How the NSA manipulated oppressive regimes – HRW
Publish date: 09 October 2017
Issue Number: 746
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
Former National Security Agency operative Edward Snowden's disclosures have revealed how the US Government's involvement with Ethiopia presents a case study in enabling repressive regimes to carry out surveillance on their own citizens. That’s according to Human Rights Watch (HRW) that notes that such surveillance powers can play a significant role in a government's criminalisation of dissent and politically-motivated detentions. Documents provided by Snowden reveal that the US set up several ‘listening posts’ in Ethiopia in 2002 to intercept communications from Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, as part of its regional counter-terrorism efforts. In 2006, the documents indicate, the NSA agreed to provide Ethiopia with additional domestic surveillance technology in the Somali Regional State. As part of these partnerships, the US trained Ethiopia's army and security agency in surveillance techniques in exchange for local language capabilities and well-placed intelligence operations centres. ‘In other words, this wasn't just US intelligence analysts sitting in Ethiopia – which would have been problematic enough given the US history of abusive renditions at that time. It was the NSA actually training and transferring this technology to the Ethiopian army and government,’ said HRW researcher Felix Horne.