U.S., UK spies targeted Israeli PM, EU official: Snowden leaks

LONDON Fri Dec 20, 2013 3:03pm EST

A National Security Agency (NSA) data gathering facility is seen in Bluffdale, about 25 miles (40 km) south of Salt Lake City, Utah, December 16, 2013. Jim Urquhart/REUTERS

A National Security Agency (NSA) data gathering facility is seen in Bluffdale, about 25 miles (40 km) south of Salt Lake City, Utah, December 16, 2013. Jim Urquhart/

Credit: Reuters

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LONDON (Reuters) - British and U.S. spies targeted a senior European Union official, German government buildings, and the office of an Israeli prime minister, according to the latest leaked documents from Edward Snowden published on Friday.

Other targets from 2008 to 2011 included foreign energy companies and aid organizations, said Britain's Guardian and the New York Times, citing secret documents from former U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Snowden.

Snowden has shone a light on widespread surveillance by the NSA and its British counterpart GCHQ, the alleged extent of which has upset many U.S. allies and fuelled a heated debate about the balance between privacy and security. He is living in Russia under temporary asylum

The newspapers reported that in January 2009 GCHQ and the NSA had targeted an email address listed as belonging to the Israeli prime minister, who at the time was Ehud Olmert. Spies also monitored email traffic between then-Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and his chief of staff, Yoni Koren, the newspapers said.

Other targets were said to include the United Nations Children's Fund, French aid organization M├ędecins du Monde, French oil and gas firm Total, and French defense company Thales Group.

Joaquin Almunia, the European competition commissioner who oversees anti-monopoly investigations and has been involved in a long-running case involving Google, was another to appear in GCHQ documents, although it was not clear who ordered the surveillance.

An NSA spokeswoman said the agency did not use espionage to help U.S. 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 - U.S. companies to enhance their international competitiveness or increase their bottom line," the spokeswoman 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 behavior that we expect from strategic partners, let alone from our own member states."

Germany has been especially angered after it was reported that the NSA had tapped Chancellor Angela Merkel's cellphone.

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.

A spokesman for the German interior ministry said as far as he knew, communication within the government network was secure. He said the ministry was investigating the report.

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 authorized, necessary and proportionate."

(Reporting by Michael Holden in London and Mark Hosenball in Washington; additional reporting by Thorsten Severin in Berlin; Editing by Andrew Osborn and Mark Trevelyan)

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Comments (3)
Lemming wrote:
This passes for earth-shattering news? Almost every country, if not all spies on each-other. Do I agree with it? nope. Can anyone stop it from happening to American citizens? Allies etc.? nope! Even if the jellyfish in our Three Branches of Oligarchy tries to enact laws, committees or any other type of oversight it will still happen anyways. Give it a rest will ya!

Dec 20, 2013 2:16pm EST  --  Report as abuse
WhyMeLord wrote:
My Grandmother told me never do anything I would be ashamed to see reported on in the newspaper. That was years ago, but the principle is still the same; don’t do the crime if you aren’t prepared to do some time. The Bible chides all those without sin to cast the first stone; maybe the GOP/NRA/TEA party coalition could heed that advice.
A solution to all this spying might be broadcasting the surveillance videos directly onto a public TV channel for the whole world to see.
We might all act a little better is the whole world was watching us.

Dec 20, 2013 3:58pm EST  --  Report as abuse
f00 wrote:
Israel spies on its “friends,” i.e., useful idiots, so turnabout’s fair play.

Dec 20, 2013 7:55pm EST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

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