French newspaper Le Monde has reported that the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), a British intelligence organisation, monitored technology specialists working for Internet and phone providers in Africa – including those from MTN.
The revelations come from several documents in the Snowden archive, which former NSA operative Edward Snowden gave to Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras in 2013.
The classified documents show how intelligence agencies like GCHQ and the NSA were conducting mass surveillance on their countries’ citizens.
In the new information Le Monde unearthed, a document from 16 April 2009 states that the GCHQ noticed a satellite flow carrying internal data that was exchanged between MTN engineers.
Le Monde reported that dozens of people working for phone companies were under surveillance, with roaming managers targeted.
Roaming managers are individuals who are responsible for the commercial and technical aspects that let cellular subscribers use their phone and SIM in another country.
Dozens of people working for phone companies appear in two 2009 documents describing the surveillance, along with dozens of similar reports of tests carried out by the GCHQ.
Although multiple African companies were targeted, Le Monde reported that many people under surveillance worked for Zain or MTN.
Le Monde named high-ranking Zain executives targeted in GCHQ’s surveillance, but said it chose not to name the roaming managers who were the intelligence agency’s main targets.
“We decided not to mention the names of those people, whose only wrongdoing is their present or past responsibilities in those companies,” said Le Monde.
“We have tried to reach out to most of them, but none of them answered our messages.”