How GCHQ and NSA acquired Pakistan’s NADRA entire data record: WikiLeaks

How GCHQ and NSA acquired Pakistan’s NADRA entire data record: WikiLeaks

On June 6th, The Intercept and other news outlets reported on a leaked National Security Agency report that analysed Russian military intelligence’s attempts to hack electoral systems days before the United States Presidential Election in 2016. In response to this news, WikiLeaks tweeted about “US + MI6” attempts to steal voter data, and linked to quotes made by Julian Assange, the organisation’s founder, in 2013 about this alleged data theft.

According to WikiLeaks and Assange, both the GCHQ and the NSA acquired access to the database of Pakistan’s National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) to get hold of the identification records of Pakistani citizens, in order to be able to track anyone that they may suspect to be involved with terrorism. 
Though this revelation was initially shared four years ago, and published by Dawn on in 2011 as part of the overall Dawn/WikiLeaks partnership, the reminder by WikiLeaks has brought it back to public attention, at a time when concerns about privacy and global surveillance are as high as they have been since the end of the Cold War.

The popular website ProPakistani links to a transcript of a 2013 interview with Imran Khan, ex-cricketer and leader and founder of the populist Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s political party. 

In the interview, retrieved from the Internet Archives on Jan 14th 2013, Assange touches on the theft of voter data via a UK-based firm by the name of International Identity Service (IIS) in the UK, to serve as a consultant for NADRA. Details regarding IIS and the outsourcing project can be found here.

The portion of the interview in which Assange refers to IIS as a “front company” designed to facilitate the aforementioned voter data theft is as follows:

“Imran, we discovered a cable [09ISLAMABAD1642] in 2009 from the Islamabad Embassy. Prime Minister Gilani and Interior Minister Malik went into the embassy and offered to share NADRA – and NADRA is the national data and registration agency database. 

The system is currently connected through passport data but the Government of Pakistan is adding voice and facial recognition capability and has installed a pilot biometric system as the Chennai border crossing, where 30,000 to 35,000 people cross each day. This NADRA system, that is the voting record system for all voters in Pakistan, and a front company was set up in the United Kingdom – International Identity Services, which was hired as the consultants for NADRA to squirrel out the NADRA data for all of Pakistan. 

What do you think about that? Is that a…? It seems to me that that is a theft of some national treasure of Pakistan, the entire Pakistani database registry of its people.”