Tag Archives: Der Spiegel

German govt accused of lying to parliament about NSA spying

A general view shows an entrance gate in the north part of the compound of the German Federal Intelligence Agency

A general view shows an entrance gate in the north part of the compound of the German Federal Intelligence Agency

Angela Merkel’s government has been accused of lying to the country’s parliament after it was alleged that it knew German spies were conducting economic espionage for the NSA. Revelations show that some spooks were even spying on German companies.

Germany’s interior minister, Thomas de Maiziere, who is a close ally of Chancellor Merkel denied on Wednesday that he had lied to parliament about the German Intelligence Agency (BND) cooperating with the National Security Agency (NSA). He said that the allegations are untrue and he could disprove the claims through documents, which need to remain secret.

Bild newspaper ran a report Wednesday saying that he had been “lying in black and white” with regards to the case; a picture of the minister with Pinnochio’s long nose was used to convey the message.

“I do follow the rules,” Maiziere said in a statement Wednesday. “That’s my understanding about the treatment of top secret information. It is in my own interest to clear these accusations up. They are not true and the documents would show that.”

On April 14, the Interior Ministry had released a statement saying: “We have no knowledge of alleged economic espionage by the NSA or other US agencies in other countries,” in response to a question from the opposition Linke (Left Party).

However, last week it emerged that the NSA had asked Germany’s intelligence agency, the BND, to obtain sensitive records, such as email and IP addresses as well as telephone numbers to help the American agency spy on certain European companies.

Eurocopter, the French government and the defense firm EADS allegedly were among the company’s targets, although German Chancellor Angela Merkel was said to have been left in the dark about the BND’s activities.

The equivalent would have been if Germany had asked the NSA to spy on NASA or Boeing, requesting that no information about the matter be passed Barack Obama, to ensure no damage would be done to the relationship between the two countries.

Several times a day, the BND reportedly downloaded the NSA selectors into their monitoring system and used them to spy on targets. The results were sent to the German agency’s headquarters in Pullach for evaluation, and then, to some extent, to the NSA, Spiegel Online revealed, adding that the NSA sent about 800,000 ‘selectors’ to the BND in total.

Since at least 2008, BND employees felt they were being asked to perform tasks they did not have the authorization to carry out, as they were not covered by the 2002 Memorandum of Agreement between Germany and the US, aimed at combating global terrorism, the magazine said.

It wasn’t until 2013, in the midst of the Edward Snowden revelations, that an investigation into the spying activities took place. The probe revealed that 2,000 of the selectors actually violated German and Western European interests, with many used to spy on politicians.

However, the revelations were not reported to the Chancellor’s Office, according to Zeit Online. Instead, one of the BND’s department chiefs simply asked the NSA to stop making such requests.

Konstantin von Notz, deputy parliamentary leaders of the Greens, told Leipziger Volkszeitung newspaper that he found it “hard to imagine” that the Chancellor’s Office was unaware of the collaboration between the two spy agencies.

“The limit has now been exceeded. The chancellor must explain the situation,” he added.

Left Party leader Gregor Gysi has called the collaboration a “scandal” and demanded an end to “conformism with the US administration,” Deutsche Welle reported

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New NSA leak reveals scope of agency’s war against crypto

The National Security Agency boasts the ability to compromise computer protocols meant to encrypt private internet data, leaked documents have revealed. But the NSA has fallen short of totally winning its war against crypto.

Classified NSA files taken by former contractor Edward Snowden and published for the first time by Der Spiegel on Sunday reveal that, while the United States’ intelligence agency is indeed adept at cracking encryption, its efforts are no match when it comes to some of the more popular protocols used to keep communications private.

The NSA – along with its Five Eyes partners in Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and the UK – spends millions of dollars annually to break encryption standards used to keep the web secure, Spiegel reported over the weekend. Yet while previous files published from the Snowden trove have already exposed to a degree the scope of the NSA’s efforts, the latest installment acknowledges for the first time that protocols including TSL/SSL, SSH, PPTP and Ipsec are exploited in order to give spies an intimate look at internet traffic intended to be kept secret.

Released concurrently with a presentation given at the 31st annual Chaos Communication Congress in Hamburg, Germany by two of the article’s authors, the Spiegel piece explains that the NSA and its allies use a plethora of practices to compromise computer protocols, random number generators, and third-party software advertised as being supposedly secure in an effort to gather intelligence on alleged terrorists.

