Remember when it was outrageous that the Iranians had (allegedly) hacked Aramco? In addition to wiping hard drives (though in ways that left the computers recoverable), they also took and threatened to release documents.
In news that I earlier predicted, NSA and GCHQ have hacked OPEC, including Saudi Arabia’s OPEC Minister (though NSA managed to detask him when he came to the US).
Spiegel doesn’t provide much detail of what they’ve gotten — just a tantalizing overview, particularly given the likelihood that the speculation claim pertains to the skyrocketing prices in 2008, which (among other things) the Saudis used to get us into a new security cooperation agreement.
None of this is surprising. But as we try to fearmonger new wars based on one party hacking another, it’s probably safe to assume we got there first.
It stated that OPEC officials were trying to cast the blame for high oil prices on speculators. A look at files in the OPEC legal department revealed how the organization was preparing itself for an antitrust suit in the United States. And a review of the section reserved for the OPEC secretary general documented that the Saudis were using underhanded tactics, even within the organization. According to the NSA analysts, Riyadh had tried to keep an increase in oil production a secret for as long as possible.
Our TCA with Saudi Arabia (and the fact that we (Booz, in fact!) are now providing it with cybersecurity) may well be one reason it is no longer a top NSA target.
OPEC appears in the “National Intelligence Priorities Framework,” which the White House issues to the US intelligence community. Although the organization is still listed as an intelligence target in the April 2013 list, it is no longer a high-priority target.
Who needs to hack when you’re in charge of cybersecurity?
And guess which company has a lot of that business? Edward Snowden’s former employer, Booz.
Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu just resigned.
Which got me thinking about my latest obsession: the Technical Cooperation Agreement beween Saudi Arabia and the US, under which (as far as the agreement admits publicly) the US helps the Saudis protect their critical infrastructure (read, oil fields) and borders. While the TCA is managed by State, it includes significant involvement on the part of DOD — particularly CentCom, DOE (because in Saudi Arabia infrastructure is energy), and Treasury (which handles the magic bank account at its core). In addition, a new focus on cybersecurity (presumably a response to the recent Aramco hack) gives DHS and NSA an increasing role.
So check out the list of people MbN met with while he was in DC from January 14 to 16, in significant part to “renew” the TCA (four months before the old one expired).
Prince Mohammad also met with a number of senior U.S. officials throughout his visit, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, Director of National Intelligence James Robert Clapper, Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns, Treasury Deputy Secretary Neal Wolin, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, John Brennan, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Robert Mueller, and Director of the National Security Agency General Keith B. Alexander.
Remarkably, MbN didn’t waste his time with any outgoing cabinet member — not TurboTax Timmeh, not Chu, not Panetta — except for Hillary, with whom he was signing this agreement. While TurboTax Timmeh and Panetta’s departure was known, Chu’s was only rumored.
John Brennan is moving, sure, but I suspect his move won’t change his interactions with MbN — who has been a key stovepipe for Brennan — one whit.
The most interesting person MbN managed to not waste his time with on the visit, apparently, was General James Mattis, who was about to be, but had not yet been, ousted several months early the week MbN was in town.
I’m not suggesting this is all that meaningful, mind you. I just find it notable that MbN seemed to have a better sense of what was going on with Obama’s top national security leadership than most of the journalists in DC.