UK’s military base in Cyprus ‘taps into Middle East, Mediterranean comms’
Cyprus is a place where many
trans-Mediterranean fiber-optic cables from the Middle East,
Northern Africa and Europe come ashore, making this communication
hub a perfect choice to plant a spying device.
A joint investigative report by a cross-European media team now claims the chance has not been wasted with Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).
According to Italian L’Espresso, a secret installation codenamed ‘Sounder’ is situated on the territory of Ayios Nikolaos Station, a part of in the British Sovereign Base Area of Dhekelia, in the east of the island. The station is armed to teeth with antennas and radars scanning the airwaves for hundreds of kilometers around.
British secret service has tapped into at least 14 undersea cables passing through Cyprus using passive optical splitters, the report claims. This allegedly enables the GCHQ to process tens of millions of e-mails, sms messages and phone calls on a daily basis to stay informed about practically any activity in the region.
“A number of cables connect Cyprus to Israel and Syria, obvious targets for Anglo-American spying. Other cables run from Cyprus to Lebanon, Cyprus to Egypt and Turkey to Greece and Italy,” L’Espresso reported.
In separately published materials, Greek newspaper Ta Nea and television channel Alpha TV, as well as and German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung, revealed that British secret services have been monitoring governments’ trade organizations and individuals from the Mideast and Mediterranean region for an undisclosed period.
The German daily, familiar with some documents presented by whistleblower and former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, also maintains they have evidence of American intelligence’s presence at the British base on Cyprus.
“The document says American intelligence staff are required to dress as tourists, because the UK has promised the Cyprus government that only British staff will work there,” L’Espresso said.
When GCHQ headquarters in Cheltenham were reached for comment on the issue, they issued a standard reply: “It is longstanding policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters.”
The news comes on top of a revelation in the UK’s Independent newspaper, which claimed that GCHQ used the UK’s Berlin embassy to spy on the nearby Bundestag, as well as the office of Chancellor Angela Merkel. While a report in the Washington Post maintained that the UK spy agency intercepted internal information from Google and Yahoo’s private networks and fed it to its American counterpart, the NSA.
The revelations have left the British government red in the face. In late October, Prime Minister David Cameron insisted the media should stop publishing Snowden’s disclosures, saying they make the country “less safe.”
“I think it’s much better to appeal to newspapers’ sense of social responsibility. But if they don’t demonstrate some social responsibility it would be very difficult for government to stand back and not to act,” he said.