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Wednesday, October 5, 2022

SWIFT, Sanctions and Shameless US Hypocrisy Part 2 – Some terrorism victims are more equal than others

This was of course not the end of US shenanigans with SWIFT. 

In 2012, a Danish policeman named Torben Nødskouv, intended to sell Cuban cigars through his small business. He bought them from a German supplier. And paid for them in 26,000 US dollars. That last, was his only mistake. Why? Because the transaction never completed. Why? Because the ‘dollar’ funds were routed through US where Treasury department intercepted the transfer and stole his money. Saying he violated the ‘US trade embargo against Cuba.’ Imagine: A legal trade transaction by a policeman, between 2 European countries, stopped by US. There was outrage, made international news. You know blond hair, blue eyes type. 

The story becomes almost darkly humorous in 2013 if it wasn’t so outrageous. Remember when I told you that the back and forth between SWIFT and USA was a ‘collusion’ and not a ‘hack’? Well, turned out the word ‘not’ in that statement might’ve been a bit premature because this was both a ‘collusion’ and a ‘hack’.

In 2013, it came out that Edward Snowden’s leaked documents contained one about the NSA team literally named “Follow the Money”. They collected, illegally, about 180 million financial records in a database called ‘Tracefin’ from both SWIFT and VISA (the credit/debit card company). The collection involved a ‘variety of methods’ on ‘different levels’ which included ‘reading SWIFT printer traffic from numerous banks.’

This raises question about why did NSA need to hack into SWIFT further if US had already legalized privacy violations of individuals whose banks had reposed their faith in SWIFT?

But there was no outrage then, because 1. By then such grave privacy violations by US were normalized 2. And more importantly, this collection focused almost exclusively on ‘foreigners’ of Middle East, Europe and Africa. No US targets, hence no outrage, and more importantly, no legal penalty. Perhaps that’s why Forbes was rather dismissive about the whole affair. 

Things took an ugly turn in April 2017 when a group of hackers named Shadow Brokers revealed that NSA exploited multiple vulnerabilities in Microsoft Windows itself to hack SWIFT. The targets were middle-east and Latin-American countries. Edward Snowden, calling it mother of all exploits, said that NSA’s hacking technologies were “stolen” last year but they didn’t warn banks to patch against it. It seems beyond credulous that the best state sponsored cyber thief in world got its lock-picks just… “stolen”, by other petty thieves. Is it possible it was not a theft but a ‘gift?’ Who knows?

Anyway, the report, some of them marked with NSA seals, contained code that could be used to break into SWIFT and monitor transaction messages. Keep in mind that just 1 year ago, in 2016, hackers had carried out a mega heist in Bangladesh Central Bank when they stole 81 million dollars by compromising SWIFT.

In 2018, 1.8 million dollars were stolen from Citi Union Bank of India based in Kumbhkonam where illegal SWIFT transfers were made by hackers to Turkey, China and UAE. So the danger is not that far away from us if you think about it. Before that, a Russian bank had suffered a theft of 6 million dollars.

Who is to say these hacks were not happening via “stolen” NSA technologies?

But let’s start from start. 

Those left-liberals screaming “privacy concerns” over alleged snooping through Israeli Pegasus, don’t they think people outside the USA have those same rights to privacy? A whole lot of hacking and stealing was done in presidency of liberal darling Barack Obama who had also ordered a whole lot of drone strikes on innocent men, women and children as well and despite all these war-crimes, he was awarded a Nobel peace prize and dared to gratuitously sermonize India over Human Rights. 

But this is terrorism (that too Islamist terrorism) we are talking about!

Fine. I can get behind the individual privacy being sub-ordained to National Interest against Islamist terrorist threat. I really do. In fact, I’ll get behind preventing all kinds of terrorism, Left Wing Naxal, Khalistani, Christian-North-Eastern ones. Even so-called Hindu terrorism – if it existed. But it doesn’t. However, there’s a very sinister double standard at play here. I’ll talk about Bharat later but let’s stick to Europe. Y’know, Blond hair, blue eyes. 

Remember Charlie Hebdo shootings?

Those “sanghi” cartoonists in 2015 dared to post caricatures of Prophet of Islamists, and soon enough, France suffered some of the worst Islamist terrorist attacks in its history. More than 250 people were murdered by Islamist terrorists in bombings, shootings, stabbings and beheadings. 

After the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack, France requested US help to track terrorist financing responsible for it. Guess what US did then?

They refused to help France, saying, “French did not provide ‘enough’ details about the threat from the suspects they were seeking information on.”

Like, dude, your NSA was storing 180 million financial records, illegally, apart from the usual legal channels under 2010 treaty, and you dared to deny French requests on the grounds of ‘not being specific enough?’

Let me circle back to 2013 Snowden revelations about NSA hacking, and what UK intelligence GCHQ had to say about it (who were in on it too), according to German Newspaper Der Spiegel:

“The UK’s intelligence agency, GCHQ, queried the legal issues surrounding “financial data” and its own involvement in the program saying that, “The collection, storage and sharing of politically sensitive data is a deep invasion of privacy”, and involved “bulk data” full of “rich personal information,” much of which “is not about our targets.”

See, it wasn’t about request not being specific enough. 

So what could it be?

According to Reuters article on French request being turned down regarding access to SWIFT data of Islamist terrorists, it was understood by a French Financial Ministry source ‘that positions on the issues varied among European countries and said that some countries “that are more Anglo-Saxon than us” appeared to have secret agreements with Washington to get easier access to information.’

“It’s clearly a politically sensitive situation. But at the same time we cannot be satisfied that the information is available to some but not for European countries,” a second finance ministry source said.

There you go. Some who are more anglo-saxon than others, are more equal.

But perhaps that’s not the complete reason. There’s a very clear ideological divide in the west between fanatical Left-Liberals of US and its lapdogs across the world, Vs those of French politicians and academics. It’s a debate over US brand of multiculturalism Vs French militant secularism, Laicite. It was evident after Charlie Hebdo shootings and grew sharper after Samuel Patty’s beheading.

When French President Emanuel Macron gave his famous speech “Islam is a religion in crisis,” the whole English media, not only tried to disparage the French but tried to legitimize the Islamist violence. It is another matter that since France is still part of that powerful western world, the elite ‘opinion-builders’ of west such as Financial Times, Politico ended up deleting their articles/ tweets or changed the headlines (something that’d never happen about Modi or any Hindu for that matter.)

But the larger point remains: Did French lives not matter? Were dead French people not victim of Islamist terrorism? If America’s ‘War of Terror’ was a global war, then why did French lives not matter?

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Abhinandan Pande
Abhinandan Pande
Abhinandan Pande is an aspiring Spy Thriller writer who sees the threats to Bharat as they are - An institutionalized Abrahmic/Left-Liberal revulsion for Hindus' Right to Exist.

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