Why is XKeyscore in Zambia and the Sudan?

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By now you should probably be aware of the latest round of leaked information about the NSA published by the Guardian from files supplied by Muscovite Ed Snowden. They reveal details of a project called XKeyscore, detailed in a PowerPoint presentation similar to the original PRISM files, which apparently enables the US intelligence services to tap in to the internet backbone and harvest whatever the hell it wants in over 150 locations around the world.

The full presentation is available here, and there’s even a little map of these locations, shown below.


The question which immediately springs to mind – once the initial outrage has cleared – is why are those servers distributed the way they are in Africa? Mostly they make sense, with red dots appearing at key points on the undersea cables that connect Africa to the rest of the world – that would explain the one that looks like it’s in Luanda in Angola.

But some are more puzzling.

Inland Sudan? Presumably because of the probability that there are jihad training camps there. All along North Africa for similar reasons, but this one really confusing.

Background map from Google Maps.
Background map from Google Maps.

Zambia? What are the US narcs looking for Zambia that makes them prefer that relatively innocuous country to – say – South Africa or Kenya, which would be more likely routes of transit. If it’s Zimbabwe they’re after, why not go for the seaward side – Mozambique? After all, the big thing about Zambia is that it’s landlocked – and that should go for internet traffic too (unless I’m very much mistaken). Data captured in Lusaka would be pretty specific to Zambia, as it’s not en route for anywhere to the cables. Wouldn’t it?

Perhaps it’s just a really badly drawn map, put together by someone who was aiming for Harare but wasn’t sure where it is on the map. Any better suggests, please do comment or contact us…

Adam Oxford

Adam Oxford

Adam is the Editorial Director at htxt media. He has been writing about technology for almost two full decades now. In a previous life, he was the editor of PC Format and Digital Camera Shopper in the UK, before going on to work as a freelance journalist for seven years. His work has appeared in or on Stuff, The Guardian, Linux Format, TechRadar, Wired.co.uk, PC Gamer, Green Futures, The Journalist, The Ecologist and The Review. Adam moved to South Africa in 2012 and loves 3D printers, MakerFairs and tech hubs. He hates seafood. None of his friends remember this when cooking.