US work on covert networks uncovered
The US government is reportedly wielding connectivity as a weapon for change, leading efforts to set up shadow telecom networks in autocratic countries.
Several secretive projects are already underway, including a plan to develop a suitcase-sized device that could be smuggled across borders and then deployed to clandestinely provide wide-ranging wireless broadband connectivity.
The kit would act as a mesh network, enabling each one to stand in for base stations and form a network without a centralized hub, a New York Times investigation reveals.
Another project involves modifying Bluetooth to allow distribution of content that would usually be censored by overseas government’s to be automatically distributed on a network of ‘trusted’ mobile phones.
The US is also reportedly involved in projects to set up secret mobile networks. The newspaper reports up to $50 million (€34.8 million) has already been spent establishing an independent mobile network in Afghanistan to circumvent shut downs of regular networks by the Taliban. It speculates the covert networks could also be deployed in countries including Iran, Syria and Libya.
Despite the potential of these projects to destabilize repressive governments, US officials paint them solely as efforts to protect citizens' fundamental human rights to free communication.