“Did you know that ubiquitous encryption on the Internet is a major threat to NSA’s ability to prosecute digital-network intelligence (DNI) traffic or defeat adversary malware?” reads an excerpt from one of dozens of classified government documents published by the German paper.

“For the past decade, NSA has lead [sic] an aggressive, multi-pronged effort to break widely used internet encryption technologies,” reads another.

Jacob Appelbaum, a co-author of the Spiegel piece, said during Sunday’s event that the NSA’s efforts could best be understood as being “a kind of neocolonialism” taking place in the digital era, in which the US has invested billions over the last few decades to tackle the tools that allow private communications to occur over the web – but in secret.

“Wherein the colonies, [the] networks they do not have through coercion of the state or through other surveillance practices, they have to be compromised,” said Appelbaum. “And those [become] targets and they become legitimate targets, in theory, and in actuality, because of its usefulness, because of the leverage that it provides against a speculative target someday in the future.”

“That is, these networks become compromised in service of being able to compromise future networks and other people, just because they can. They set out to do that.”

Indeed, past Snowden leaks have revealed that major US-based tech companies – including Skype, Yahoo and Facebook – participate in an NSA program dubbed “PRISM,” in which they allow government intelligence collectors to soak up data transmissions on the fly. One of the just released documents says explicitly that the fact the NSA “obtains cryptographic details of commercial cryptographic information security systems through industry relationships” must be kept top secret.

The latest Spiegel article notes that, with regards to Skype, audio and video data is routinely taken into possession by the NSA when an alleged suspect is on at least one end of the conversation. In instances where companies won’t voluntarily be complicit, however, agencies like the NSA are driven to exploiting those systems – like the PPTP and Ipsec mechanisms used by Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), or TSL/SSL protocol meant to secure web traffic (by whatever means necessary).

That isn’t to say, though, that all is lost. According to the Snowden docs, codebreakers at the NSA may have met their match when it comes to certain software standards, even for the more inexperienced online privacy proponents. The stand-alone anonymity-centric operating system known as TAILS, and one of its major components – Tor – pose major problems when it comes to eavesdropping, the documents reveal, as does the TrueCrypt software that aims to secure files and documents shared among persons or stored in secret on hard drives and OTR – a protocol that offers end-to-end encryption for instant messaging chats.

“For surveillance experts, it becomes very difficult to trace the whereabouts of a person who visits a particular website or to attack a specific person while they are using Tor to surf the Web,” the Spiegel journalists reported. When used in concert with OTR, TAILS, and other options, communications seem close to impossible to crack, the report suggests.

As quoted by Spiegel, the source of the documents, Snowden said more than a year ago that, indeed, encryption used correctly may be the best option available for foiling efforts from the NSA to eavesdrop on digital communications.

“Properly implemented strong crypto systems are one of the few things that you can rely on,” Snowden said in June 2013.

From Merkel to Tymoshenko : NSA spied on 122 world leaders, Snowden docs reveal

The NSA’s data base contains information obtained during the surveillance of over a hundred world leaders, new leaks by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed.

Der Spiegel has looked through a top secret presentation by NSA’s Center for Content Extraction, which is responsible for automated analysis of all types of text data.

According to the document, the leaders of 122 states were among the high-ranked targets of the US intelligence.

However, only 12 names were revealed by the German journalists in the publication as an example.

With the heads of state arranged alphabetically by first name, the list begins with ‘A’ as in Abdullah Badawi, the former Malaysian prime minister.

He’s followed by Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, who appears so high due to being mentioned under his alias, Abu Mazin.

The catalogue of world leaders under surveillance goes on with the heads of Peru, Somalia, Guatemala and Colombia right up to Aleksander Lukashenko of Belarus.

The list is completed by Yulia Tymoshenko at No.122, who used to be Ukrainian prime minister from February-September 2005 and from December 2007 till March 2010.

Merkel appears on the document between former Mali president, Amadou Toumani Toure, and Syrian leader, Bashar Assad.

The document indicates that the German chancellor has been included in the so-called Target Knowledge Database (TKB), which includes “complete profiles” of the individuals under surveillance.

The automated name recognition system, Nymrod, which deals with transcripts of intercepted fax, voice and computer-to-computer communications, has provided around 300 citations for Merkel alone, Der Spiegel wrote.

