biggest espionage operations on phone calls targeted Afghanistan, with 21.98 billion operations. India was another country that registered more than a billion monitored calls. The CIA is an independent agency responsible for providing national security intelligence to senior US policy makers.