Making a Bogeyman from the Cloak and Danger Story

Ever since the Snowden expose about US, Australian and Singaporean intelligence outfits being in espionage against friendly countries, which include neighbors, there have been serious continuous enigma of efforts to cause further uneasiness for the public.

Bloomberg story:

Malaysia Summons Singapore Envoy as Spying Claims Widen

By Barry Porter & Manirajan Ramasamy – Nov 26, 2013 9:15 PM GMT+0800

Malaysia summoned Singapore’s high commissioner today to respond to allegations of spying which risk damaging improved political and business ties between the Southeast Asian neighbors.

Indonesia and Malaysia have been key targets for Australian and U.S. intelligence cooperation since the 1970s, facilitated in part by Singapore, the Sydney Morning Herald reported yesterday, citing documents leaked by former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden. Malaysia’s foreign ministry said it was “extremely concerned” and had already acted against earlier claims of espionage by the U.S. and Australia.

Singapore's PM Lee Hsien Loong & Malaysia's PM Najib Razak

Lee Hsien Loong, Singapore’s prime minister, and his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak shake hands in front of Malaysia’s landmark Putra Mosque in Putrajaya. Source: Government House/AFP/Getty Images

Johor–Singapore Causeway

Traffic flows in both directions over the one-kilometer long causeway that bisects the Johor Strait and links Singapore in the foreground with Malaysia in the background at dusk. Photographer: Jonathan Drake/Bloomberg

“It cannot be overemphasized that spying against a good friend and neighbor is unacceptable and goes against the true spirit of and commitment to good neighborly relations,” Anifah Aman, Malaysia’s foreign minister, said in an e-mailed statement before this morning’s meeting. “If those allegations are eventually proven, it is certainly a serious matter.”

Relations between Singapore and Malaysia have improved after half a century of tensions over issues such as water supply and ownership of a railway station, with the neighbors cooperating on real estate projects on both sides of the border and seeking to improve transport links. Malaysia is a party to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations with Singapore and the U.S.

‘Accepted Norms’

The Sydney Morning Herald cited a map from the U.S. National Security Agency and leaked by Snowden showing Singapore forming part of a global network where cable traffic could be tapped. Michele Batchelor, a spokeswoman for Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. (ST), declined to comment. SingTel is 52 percent-owned by Temasek Holdings Pte, Singapore’s state-owned investment company.

Ong Keng Yong, Singapore’s high commissioner, said he met with Malaysian Foreign Ministry Secretary-General Othman Hashim today to clarify various news reports. The envoy later said in a phone interview he had referred the articles to relevant agencies in Singapore and didn’t have any information to comment further.

“Singapore values our good relations with Malaysia,” Ong said. “We have no interest in doing anything that might harm our partnership or the friendship between our two countries.”

The secretary-general conveyed Malaysia’s deep concern over the alleged spying bySingapore, which had angered citizens, Malaysia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement late today. The alleged activities aren’t done among partners and close neighbors, the ministry said.

Snowden’s Allegations

Malaysia said in a statement last month it had sought clarification from U.S. Ambassador Joseph Y. Yun following allegations by Snowden that the U.S. had 90 electronic surveillance facilities worldwide, including at its Kuala Lumpur embassy. Yun said he’d received instructions to review the scope of surveillance, it said, without giving details.

“I don’t think we should be surprised that these sort of diplomatic statecraft are being practiced, even by the closest of neighbors,” said Eugene Tan, an associate law professor at Singapore Management University. “The question now is whether some of the intelligence gathering may have crossed accepted norms.”

The reports could also spur friction between Singapore and Indonesia, Tan said. “The Indonesians would probably be concerned whether the information is also being shared with Singapore intelligence, besides the Australians.”

Indonesia Friction

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has written to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono as he seeks to repair relations after claims the phones of Indonesia’s leaders were tapped.

Yudhoyono halted cooperation with the Abbott government on asylum seekers and military operations after withdrawing his ambassador from Canberra last week, as tensions between the two countries reached their highest point in 14 years.

