Australian spies tried to tap Indonesian president's phone calls: media reports

SYDNEY Sun Nov 17, 2013 10:50pm EST

Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono attends the ASEAN Plus Three Summit in Bandar Seri Begawan, October 10, 2013. REUTERS/Ahim Rani

Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono attends the ASEAN Plus Three Summit in Bandar Seri Begawan, October 10, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Ahim Rani

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia's spy agencies attempted to listen in on the mobile phone conversations of Indonesia's president and targeted the mobile phones of his wife and senior ministers, Australian media reported on Monday, citing documents leaked by NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's family and inner circle were targeted for electronic surveillance by Australia's Defense Signals Directorate (DSD), the Guardian Australia and Australian Broadcasting Corp reported, citing a top secret document from 2009.

The revelation may further strain ties between the neighbors after earlier reports that Australia's embassy in the country had been used as part of a U.S.-led surveillance network to spy on Indonesia, prompting a stern rebuke from Jakarta.

Australian media last month reported that Australian embassies across Asia were part of the U.S.-led electronic surveillance operation, according to leaked Snowden documents.

The latest leaked documents contained a slide presentation which showed a list of top Indonesia leadership officials and their mobile phone handset details. One slide showed how the DSD had attempted to listen in on a call from an unknown Thailand number to the Indonesian president.

Another slide showed what were purported to be call data records for Yudhoyono's mobile phone for 15 days in August 2009, recording the numbers called and the duration.

"It is the established practice of successive Australian governments not to comment on intelligence matters," a spokesman for Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs said in an emailed statement responding to a request for comment on the reports.

Indonesia's presidential palace also declined to comment.

Earlier Snowden leaks have detailed vast intelligence collection by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) on allies, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, prompting protests and a U.S. review of intelligence gathering.

Indonesia is Australia's nearest Asian neighbor and an important strategic ally. Relations were already shaky after Australia's new conservative prime minister, Tony Abbott, in September proposed turning back boats of asylum-seekers coming through Indonesia.

(Reporting by Lincoln Feast; Additional reporting by Kanupriya Kapoor in Jakarta; Editing by Michael Perry)

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