The authors of the NSA presentation especially stressed the effectiveness of the automated capture, with manual maintenance of high-ranking targets database being “a slow and painstaking process”.

Der Spiegel were also shown a weekly report from the Special Sources Operations (SSO) division, which proves that the NSA had received a court order to spy on Merkel.

According to the paper, FISA, the special court responsible for intelligence agency requests, provided the NSA with authorization to monitor “Germany” on March 7, 2013.

The new Snowden leaks are significant for Germany as they prove that Chancellor Merkel was an official target for surveillance by the US.

The office of German Federal Public Prosecutor, Harald Range, still hasn’t made up its mind over suing the National Security Agency.

The allegations that the NSA monitored Merkel’s mobile phone and conducted mass surveillance on the communications of millions of Germans are currently under review by the prosecutors.

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NSA spied on Chinese govt and telecom giant Huawei – Snowden docs

The US National Security Agency (NSA) has spied on Chinese leaders and businesses, new Snowden docs indicate. Yet it seems that China’s telecom giant, Huawei, was the core target for the NSA campaign in China.

The new portion of revelations from the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, published by Der Spiegel and The New York Times, has exposed the great interest of the US secret service in obtaining data from China.

It has been revealed that America’s NSA has multiple targets in the world’s second largest economy, among them the Chinese Trade Ministry, national banks, leading telecommunications companies and the country’s top officials, like former Chinese President Hu Jintao.

But even against that background, one Chinese company received the special attention of the NSA: it is Huawei Technologies, the world’s second largest network equipment supplier, which employs 150,000 specialists around the world and can boast an impressive $38.6 in annual revenues.

The company produces a large number of electronic products, among which are cutting edge network equipment, such as WLAN routers and fiber optic hardware. For the America’s NSA, which is craving total domination in global cyberspace, full control over these technologies is decisive.

Back in 2012 the Congress called on US firms to stay away from doing business with the Chinese telecom giant snapping at the heels of America’s Cisco Systems Inc., the world’s #1 telecom equipment producer, due to a national security threat the company posed, according to them. Another Chinese telecom giant, the ZTE Corp, was also named as a threat to US security.

The documents dug up by Edward Snowden have exposed that three years prior to the US boycott of Huawei, the NSA launched a major cyber offensive against the company, an operation dubbed ‘Shotgiant’, which involved the FBI and close contacts with the White House intelligence coordinator.

Huawei CEO and founder Ren Zhengfei

The 2010 dated NSA document cited by the New York Times claims that the major goal of the operation was to find proof that Huawei is closely cooperating with cyber warfare units in China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), which expand the PLA’s electronic warfare and SIGNIT (Signals intelligence) capabilities.

The NSA documents do not contain information as to whether proof of Huawei assisting the PLA has been found as a result of the special operation.

The NYT reports that the NSA is constantly tracking over 20 groups of Chinese hackers, more than half of them believed to be PLA and Navy cyber units.

“If we can determine the company’s plans and intentions,” an NSA analyst wrote back in 2010, “we hope that this will lead us back to the plans and intentions of the PRC (People’s Republic of China).”

It has also been revealed that in early 2009 US government hackers succeeded in infiltrating servers of Huawei’s central office in Shenzhen, China’s ‘industrial heart’, and straddled the company’s communications.

The NSA gained access to an unprecedented goldmine of valuable information.

Describing the breach of the Huawei servers, one of the NSA secret internal documents from the collection of Edward Snowden maintained that “We currently have good access and so much data that we don’t know what to do with it.”

The NSA was able to read Huawei’s email archives starting from January 2009, including those of the company’s top executives, CEO Ren Zhengfei and Chairwoman Sun Yafang, reported Germany’s Der Spiegel.

The NSA downloaded documentation on 1,400 major company customers, along with engineering documents on Huawei products, which ended up with the US secret service getting access to the individual source code of any Huawei products.

The breach of the source code meant that the US was able to get easy access to any network using Huawei hardware employing “back doors” in its equipment’s software.

“Many of our targets communicate over Huawei-produced products,” the NSA document said, adding that in order to “gain access to networks of interest” around the world “We want to make sure that we know how to exploit these products,” the document said, specifying that the agency was interested in “high priority targets — Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kenya, Cuba.”

