Anabel Gonzalez, former minister of Foreign Trade.
Anabel Gonzalez, Costa Rica’s former minister of Foreign Trade.

QCOSTARICA – If we are to believe our country’s personalities and local businesses are not the subject of cyber espionage, the revelation that the New Zealand government spied on Costa Rica’s Anabel Gonzalez, in 2013, when she was a candidate for the leadership of the World Trade Organization (WTO), it forces us to rethink the security of information and documents at all levels.

According to the New Zealand Herald and US news website The Intercept, the government of New Zealand implemented in 2013 a secret operation called the “WTO Project”, an operation that involved covert surveillance of candidates from Brazil, Costa Rica, Ghana, Jordan, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico and South Korea.

“Our spies monitored email and internet traffic about international diplomats vying for the job of director-general of the World Trade Organisation – a job for which National Government Trade Minister Tim Groser was competing,” says the NZ Herald.

New Zealand’s trade minister, Tim Groser, was one of nine candidates in contention for the position at the WTO, a powerful international organization based in Geneva, Switzerland that negotiates trade agreements between nations.

The surveillance operation, carried out by Government Communications Security Bureau, or GCSB, appears to have been part of a secret effort to help Groser win the job.

Groser ultimately failed to get the position.

The Interceptor says it obtained a top-secret document revealing how GCSB used the XKEYSCORE (XKS) – a formerly secret computer system first used by the United States National Security Agency (NSA) for searching and analyzing Internet data it collects worldwide every day.Internet surveillance system to collect communications about the WTO director general candidates.

On January 26, 2014, the German broadcaster Norddeutscher Rundfunk asked Edward Snowden in its TV interview: “What could you do if you would use XKeyscore?” and he answered:

You could read anyone’s email in the world, anybody you’ve got an email address for. Any website: You can watch traffic to and from it. Any computer that an individual sits at: You can watch it. Any laptop that you’re tracking: you can follow it as it moves from place to place throughout the world. It’s a one-stop-shop for access to the NSA’s information.

…You can tag individuals… Let’s say you work at a major German corporation and I want access to that network, I can track your username on a website on a form somewhere, I can track your real name, I can track associations with your friends and I can build what’s called a fingerprint, which is network activity unique to you, which means anywhere you go in the world, anywhere you try to sort of hide your online presence, your identity.

According to The Guardian‘s Glenn Greenwald, low-level NSA analysts can via systems like XKeyscore “listen to whatever emails they want, whatever telephone calls, browsing histories, Microsoft Word documents. And it’s all done with no need to go to a court, with no need to even get supervisor approval on the part of the analyst.”

GCSB gained access to XKEYSCORE because New Zealand is a member of the Five Eyes surveillance alliance alongside the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.

Sources: New Zealand Herald, The Interceptor, Wikipedia

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