Yudhoyono’s spokesman Teuku Faizasyah didn’t respond to a mobile phone message seeking comment today.

To contact the reporters on this story: Barry Porter in Kuala Lumpur; Manirajan Ramasamy in Kuala Lumpur

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rosalind Mathieson


Riong Kali dot com’s story:

Singapore also spying on Malaysia, says intelligence whistleblower

NOVEMBER 25, 2013

The US embassy in Kuala Lumpur, where spying activities allegedly took place. - The Malaysian Insider pic, November 25, 2013.The US embassy in Kuala Lumpur, where spying activities allegedly took place. – The Malaysian Insider pic, November 25, 2013.More top secret documents leaked by American whistleblower Edward Snowden have revealed that Singapore had aided the “5-Eyes”, the intelligence group behind a controversial spying activity in Malaysia.

Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad was quoted by Austalia’s Fairfax news agency as saying that Singapore was a key “third party” to provide access to Malaysia’s communications channel to the five nations accused of tapping telephone lines and monitoring communications networks in Malaysia.

The daily published a map showing the US’s stranglehold on trans-Pacific communications channels through interception facilities on the US’ West coast, Hawaii and Guam.

It depicts the facilities, linked between Australia and Japan, tapping all cable traffic across the Pacific Ocean, with Singapore being part of the set up.

The Fairfax report said that since the 1970s, Malaysia and Indonesia have been targeted by Australian and Singaporean intelligence, since most of its telecommunications and Internet traffic goes through the island city-state.

It was reported last August that’s Singaporean intelligence partnered with the Defence Signals Directorate, Australia’s electronic espionage agency, to tap the SEA-ME-WE-3 cable that runs from Japan, passing through Singapore, Djibouti, Suez and the Straits of Gibraltar to Northern Germany.

This was allegedly facilitated by Singapore Telecommunications Limited (SingTel), the city-state’s government-owned telecomummincation giant.

On SingTel’s board to represent the government is none other than Peter Ong, the man who was once in charge of Singapore’s national security and intelligence coordination, and who is currently the country’s civil service chief.

The Fairfax report further claimed that Singtel has expanded intelligence and defence ties between Australia and Singapore in the last 15 years.

Last month, Snowden, a former Central Intellligence Agency officer who is at the centre of some 200,000 leaked documents showing America’s espionage worldwide revealed that Washington runs a monitoring station in its Kuala Lumpur embassy to tap and monitor phone and network communications.

Germany magazine Der Spiegel published a map showing the existence of some 90 electronic surveillance facilities worldwide, including in American embassies in Jakarta, Bangkok, Phnom Penh, and Yangon.

The map dated August 13, 2010, however did not show any such facilities in Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Britain, and Japan, Washington’s closest allies.

Last August, Australian intelligence sources confirmed Snowden’s claim that top-secret spying tool XKeyscore was used to spy on Malaysia and other Asia-Pacific countries.

XKeyscore boasted that the tool managed to capture 300 terrorists since 2008. – November 25, 2013.


Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd. Najib Tun Razak admitted that if there was espionage between friendlies and the extend of it is deep and threatening national defense and security, then it might impair relationship.

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06 November 2013| last updated at 11:52PM

PM: We oppose spying


SEEKING ANSWERS: Govt awaiting outcome of US espionage review, says Najib

PUTRAJAYA:   PRIME Minister Datuk Seri Najib   Razak said Malaysia opposes, in principle, any spying activity on any government as it touches on national sovereignty.

He said Malaysia had sent protest notes to the United States and Australia on the alleged spying by their Kuala Lumpur missions.

Kuala Lumpur, he added, also expressed concern that the issue could affect the healthy relations enjoyed by Malaysia and the nations involved.

“We have done what is considered an appropriate response on our part and we stand by the question of principle.”

Najib said he had been informed that President Barack Obama had ordered a review of all spying programmes carried out by the US.

“In principle, we are against any spying and surveillance that affects the country’s sovereignty. We are waiting for the review. We hope the matter will not develop into a controversy in future,” he said after the 2013 Maal Hijrah celebrations at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre here yesterday.