According to the NSA, a potential threat posed by the widespread use of Huawei equipment is so “unique” that “the intelligence community structures are not suited for handling issues that combine economic, counterintelligence, military influence and telecommunications infrastructure from one entity.”

US President Barack Obama (L) is greeted by Chinese President Xi Jinping

The NSA expressed concerns that the Chinese are not only controlling an increasing amount of world data flow, a segment previously dominated by Western companies, but are effectively opening up new technology standards determined by US business, thus making American and Western firms “less relevant”.

Huawei has already issued a statement condemning the US’s activities and double standard policies towards the Chinese company.

“If it is true, the irony is that exactly what they are doing to us is what they have always charged that the Chinese are doing through us,” said William B. Plummer, the Huawei’s vice president of external affairs. “The information presented in Der Spiegel and the New York Times article reaffirms the need for all companies to be vigilant at all times,” he said.

“If such espionage has been truly conducted, then it is known that the company is independent and has no unusual ties to any government and that knowledge should be relayed publicly to put an end to an era of mis- and disinformation,” Plummer said.

“Huawei has declared its willingness to work with governments, industry stakeholders and customers in an open and transparent manner, to jointly address the global challenges of network security and data integrity,” said William B. Plummer, Huawei’s vice president of external affairs, in an email to The Associated Press.

Following the long-ago adopted practice, the NSA has officially refused to comment on specific alleged activities of the agency.

The NSA spokeswoman, Vanee Vines, said the agency only engages “valid foreign intelligence targets in response to intelligence requirements.”

“In addition, we do not use 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,” Vines said in a statement emailed to the AP.

Another NSA spokeswoman, Caitlin Hayden, commented on the issue: “Our intelligence activities are focused on the national security needs of our country.”

The revelations published by Der Spiegel and The New York Times come ahead of the six-day official visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Europe, where he will hold talks with EU leaders who also became victims of the NSA electronic surveillance, in particular German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

On Monday, Xi Jinping will meet with President Barack Obama in The Hague.

Also, the US first lady, Michelle Obama, is currently visiting China. Addressing an audience of college students in Beijing on Saturday, she said that open access to online information is a “universal right.”

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German magazine claims NSA hacking unit uses powerful methods to obtain data

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A German magazine, citing internal documents, claims the NSA’s hacking unit uses James Bond-style spy gear to obtain data, including intercepting computer deliveries and outfitting them with espionage software.

Der Spiegel‘s revelations relate to a division of the NSA known as Tailored Access Operations, or TAO, which is painted as an elite team of hackers specializing in stealing data from the toughest of targets.

Citing the internal documents, the magazine said Sunday that TAO’s mission was “Getting the ungettable,” and quoted an unnamed intelligence official as saying that TAO had gathered “some of the most significant intelligence our country has ever seen.”

“During the middle part of the last decade, the special unit succeeded in gaining access to 258 targets in 89 countries — nearly everywhere in the world,” the report said. “In 2010, it conducted 279 operations worldwide.”

Der Spiegel said TAO had a catalog of high-tech gadgets for particularly hard-to-crack cases, including computer monitor cables specially modified to record what is being typed across the screen, USB sticks secretly fitted with radio transmitters to broadcast stolen data over the airwaves, and fake base stations intended to intercept mobile phone signals on the go.

The NSA doesn’t just rely on the Bond-style spy gear, the magazine said. Some of the attacks described by Der Spiegel exploit weaknesses in the architecture of the Internet to deliver malicious software to specific computers. Others take advantage of weaknesses in hardware or software distributed by some of the world’s leading information technology companies, including Cisco Systems, Inc. and China’s Huawei Technologies Ltd., the magazine reported.

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Der Spiegel cited a 2008 mail order catalog-style list of vulnerabilities that NSA spies could exploit from companies such as Irvine, California-based Western Digital Corp. or Round Rock, Texas-based Dell Inc. The magazine said that suggested the agency was “compromising the technology and products of American companies.”

Old-fashioned methods get a mention too. Der Spiegel said that if the NSA tracked a target ordering a new computer or other electronic accessories, TAO could tap its allies in the FBI and the CIA, intercept the hardware in transit, and take it to a secret workshop where it could be discretely fitted with espionage software before being sent on its way.

Intercepting computer equipment in such a way is among the NSA’s “most productive operations,” and has helped harvest intelligence from around the world, one document cited by Der Spiegel stated.

