Equipment To Spy On Citizens Is A Surprisingly Popular Export

Image courtesy of Brian Klug

It doesn’t require any super-special equipment to spy on one’s own citizens: the items needed to do so are widely available and pretty affordable compared to other law enforcement and military gear. Yes, spy equipment is a popular U.S. export, and governments out to keep very, very close tabs on their residents are the customers.

A recent Associated Press investigation focused on Verint, an American-Israeli company that doesn’t exactly put out catalogs for the public detailing what it sells. A recent document leak in Peru was the next best thing, showing sales and training materials for equipment similar to the mass phone data collection in the U.S. exposed by Edward Snowden.

Verint has customers all over the world––not just law enforcement in its home countries, but in developed countries like Australia and developing countries like Brazil alike. The secret police in Uzbekistan are reportedly customers, and use the company’s products for mass surveillance and to track down and stop people who discuss or share information about certain topics.

Evidence also indicates that the government of South Sudan has been buying spying tools from Verint and using them to decide which dissidents to jail and torture, according to human rights groups and the United Nations.

Monitoring tools like this fall under a weapons export treaty called the Wassenaar Arrangement, which the United States originally was part of, but has not ratified amendments that would ban exporting electronic surveillance equipment.

Snapping up cheap spy tools, nations ‘monitoring everyone’ [AP]

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