by Robert Fisk, The Independent, UK
My Lebanese mobile phone has long been the victim of gremlins who would surely make Edward Snowden lick his lips. For months, I have received calls from Canada which registered on my receiver to a series of non-existent numbers with the direct-dial code of Turkey.
Then I began to receive, about a year ago, a wonderful series of calls from America and London which registered on my mobile as follows: 00 278. I called the number, and a recorded voice asked me to leave a message.
Difficult to do – since no country exists with a 278 suffix. A glance at direct-dial codes suggests this mythical nation must be somewhere in southern Africa between Kenya (254), Uganda (256), Zambia (260), Lesotho (266), Botswana (267), the Comoros (269) and Eritrea (291). What outlandish listening post in this non-state is wasting its time on my phone, I ask myself?
Why, only last week, a call to my Lebanese mobile from an Irish telephone registered as a number in Madrid (00 349 12020000). Once more, the number did not exist. Same with a call from an acquaintance in Tehran who called me on Friday; his number came up on my phone with a British 00 44 1269 code and a number which, yet again – like the code itself – is a fake. Any other readers suffering the same problems?
Then again, when I arrived in the Tajik capital of Dushanbe in 2008, my Lebanese mobile welcomed me to Russia. And when I stood on the northern bank of the Amu Darya river (classical Oxus) which separates Tajikistan from Afghanistan, my mobile welcomed me to the United Arab Emirates.
Then I knew for certain that my phone was in the hands of US intelligence.