Did Russia sneak spying gadgets into world leaders' gift bags at the G20?
Hot on the heels of the news that President Barack Obama may have known that the NSA was spying on the leaders of allied countries, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, and the top levels of Mexican government, comes further confirmation of globalized paranoia. According to Italian newspapers Il Corriere della Sera and La Stampa, the Kremlin sent world leaders who attended the G20 summit in September home with gift bags that included spying devices.
The allegations are based on technical analysis of the free gadgets—USB thumb drives and European phone chargers—by intelligence agencies in Brussels and Bonn, an investigation ordered by President of the European Council (and gift bag recipient) Herman Van Rompuy, the Los Angeles Times reported. The experts found them “suitable for undercover detection of computer data and mobile phones.” Whether that makes them the “Trojan horses” the Italian papers claimed is still up for debate, but Russian officials are already denying the charges.
"It is definitely nothing other than an attempt to switch attention from the problems that really exist, which dominate the agenda between the European capitals and Washington, to problems that are ephemeral and nonexistent," Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov remarked of the news in a Voice of Russia broadcast, initiating what’s bound to be a prolonged game of diplomatic he said, she said.
At any rate, the allegations are bound to exacerbate Russia’s already frosty relationship with the U.S. and other western powers, a dynamic made more fragile by the country granting asylum to NSA leaker Edward Snowden over the White House’s requests for extradition.
Still, the real question here is: what politician in his or her right mind would use a flash drive handed to them at an international conference? Even Merkel's allegedly NSA-tapped mobile phone was just a decoy for another, secure line.
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