Israeli company to win Indian mass electronic surveillance contract

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The Israeli surveillance firm Verint Systems is set to get a contract from the Indian Department of Telecommunications to facilitate government interception of encrypted electronic communications.

This is just the latest of several contracts Verint has won for mass surveillance and wiretapping of citizenry around the world and the latest Israeli surveillance contract for India, a major purchaser of Israeli arms and military technology.

report in The Economic Times on the contract is remarkable for both the information contained and its stunningly tone-deaf reporting.

The Mumbai-based paper reports that communications minister Kapil Sibal recently met with Verint’s leadership team in Israel to “devise interception tools for tracking encrypted communication services.” Verint expressed a “desire to work with the government to intercept all forms of encrypted communications.”

The Indian government had “identified 15 forms of encrypted communications, including Google’s Gmail, RIM’s BlackBerry services, Nokia’s email offerings, Yahoo.mail [sic] and Microsoft Skype, among others, that it claimed could not be tracked by Indian law enforcement agencies.”

Spy technology

The Verint contract is intended to allow the Department of Telecommunications to intercept these previously inaccessible communications. Verint – a firm whose technological basecomes from Israeli military operations against Palestinians and Lebanese – is known to have deployed mass surveillance systems in several countries including Côte d’Ivoire,Mexico, the US and Vietnam.

Yet Verint “informed [communications minister] Sibal [that] it has supplied an interception solution for tracking encrypted communications to 77 countries.”

It is not clear if this means 77 national security bureaucracies or simply any surveillance regime within these countries (for example, Verint supplies corporations with all kinds of surveillance equipment including systems to monitor employee communications).

Surprising in this coverage is the lack of any context about the scandals in numerous countries about mass surveillance. The Economic Times article, compared to thePremium Times coverage of the Elbit Systems mass wiretapping contract in NigeriaThe Guardian coverage of National Security Agency wiretapping, or even The Indian Times (sister newspaper to The Economic Times) in its coverage of another Indian mass surveillance project, finds no concerns worth expressing.

The paper’s prior coverage is no better. It is a surprising editorial framing when mass surveillance is one of the largest stories in the world from Brazil to Germany to Nigeria to the US.

Source: Electronic Intifada