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[liberationtech] New EFF Lawsuit: American Sues Ethiopian Government for Spyware Infection

Mustafa Al-Bassam mus at
Tue Feb 18 11:25:35 PST 2014

This is great. Would also like to add that yesterday a criminal
complaint was filed in the UK for a similar situation:


On 18/02/14 18:16, Nate Cardozo wrote:
> Hi LibTech,
> Today, we sued the Ethiopian Government for its use of the malware
> described in last year's Citizen Lab report. Thanks to Citizen Lab for
> their amazing work. Details below.
> Best,
> Nate
> -- 
> Nate Cardozo
> Staff Attorney
> Electronic Frontier Foundation
> 815 Eddy Street
> San Francisco, CA 94109
> nate at | 415.436.9333 x146
> Help EFF defend our rights in the digital world
> February 18, 2014
>     American Sues Ethiopian Government for Spyware Infection
> Months of Electronic Espionage Put American Citizen and Family at Risk
> Washington, D.C. - An American citizen living in Maryland sued the
> Ethiopian government today for infecting his computer with secret
> spyware, wiretapping his private Skype calls, and monitoring his entire
> family's every use of the computer for a period of months. The
> Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is representing the plaintiff in
> this case, who has asked the court to allow him to use the pseudonym Mr.
> Kidane – which he uses within the Ethiopian community – in order to
> protect the safety and wellbeing of his family both in the United States
> and in Ethiopia.
> "We have clear evidence of a foreign government secretly infiltrating an
> American's computer in America, listening to his calls, and obtaining
> access to a wide swath of his private life," said EFF Staff Attorney
> Nate Cardozo. "The current Ethiopian government has a well-documented
> history of human rights violations against anyone it sees as political
> opponents. Here, it wiretapped a United States citizen on United States
> soil in an apparent attempt to obtain information about members of the
> Ethiopian diaspora who have been critical of their former government.
> U.S. laws protect Americans from this type of unauthorized electronic
> spying, regardless of who is responsible."
> A forensic examination of Mr. Kidane's computer showed that the device
> had been infected when he opened a Microsoft Word document that
> contained hidden malware. The document had been an attachment to an
> email message sent by agents of the Ethiopian government and forwarded
> to Mr. Kidane. The spyware contained in the attachment was a program
> called FinSpy, a suite of surveillance software marketed exclusively to
> governments by the Gamma Group of Companies. In the several months
> FinSpy was on Mr. Kidane's computer, it recorded a vast array of
> activities conducted by users of the machine. Traces of the spyware
> inadvertently left on his computer show that information – including
> recordings of dozens of Skype phone calls – was surreptitiously sent to
> a secret control server located in Ethiopia and controlled by the
> Ethiopian government.
> The infection appears to be part of a systematic program by the
> Ethiopian government to spy on perceived political opponents in the
> Ethiopian diaspora around the world. Reports from human rights agencies
> and news outlets have detailed Ethiopia's campaign of international
> espionage, aimed at jailing opposition and undermining dissent. But
> Ethiopia is not alone. CitizenLab – a group of researchers based at the
> University of Toronto, Canada – has found evidence that governments
> around the world use FinSpy and other technologies to spy on human
> rights and democracy advocates across the globe.
> "The problem of governments violating the privacy of their political
> opponents through digital surveillance is not isolated – it's already
> big and growing bigger," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "Yet
> despite the international intrigue and genuine danger involved in this
> lawsuit, at bottom it's a straightforward case. An American citizen was
> wiretapped at his home in Maryland, and he's asking for his day in court
> under longstanding American laws."
> In the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.,
> today, Mr. Kidane asks for a jury trial as well as damages for
> violations of the U.S. Wiretap Act and state privacy law. The Ethiopian
> Embassy in Washington received a courtesy copy of the lawsuit, and the
> District Court will formally serve the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry in
> Addis Ababa with copies of the papers in both English and Amharic.
> Richard M. Martinez, Mahesha P. Subbaraman, and Samuel L. Walling of
> Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P. are assisting EFF as co-counsel
> on this case.
> For the full complaint in Kidane v. Ethiopia:
> For more on this case:
> Contacts:
> Nate Cardozo
>    Staff Attorney
>    Electronic Frontier Foundation
>    nate at
> Cindy Cohn
>    Legal Director
>    Electronic Frontier Foundation
>    cindy at

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