Najib also questioned the extent of the clandestine ops allegedly carried out on the Malaysian government.

“The question now is, how far have these governments been gathering information on security, terrorism threats, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and transnational crime?”

Whistle-blower and former National Security Agency systems analyst-turned-fugitive Edward Snowden recently revealed that NSA was running a signals intelligence programme, headquartered in Fort Meade, Maryland, called “Stateroom”, in which the American, British, Australian and Canadian embassies secretly housed surveillance equipment to collect electronic communications from the host countries, including Malaysia.

The four, along with New Zealand, have an intelligence-sharing agreement known as “Five Eyes”.

Intelligence operations carried out included intercepting radio communications, information, telecommunications and Internet traffic.

On Friday, Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman summoned US deputy ambassador to Malaysia, Lee McClenny, and Australian high commissioner Miles Kupa to lodge Kuala Lumpur’s official protest.

Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein had said that spying on Malaysia by its allies was a serious matter because it could cause tension in relations that were long established based on trust and sincerity.

“I believe if this (spying) is not fully explained, our long-established good relations can be adversely affected.”

Read more: PM: We oppose spying – General – New Straits Times


One of the important avenue for the focal point of espionage activities is through diplomatic missions. Intelligence outfits often use the blanket of diplomatic immunity, to be the collection point before information are channeled to their respective beneficiaries.

It is to accuse any diplomatic mission of espionage without proper poofs. Hearsay and reports that appear in international media is not adequate. A more concrete evidence is required.

This morning, the Opposition brought this matter up as an agenda introduced for debate in Dewan Rakyat. Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia decided against it as ‘The matter is under investigation by Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Therefore, there is no urgency for the matter to be debated in Parliament”.

The Speaker is right.

Wisma Putra officials are working on it. They need to ascertain how deep, how long and how much of information obtained and collected by these acts of espionage. Most importantly, by whom and for what purpose.

Espionage is never a straight forward act of crime or against international diplomacy. Sometimes, it is so complex that some materials are allowed to be ‘leaked out’ for strategic ‘cat and mouse game’ using specific counter espionage purposes.

Intelligence community maintains certain rapport and communication system, to ensure that they are within the loop. Especially within the region.

Espionage between a neighbours in South East Asia could be in the end about how China is strategically moving its industrial might and international business clout in a West African country, which is thought to have a huge deposit of hydrocarbon.

Probably how Germany is introducing high technology industrial machineries into new markets in oil rich northern end of Latin America. The permutation is enormous.

It has been said that British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was aware of the plan by the Japanese Imperial Navy to spring the surprise bombing on Pearl Harbour on 7 December 1941, with the intention to cripple the US Navy.

Snowden’s revelation itself could be a strategic game, to create an international turmoil and negative reaction between friendlies. The objectives of  Snowden’s revelation with those information has yet to be ascertained.

Another important bit is that espionage isn’t always straight forward and targeted information could be extracted from a single document or file. Usually it is buried in heaps of information, collected and collated through time. Even on tapped recordings or transmissions, it have got to be deciphered and processed.

That is part of the reason why Royal Malaysian Police Special Branch officers are attached to several of Malaysian diplomatic missions abroad. They compliment the ‘research team’ which comprises of career diplomats and subject matter experts of said regions.

Patching up between strained friendlies could be something strategic on its own. One party could make the other commit for a policy or stance, just to prove their willingness to be close friends again.

It is not the time to be jumpy and react to all the media reports, so far based on speculations of several hearsay. In fact, remain calm and allow for professionals to finish their vetting on tons of documents. Let the Wisma Putra work what they need to do. In due time, the Foreign Minister and Home Minister would step forward to furnish after their comprehensive investigations.

What is glaringly clear is that Nurul Izzah’s damning fallacy about Special Branch assigning 30 officers to London and this morning’s attempt to debate and bring the espionage issue into open debate in the Dewan Rakyat was never a coincidence. That, could probably be an intelligence game at play.

Published in: on November 27, 2013 at 00:01  Comments (28)