US spying on Philippine SMS: Snowden

May 21, 2014 - 12:00:00 am

MANILA: The Philippines is among the countries being secretly monitored by a telecommunications spying programme of the US National Security Agency (NSA), as revealed by whistle-blower and fugitive Edward Snowden.

Online publication The Intercept, a platform releasing Snowden’s leaks, alleged in a post yesterday that NSA’s cutting-edge surveillance programme MYSTIC collects “metadata” and content and from mobile networks in the Caribbean, Mexico, Kenya, the Philippines and another unnamed country.

Metadata are information revealing message or call’s time stamp, source and destination information collected by MYSTIC that may be authorized by the host country and even by the telecommunications firms. A 2013 budget justification of the US intelligence community cites the need to fund MYSTIC capable of providing “comprehensive metadata access and content against targeted communications in ___, Kenya, Caribbean, Mexico, and the Philippines.” 

The programme also offers “near real-time, complete access to the additional target country’s GSM networks,” according to the document leaked by Snowden. Another classified document, provided by Snowden, provides a NSA Special Source Operations’ description of MYSTIC as a “programme for embedded collection systems overtly installed on target networks predominantly for collection and processing of wireless/mobile communications networks.” 

Philippine laws prohibit wire tapping and related violations not authorized by all parties concerned. RA No 4200 or the Anti Wire-Tapping Law, however, only covers the monitoring and interception of content. 

In February, the Supreme Court upheld penalties under the assailed Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act.

The Philippine Star