One of the most striking reported revelations concerned the NSA’s alleged ability to spy on Microsoft Corp.‘s crash reports, familiar to many users of the Windows operating system as the dialogue box which pops up when a game freezes or a Word document dies. The reporting system is intended to help Microsoft engineers improve their products and fix bugs, but Der Spiegel said the NSA was also sifting through the reports to help spies break into machines running Windows. One NSA document cited by the magazine appeared to poke fun at Microsoft’s expense, replacing the software giant’s standard error report message with the words: “This information may be intercepted by a foreign sigint (signals intelligence) system to gather detailed information and better exploit your machine.”

FILE PHOTO  NSA Compiles Massive Database Of Private Phone Calls

Microsoft did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press seeking comment, but the company is one of several U.S. firms that have demanded more transparency from the NSA — and worked to bolster their security — in the wake of the revelations of former intelligence worker Edward Snowden, whose disclosures have ignited an international debate over privacy and surveillance.

Der Spiegel did not explicitly say where its cache NSA documents had come from, although the magazine has previously published a series of stories based on documents leaked by Snowden, and one of Snowden’s key contacts — American documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras — was listed among the article’s six authors.

No one was immediately available at Der Spiegel to clarify to The Associated Press whether Snowden was the source for the latest story.

German magazine claims NSA hacking unit uses powerful methods to obtain data | Fox News.

Latest NSA leaks point finger at high-tech eavesdropping hub in UK

(CNN) — The town of Bude in the southwest of England is best known for its long sandy beaches and picturesque bays. Nowhere on its tourist brochures is a complex of white domes and dishes at Morwenstow mentioned.

After the latest revelations published by the Guardian, New York Times and Der Spiegel, Morwenstow may become a little more familiar.

The site — now officially known as GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) Bude — is at the heart of a global eavesdropping network run by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). It has more than 20 antennae orientated toward global communications satellites over the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, Africa and the Middle East, according to declassified sources.

Based on documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the three newspapers reported Friday that GCHQ Bude is a critical hub in eavesdropping on the communications of government figures, and many others, in Europe and beyond.

Among some 1,000 organizations and individuals whose e-mail or phone numbers appear in the documents: the European Commission, the government of Israel, African heads of state, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the NGO Medecins du Monde.

None of the newspapers published any of the documents they were shown, and the volume of information collected on any particular individual or organization is unclear. The New York Times reported that, “The documents include a few fragmentary transcripts of conversations and messages.”

But one of the many hundreds of phone numbers listed in the documents from 2009 was that of a senior European official, Joaquin Almunia, who is Spanish. At the time — just as Europe’s financial crisis gathered pace — Almunia was the European Union’s economic and monetary affairs commissioner. According to Der Spiegel, he had a “personal identification code in the British target database, with the code name “Broadoak.”

Almunia has since become the competition commissioner, handling antitrust disputes, and has been in a long-running dispute with Google over search-engine practices.

In an apparent reference to the allegations about Almunia, the NSA said in a statement Friday: “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.”

‘This is not the type of behavior that we expect’

According to The New York Times, the French oil company Total and defense contractor Thales also are mentioned in the documents.

The NSA statement concluded: “The U.S. Government is undertaking a review of our activities around the world — looking at, among other issues, how we coordinate with our closest allies and partners.”

The European Commission reacted swiftly to the latest revelations.

A spokeswoman in Brussels said that if proven true, they “are unacceptable and deserve our strongest condemnation. This is not the type of behavior that we expect from strategic partners, let alone from our own Member States,” meaning the UK.

“The Commission will raise these new allegations with US and UK authorities,” she added.

Spanish media also pounced on revelations about Almunia’s communications.

The headline in El Pais translated as: “The US and UK spied on Commissioner Joaquín Almunia’s mobile,” while La Republica also focused on “los servicios secretos británicos” as the perpetrator.

The British government is likely to come under further scrutiny from its European partners over its intelligence gathering activities. UK criticism of the NSA program has been more muted than that of France, Germany or Spain, in part because of the long intelligence partnership between the two countries.

Review: NSA snooping programs should stay in place

According to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron did not join in a vigorous debate at the EU summit in October on the NSA eavesdropping, rather expressing his “silent acquiescence” to a strongly-worded statement in which Britain was indirectly warned that “a lack of trust could prejudice the necessary cooperation in the field of intelligence gathering.”

