Firms Aided Libyan Spies: First Look Inside Security Unit Shows How Citizens Were Tracked

Author: Paul Sonne & Margaret Coker, Wall Street Journal, Published on: 30 August 2011

...[A]gents working for Moammar Gadhafi...[spied] on emails and chat messages with the help of technology Libya acquired from the West. The recently abandoned [surveillance] room is lined with posters and...manuals stamped with the name Amesys, a unit of French technology firm Bull SA, which installed the monitoring center...The room...provides clear new evidence of foreign companies' cooperation in the repression of Libyans under Col. Gadhafi...Earlier this year, Libyan officials held talks with Amesys and several other companies including Boeing Co.'s Narus..."Narus does not comment on potential business ventures," a Narus spokeswoman said in a statement. "There have been no sales or deployments of Narus technology in Libya." A Bull official declined to comment...The Tripoli Internet monitoring center was a major part of a broad surveillance apparatus built by Col. Gadhafi... Amesys in 2009 equipped the center with "deep packet inspection" technology, one of the most intrusive techniques for snooping on people's online activities, according to people familiar with the matter. Chinese telecom company ZTE Corp. also provided technology for Libya's monitoring operation, people familiar with the matter said...A ZTE spokeswoman declined to comment... VASTech..., a small South African firm, provided the regime with tools to tap and log all the international phone calls going in and out of the country, according to emails reviewed by The Wall Street Journal and people familiar with the matter...[People] familiar with the matter said Amesys equipped [the surveillance room] with its Eagle system in late 2009...Andre Scholtz, sales and marketing director for VASTech, declined to comment on the Libya installation, citing confidentiality agreements. The firm sells only "to governments that are internationally recognized by the U.N. and are not subject to international sanctions," Mr. Scholtz said...VASTech says its interception technology is used to fight crimes like terrorism and weapons smuggling...In early March, Col. Gadhafi shut down Libya's Internet entirely. The country remained offline until last week, when rebels won control of Tripoli.

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Related companies: AMESys (Advanced Middle East Systems, formerly Amesys (part of Bull)) Boeing Bull (part of Atos) Narus (part of Boeing) ZTE