Wikileaks Uncovers a Global Network of Surveillance Companies for Hire

If you're a wealthy, militant despot of a nation and your sovereignty is slipping away, Wikileaks has discovered that you can attempt to prevent an uprising by hiring a network of spies who operate in the private sector and will keep tabs on citizens who threaten your reign.

According to the AFP, the investigative site run by Julian Assange, along with partner site Owni.Fr released info on a French electronics firm, Amesys, who sold surveillance gear to Libya, helping Gaddafi, among others, spy on citizens.

They appear to show that a manual provided to Libya to operate a "massive Internet surveillance" set-up known as the Eagle system included the email addresses and pseudonyms of opposition leaders.

One of them, 74-year-old writer Mahmud Al-Naku, campaigned against Kadhafi in exile and has now been named his country's ambassador to London by the victorious new former rebel government.

Another figure on the surveillance list was Atia Lawgali, 60, who has since been named Libya's new minister of culture. Several more Libyan and western figures are on the list, contained in a leaked screenshot.

When contacted by AFP, Amesys said they sold the gear to Libya in 2003 when no embargoes were in place, and that they had no control over how the surveillance gear was used. Wikileaks' sleuthing also revealed that there are over 160 companies who will sell surveillance gear to anyone who can afford it, calling it a "mass surveillance industry," and "huge transnational business." Syria, Tunisia, and Egypt were also found to have purchased similar gear. A former Wikileaks spokesperson even went as far as to describe the gear as stuff the East German Stasi dreamed of.

Corrupt leaders, eat your hearts out. But given the track record of previous customers, I'm not so sure this is a prudent investment. [AFP]