Have Some Foil
Two whistleblowers â€” one in Italy, one in Greece â€” uncovered a secret bugging system installed in cell phones around the world. Both met with untimely ends. The resultant scandals have received little press in the United States, despite the profound implications for American critics of the Bush administration.
Last month, Italian telecommunications security expert Adamo Bove either leapt or was pushed from a freeway overpass; he left no note and had no history of depression.
Last year (March, 2005), Greek telecommunications expert Costas Tsalikidis met with a similarly enigmatic end. Both had uncovered American attempts to eavesdrop on government officials, anti-war activists, and private businessmen.
Saturday night foil is so fun. There's more:
Just after noon on Friday, July 21, Adamo Bove â€” head of security at Telecom Italia, the country's largest telecommunications firm â€” told his wife he had some errands to run as he left their Naples apartment. Hours later, police found his car parked atop a freeway overpass. Bove's body lay on the pavement some 100 feet below.
Bove was a master at detecting hidden phone networks. Recently, at the direction of Milan prosecutors, he'd used mobile phone records to trace how a "Special Removal Unit" composed of CIA and SISMI (the Italian CIA) agents abducted Abu Omar, an Egyptian cleric, and flew him to Cairo where he was tortured. The Omar kidnapping and the alleged involvement of 26 CIA agents, whom prosecutors seek to arrest and extradite, electrified Italian media. U.S. media noted the story, then dropped it. The first Italian press reports after Bove's death said the 42-year-old had committed suicide. Bove, according to unnamed sources, was depressed about his imminent indictment by Milan prosecutors. But prosecutors immediately, and uncharacteristically, set the record straight: Bove was not a target; in fact, he was prosecutors' chief source. Bove, prosecutors said, was helping them investigate his own bosses, who were orchestrating an illegal wiretapping bureau and the destruction of incriminating digital evidence. One Telecom executive had already been forced out when he was caught conducting these illicit operations, as well as selling intercepted information to a business intelligence firm.
And the strangely similar tale of the death of Costas Tsalikidis as reported by the BBC's website:
Last month, the government admitted that the mobile phones of the prime minister, the most senior members of the cabinet and top security officials had all been tapped in 2004 - the year Athens hosted the Olympic Games.
The committee in Athens has been questioning executives from two of the world's leading mobile phone companies, Vodafone and Ericsson, about the scandal.
But attention is also increasingly focusing on the alleged suicide of a senior Vodafone manager just after the phone-tapping operation was discovered on the Vodafone network last year.
In a serene but cramped graveyard in the western suburbs of Athens, lies the body of Costas Tsalikidis, a network manager for Vodafone Greece.
He is buried with other members of his family. But his gravestone shows he died aged just 38. He was found hanged in his apartment on the morning of 9 March last year. [...]
...[H]is family believe his death is suspicious and are calling for his body to be exhumed so a second post-mortem can be carried out by one of the world's leading forensic pathologists, Dr Michael Baden of the United States.
"They believe they will find new evidence," says the family lawyer, Themis Sofos.
Dr Sofos adds that other parts of the original investigation were weak.
"No one went to the house of Costas, no one took photos and to see the circumstances of his death... no one took fingerprints." [...]
But there is another theory about Costas Tsalikidis: that he was allegedly the person who actually inserted the software setting up the phone-tapping operation. [...]
The theory is put forward by John Brady Kiesling a former American diplomat who worked at the US embassy in Athens until resigning in 2003 over the US-led invasion of Iraq.
He is convinced American intelligence agents were behind the whole bugging operation and he says it is possible they used Mr. Tsalikidis to install the software.
"I believe he committed suicide to protect his professional honour," says Mr. Kiesling.
Pretty strange coincidence. Cannon at clearly believes the two cases are linked to a broader American electronic spying network throughout Europe with the assistance of at least two major multinational telecommunications firms:
The CEO of Vodaphone in Greece, George Koronias, has â€” like Giuliano Tavaroli, his Italian counterpart â€” come under the suspicion of having a hidden relationship with American and British intelligence. At least three Vodafone communications hubs (one expert says the number could be as high as 22) were compromised by the eavesdropping technology. Koronias had reported only two of these bugs, and had failed to alert a watchdog agency of the discovery of further listening devices.
Vodafone is a British company, comparable to Sprint in the United States. Testifying before a Greek parliamentary committee, Koronias insisted that no-one in the U.K. could have had any connection to the ultra-sophisticated spyware.
'Only Ericsson's staff could have set up such a device,' he said. Ericsson furiously countered that Vodafone not only knew about the illegal software but had activated it at the request of British intelligence agents.
More on Ericsson's official response:
Ericsson, the company that produces the software used by Vodafone, issued an announcement clarifying that two types of software were employed for tapping the phone conversations.
The first one employed legally had been developed by Ericsson and had been installed in Vodafone, yet it was not activated. The second software, which was of unknown origins, namely it had not been developed by Ericsson, had been illegally installed in Vodafoneâ€™s system to activate the legal software and erase the traces of the phone-tapping.
This is, by any measure, a troubling admission â€” especially since Ericsson manufactures many mobile phones used in the United States. Vodaphone insists they were never informed of this "feature" in Ericsson phones, although Ericsson executive Bill Zikou has testified that the company disclosed the truth via its sales force and instruction manuals.
Are you, like me, pondering the likelihood that your cell phone may be bugged by the US government? And do you really believe this surveillance program to tap into mobile telecommunications is limited to Europe and to phones manufactured by Ericsson? I sure don't. And I am more than a little suspicious that the two men who just happened to know the most about how this, arguably illegal, electronic spying program operated in their own countries both committed suicide after revelations regarding this scandal first became known to the public.
With all that's been disclosed over the past year regarding the NSA's data mining and warrantless surveillance programs, I've always felt that what we know is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how far Bush has been willing to go to spy on his "enemies" foreign or domestic. These two disturbing cases from Europe, barely reported upon, if at all, by our provincial, lazy, stenographic journalists in America, suggest that Bush has invaded our privacy to an extent that would make George Orwell's Big Brother green with envy.
Just go play with dogpile/google and those links, won't you? It's better than drinking.