Madsen: Low-Tech and Cheap Solutions to Getting Around NSA Surveiling in Africa
Madsen omits mention of it in this otherwise well-informed article, which provides a comprehensive summary/history of US signals intel activities in Africa, but at least in the past, Africans also communicated over long distances using coded drum beats. He is quite correct in saying NSA personnel live and work in Africa, as I have known a retired NSA officer who shared with me years ago stories of his adventures there over lunch a number of times. Nothing “secret” was shared, of course, he was very careful about that, but the fact he and other NSA agents spent so much time there was remarkable in itself.
“In fact, NSA personnel are found in so many exotic locations in Africa and elsewhere in the world, one NSA briefing slide released by Snowden, titled “Know your cover legend,” instructs NSA personnel on covert assignment abroad to “sanitize personal effects” and bars them from sending home any postcards or buying local souvenirs. In reality, the fastest means of communications in Africa remains the «jungle telegraph,» the word of mouth alerts that travel from town to town and village to village warning the local residents that there are Americans in their midst. It is the one means of communications NSA cannot automatically tap unless NSA’s agents overhear conversations and understand obscure African dialects. Somali insurgents have stymied NSA eavesdroppers by using coded smoke signals from networks of burning 55-gallon drums to warn of approaching U.S., Kenyan, Ethiopian, and other foreign troops.