Sunday, August 20, 2017

US embassy in Yangon a secret listening post: Snowden


The United States embassy in Yangon is the site of an electronic surveillance facility used to monitor telephones and communications networks, according to media reports citing documents published by Germany's Der Spiegel on October 29.

A map published on Der Spiegel’s website that was leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden listed 90 locations worldwide – including 74 manned facilities, 14 remotely operated facilities and two technical support centres – that are run jointly by the a Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency group known as "Special Collection Service".

The map, which was dated to 2010, was taken down from the Der Spiegel website shortly after publication. Information from the map was later republished by the Sydney Morning Herald. It listed Yangon to as one of the 74 manned facilities.

A spokesperson from the US State Department said that it would not comment on “specific alleged intelligence activity” and that “the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations”.

“The United States takes the concerns of the international community seriously and has been regularly consulting with affected partners.”

U Ye Htut, a spokesperson for the President U Thein Sein, said that he could not comment as he was unaware of the allegations. A number of Pyidaungsu Hluttaw MPs contacted by The Myanmar Times declined to comment on similar grounds.

However, a spokesperson from the Political Affairs Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the ministry was aware of the report and was seeking more information on the alleged facility. The spokesperson said that once more details were known a report would be submitted to the minister for foreign affairs.

The US has come under heavy criticism over the past month as a result of documents leaked by Mr Snowden, which have exposed the scope of the country’s intelligence gathering operations, including monitoring the phones of foreign leaders – even those allied to the US.

The map listed Special Collection Service facilities in other Southeast Asian cities, including neighbouring Bangkok, Chiang Mai and the US embassies in Phnom Penh, Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur.

Construction of the US embassy in Yangon on University Avenue was completed in July 2007 by the Alabama-based construction company BL Harbert. The 10-building compound covers more than 10 acres of land fronting Inya Lake, according to the company.