The latest string of documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden show that Britain and the US spied on hundreds of top officials in 60 countries, including an Israeli premier, an EU policy maker and several aid groups.
The documents, cited by The Guardian and The New York Times on Friday, said that Britain’s intelligence bureau Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in 2009 collaborated with the US National Security Agency (NSA) to snoop on an email address belonging to Israel’s Ehud Olmert, who was prime minister at the time.
Other monitoring targets between 2008 and 2011 included European Commissioner for Competition Joaquin Almunia, German government buildings and several unnamed African heads of state.
Among the aid groups listed were the United Nations Development Programme, the UN’s children’s charity Unicef and Médécins du Monde. The companies mentioned included the Thales group, a defense company partly owned by the French government, as well as French oil group Total.
An NSA spokeswoman said the agency did not use espionage to help US businesses.
“We do not use our foreign intelligence capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies on behalf of – or give intelligence we collect to – US companies to enhance their international competitiveness or increase their bottom line,” she said.
“The intelligence community’s efforts to understand economic systems and policies, and monitor anomalous economic activities, are critical to providing policy-makers with the information they need to make informed decisions that are in the best interest of our national security.”
However, the European Commission said if it was true one of its senior officials had been targeted it would be “unacceptable”.
“This piece of news follows a series of other revelations which, as we clearly stated in the past, if proven true, are unacceptable and deserve our strongest condemnation,” a spokesman said.
“This is not the type of behaviour that we expect from strategic partners, let alone from our own member states.”
Britain is one of the EU’s 28 members.
Germany has been especially angered after it was reported that the NSA had tapped Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone.
The Guardian said the disclosure that GCHQ had targeted German government buildings in Berlin was embarrassing for British Prime Minister David Cameron since he had signed an EU statement condemning the NSA’s spying on Merkel.
GCHQ said it was aware of the reports but did not comment on intelligence matters. A spokesman said: “Our work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate.”
Snowden is currently living in Russia under temporary asylum.
(FRANCE 24 with AP and REUTERS)
Date created : 2013-12-20