LAHORE: In July 2021, renowned American newspaper ‘Washington Post’ had revealed that the United States National Security Agency (NSA), responsible for global monitoring, collection, and processing of information and data for foreign and domestic intelligence and counter-intelligence operations, monitored the phone calls of 35 world leaders, including Imran Khan.
The ‘Washington Post’ had gone on to name the world leaders whose phones were scrutinized by the United States.
The 145-year-American media house had added that the 35 world leaders included three sitting presidents (France’s Emmanuel Macron, Iraq’s Barham Salih and South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa), three current prime ministers (Pakistan’s Imran Khan, Egypt’s Mostafa Madbouly and Morocco’s Saad-Eddine El Othmani), seven former prime ministers (Yemen’s Ahmed Obeid bin Daghr, Lebanon’s Saad Hariri, Uganda’s Ruhakana Rugunda, France’s Édouard Philippe, Kazakhstan’s Bakitzhan Sagintayev, Algeria’s Noureddine Bedoui and Belgium’s Charles Michel) and one king (Morocco’s Mohammed VI).
The ‘Washington Post’ had further divulged: “Overall, the list contained phone numbers for more than 600 government officials and politicians from 34 countries. In addition to the countries where top leaders’ phone numbers appeared were numbers for officials in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bhutan, China, Congo, Egypt, Hungary, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Mali, Mexico, Nepal, Qatar, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Togo, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States.”
Earlier, in one of its October 24, 2013 reports on the subject, eminent British news agency “Reuters” had reported: “The United States monitored the phone conversations of 35 world leaders according to classified documents leaked by fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden, Britain’s Guardian newspaper said on Thursday. Phone numbers were passed on to the United States National Security Agency (NSA) by an official in another government department, according to the documents, the Guardian said on its website. The revelations come after Germany demanded answers from Washington over allegations Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone was bugged, the worst spat between the two countries in a decade. The White House did not deny the bugging, saying only it would not happen in future.”
On October 25, 2013, a widely-subscribed British newspaper ‘The Guardian’ had also gone on to write: “ The American National Security Agency monitored the phone conversations of 35 world leaders after being given the numbers by an official in another US government department, according to a classified document provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden.”
Imran Khan was heard expressing serious concerns over phone tapping and violation of his privacy rights Sunday evening, adding that one of his close aides, Dr Yasmin Rashid, would move court for eavesdropping on her cellphone number. He asserted: “This is violation of fundamental right. Constitution protects our dignity and privacy. My and my wife’s privacy was violated,” said the former prime minister, expressing serious concerns over tapping prime minister’s official conversation. A tape of Chaudhary Pervaiz Elahi has also been released just for blackmailing. All these efforts are aimed at blackmailing arbiters. Maryam Nawaz had openly said that she had audio tapes. Now General Bajwa has admitted that he possesses tapes.”
It is imperative to note that on October 10, 2022, Imran Khan had also vowed to go to court to demand the constitution of an investigation team that could establish the authenticity of the leaks and determine which intelligence agency was behind bugging and release of the mostly edited and doctored audios.
Remember, during October 2022, two audio recordings of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) chief had surfaced, where he was allegedly heard talking about horse-trading and branding his opponents as “traitors.”
Talking to media, Imran had maintained: “The audio leaks are a serious breach of national security as they call into question the entire security of the Prime Minister’s Office and the prime minister’s home. As PM, the secure line at my residence was also bugged.”
Archival research shows that like Imran Khan, a prime minister of Greece was also disturbed and shocked the bugging of his phone.
On March 9, 2005, a 38-year-old Greek electrical engineer named, Costas Tsalikidis, was found hanged in his Athens apartment, in what apparently seemed to be a suicide.
He worked for “Vodafone Greece.” The next day, the-then Greek Premier, Konstantinos Karamanlis, was told that his cellphone and devices of his family members were being bugged.
The Greek wiretapping case of 2004-2005, also referred to as “Greek Watergate,” involved the illegal tapping of more than 100 mobile phones on the “Vodafone Greece” network belonging mostly to members of the Greek government and top-ranking civil servants.
In 2015, after an investigation lasting 10 years, Greek investigators have found conclusive evidence linking the wiretapping to the US Embassy in Athens.
As a result of the investigation, Greek authorities have issued an arrest warrant for a certain William George Basil, an NSA operative from a Greek immigrant background.
The Greek media had reported that during December 2006, Messrs “Vodafone Greece” was fined 76 million Euros by the Communications Privacy Protection Authority, a Greek privacy watchdog group, for the illegal wiretapping of 106 cellphones.
The fine was calculated as 500,000 Euros for each phone that was eavesdropped on, as well as a 15 million Euro fine for impeding their investigation.
Covert listening devices came into common use with intelligence agencies in the 1950s, when technology allowed for a suitable transmitter to be built into a relatively small package.
An excerpt from a book “The listeners: A history of wiretapping in the United States” reads: “By 1956, the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was designing and building “Surveillance Transmitters” that employed transistors, which greatly reduced the size and power consumption. An all solid-state device had low enough power needs that it could be operated by small batteries, which revolutionized the business of covert listening. Among the earliest covert listening devices used in the United States of America was the dictograph, an invention of Kelley Turner patented in 1906 (US Patent US843186A). It consisted of a microphone in one location and a remote listening post with a speaker that could also be recorded using a phonograph.”
This book written by Brian Hochman, a Professor of English at Georgetown University, and published by Harvard University Press had held: “In 1960, the US ambassador to the United Nations disclosed that a listening device had been lodged inside the state seal of the American embassy in Moscow for the better part of a decade.”
The “Eavesdroppers,” a 1959 book by the University of Pennsylvania engineer Richard Schwartz, had disclosed: “A special brand of conductive paint, invisible to the unaided eye, could redirect phone signals to outside lines. There was a new class of microphones engineered to be smaller than sugar cubes and thinner than postage stamps. These could be secreted away in surprising locations: wall sockets, picture frames, packs of cigarettes.”
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