By then, Der Spiegel had already reported that the documents leaked by Snowden showed that GCHQ had been involved in a cyberattack against Belgium’s state-run telecom company, Belgacom.

The company would only say at the time that “the intruder had massive resources, sophisticated means and a steadfast intent to break into our network.”

GCHQ shares much of the information it collects with the NSA.

More than eyes on the sky?

The Guardian reported earlier this year, again based on documents provided by Snowden, that the NSA had provided some $25 million to update the Bude facility. But it is also likely that the NSA has been and is still be able to gather directly data harvested by GCHQ Bude.

Nicky Hager, an investigative reporter and author of several books on intelligence, told a committee of the European Parliament in 2001 that “communications were screened for keywords entered into the system by the USA using ‘dictionary managers’. The British therefore had no control over the screening process and had no idea what information was collected in Morwenstow, since it was forwarded directly to the USA.”

Der Spiegel reported Friday that GCHQ Bude may do more than gaze into the heavens.

“Important undersea cables land at nearby Widemouth Bay,” it reported. “One of the cables, called TAT-14, begins at German telecommunications company Deutsche Telekom’s undersea cable terminal.”

TAT-14 links terminals in Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK and the United States.

That may explain how so many German telephone numbers appear in one 2009 document provided to the newspapers by Snowden.

“Other documents indicate that the British, at least intermittently, kept tabs on entire country-to-country satellite communication links,” like those between Germany and Turkey, Der Spiegel reported.

Morwenstow has long been part of a global network of stations involved in intercepting satellite communications.

The 2001 European Parliament report concluded: “In Morwenstow….GCHQ, working in cooperation with the NSA and in strict accordance with the latter’s instructions, intercepts civilian communications and passes on the recordings to the USA as raw intelligence material.”

Surveillance program is now Obama’s to own

Latest NSA leaks point finger at high-tech eavesdropping hub in UK – CNN.com.

NSA, ‘Five Eyes’ use Australian embassies to gather intel on Asia — RT News

US intelligence agencies are using Australian embassies throughout Asia to intercept data and gather information across the continent, according to the latest report based on documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Data collection facilities operate out of the embassies in Jakarta, Bangkok, Hanoi, Bejing, and Dili, according to Fairfax media. There are also units in the Australian High Commission in Kuala Lumpur, the most populated city in Malaysia, and Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea.

More intelligence collection occurs at US embassies and consulates, as well as at the diplomatic outposts of other ‘Five Eye’ nations, particularly Britain and Canada. The Defence Signals Directorate, which falls under the Australian Defence Agency, conducts the surveillance missions, and most Australian diplomatic officers are completely unaware of such activity, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

The ‘Five Eyes’ is an alliance for intelligence cooperation that includes the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

The document released by Der Spiegel, codenamed ‘STATEROOM,’ indicates the outfits “are small in size and in number of personnel staffing them…They are covert, and their true mission is not known by the majority of the diplomatic staff at the facility where they are assigned.”

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs refused comment on the story, saying it is against government policy to speak on intelligence activity.

The NSA document viewed by Der Spiegel also proves that the intelligence missions are hidden: “For example antennas are sometimes hidden in false architectural features or roof maintenance sheds.”

The Jakarta unit, in particular, is a hotbed of information. “The huge growth of mobile phone networks has been a great boon and Jakarta’s political elite are a loquacious bunch; even when they think their own intelligence services are listening they just keep talking,” a source said.

The disclosure comes as US President Barack Obama is reportedly considering suspending all surveillance efforts against American allies. He is facing growing pressure from the international community after reports questioned whether the NSA monitored the personal cell phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Another leak this week revealed that the US swept up more than 60 million phone calls from Spain in one month alone. 

European leaders, once reluctant to demonize the surveillance, now openly wonder if the surveillance was ever employed to stop terrorism, as US leaders have maintained all along. German leaders have suggested renegotiating a deal known as the SWIFT pact, which allows the US to track the flow of what it suspects are terrorist finances.

It really isn’t enough to be outraged,” German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schanarrenberger told rbb-Inforadio this week. “This would be a signal that something can happen and make clear to the Americans that the [EU’s] policy is changing.”

