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Snow(den) job…

28 June 2013

A bit off-topic for me, but the popular U.S. news-site “Buzzfeed” put up an “exclusive” breathlessly claiming the Ecuadorian government “spent half a million dollars on an Israeli-made “GSM interceptor” in a deal brokered by a U.S. middleman,” and added — for good measure — a bunch of “secret” documents.

Uh… sure.

It’s hardly a secret that Ecuadorian security has invested in various forms of communications security and intercept: the Ecuadorian daily Hoy wrote about these national security purchases on 26 July also… but that was 26 July 2010.

While the purchases mentioned in Buzzfeed are more recent, they were allegedly from an Israeli company through a Delaware corporation that appears to be owned by (and sharing an office with) the shadowy Moroccan- U.S. real estate investor (and one time smuggler) Joseph Chetret.

The government of Ecuador could buy such software without the cloak and dagger of going through middle-men (Israeli security firms work openly, and there is no reason they wouldn’t sell such equipment to the Ecuadorian security agency), and — the price being said to be a half million dollars — that doesn’t sound like they were buying anything exactly in the super spy agency budget range. One forgets that there was an attempted coup in Ecuador (said to be U.S. sponsored) back in September 2010, and the government has had to beef up its monitoring of genuine subversives. Half a million dollars doesn’t buy “NSA style monitoring equipment”… it buys, if anything, the stuff shown in the contract… off the shelf servers and standard monitoring equipment (like any police department has) to me.

Other writers (who have the patience for this sort of thing) notice odd dates in the contracts, including one signed in November 2013.

What makes the story still more dubious is that the source appears to be Alek Boyd (Re Edward #Snowden: read the info about Ecuador Assange’s Wikileaks will not publish) who claims he makes his living by doing “do due diligence on individuals and companies in Venezuela and LatAm.” I believe he means “due diligence”.

What Boyd had been diligently doing (to give him his due) is trying to remain a relevant Although written in English and published in London, Boyd’s “Vcrisis” was at one time taken seriously as an anti-Hugo Chavez/anti-Bolvianian site. Generally ignored outside of right-wing English speaking media circles, Vcrisis (and Boyd himself) were never taken seriously by academics or policy wonks, and VCrisis eventually faded away (the last post was in October 2011).

While I was never much paid attention to Boyd (and, his hard-on for the late Venezuelan leader was pretty much peripheral to this site’s focus anyway), Boyd apparently floundered around looking for a leftist to serve as the bete noir of his remaining readers, finding him in Rafael Correa. The Snowden incident — and, with rightist attempts to smear Snowden not quite working (Snowden himself appears to be generally to the political right … reportedly an “libertarian” and Ron Paul supporter — a not uncommon political position among computer geeks), going after a leftist government that is willing to give Snowden asylum has a certain cachet for bottom feeding “pundits” like Boyd.

Boyd claims “Wikileaks will not publish” the documents he purports are the smoking gun of some nefarious Ecuadorian operation. The reason could be that, as Wikileaks spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnsson said, “No one in our team recognises having been approached with such material as you describe.”

Why am I not surprised that no one at Buzzfeed questioned the validity of their information?  Once again, the U.S. media is woefully — or willfully — ignorant of what happens below the Rio Grande… and may have been taken in by some guy in London.


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