Yet intelligence officers speaking to Fairfax Media now say that it is good to stop terrorism and international crime, “but the main focus is political, diplomatic and economic intelligence.”

NSA, ‘Five Eyes’ use Australian embassies to gather intel on Asia — RT News.

US intercepts tens of millions of phone calls in Spain – report — RT News

During a single month last year the US National Security Agency intercepted some 60 million phone calls in Spain, newly leaked documents from Edward Snowden reveal, according to a report to be published in Spanish daily The World.

According to the information, reportedly provided to the publication by the former NSA contractor, in December 2012, the NSA collected data on roughly 60 million phone calls.

The revelation is part of the unraveling scandal over America’s vast spying program. Which was given a new twist last week when an article in Germany’s Der Spiegel revealed that Washington was directly snooping on least 35 world leaders.

The German Chancellor Angela Merkel has reportedly been on the spy-list since 2002. And investigating further, the German media have revealed that Obama was aware of the particular operation since at least 2010 and even ordered the NSA to prepare a comprehensive dossier on Merkel.

The NSA was quick to reject the reports, claiming that a discussion of such an operation never took place. President Obama himself personally assured Merkel he didn’t know anything about the spying on her – and that he would have stopped it if he had.

Although Obama has assured some of the targets of Washington spying that he has ordered a review of the US intelligence gathering operations, a coalition of over 20 countries led by Brazil and Germany are now pushing for a UN resolution condemning the US over “indiscriminate” wiretapping  and “extra-territorial” surveillance, and calling for “independent oversight” of electronic monitoring.

US intercepts tens of millions of phone calls in Spain – report — RT News.

Read : Obama ‘knew and approved’ NSA spying on Chancellor Merkel – report — RT News.

German Chancellor Merkel on NSA spy list since 2002 – reports — RT News

The German Chancellor’s mobile phone has been on an NSA target list since 2002 and was code-named “GE Chancellor Merkel”, according to Der Spiegel. The paper also reports that President Obama assured Merkel that he did not know her phone was tapped.

The monitoring operation was still in force even a few weeks before Obama’s visit to Berlin in June 2013.

In the NSA’s Special Collection Service (SCS) document cited by the magazine, the agency said it had a “not legally registered spying branch” in the US embassy in Berlin. It also warned that its exposure would lead to “grave damage for the relations of the United States to another government”.

Using the spying branch, NSA and CIA staff were tapping communications in Berlin’s government district with high-tech surveillance.

The magazine says that according to a secret document from 2010, such branches existed in about 80 locations around the world, including Paris, Madrid, Rome, Prague, Geneva and Frankfurt.

However, in is unclear, Der Spiegel reports, if the SCS obtained recorded conversations or just connection data.

President Obama, however, told Merkel that he was not aware that her phone was bugged, if he had known, he would have immediately stopped it, Der Spiegel reports as it also disclosed the recent conversation between the two.

The German newspaper cites the Chancellor’s office, which said that during Wednesday call Obama expressed his deep regret and apologized to the Chancellor.

Earlier, Barack Obama assured Merkel that his country was not monitoring her communications, but failed to confirm or deny the tapping took place in the past.

Speaking to her German counterpart, Susan E. Rice, the President’s national security adviser, also insisted that Obama did not know about the monitoring of Merkel’s phone, and said it was not currently happening. However, she also failed to deny it happened in the past.

Angela Merkel called President Obama over the German government‘s suspicions the US could have tapped her mobile phone on Wednesday.

Following the call, US ambassador to Germany Steffen Seibert stated that Merkel had made clear to Obama that if the information proved trued it would be “completely unacceptable” and represent a “grave breach of trust”.

A few days earlier, the US President had to convince his French colleague of the same issues.

The Le Monde newspaper reported earlier this week that the NSA spied on the agency records of millions of phone calls of top French politicians and business people. Later The Guardian revealed citing former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that the leadership of 35 nations was spied on; the list of countries however did not follow.

In response to allegations, Obama promised that the US secret service would revise its methods of working in order to both provide the security of citizens and not to interfere with their privacy.

Germany will send heads of its foreign and domestic intelligence agencies to Washington to hold talks with the White House and the National Security Agency in order to push forward” an investigation into allegations the US spied on its leader.”

“What exactly is going to be regulated, how and in what form it will be negotiated and by whom, I cannot tell you right now,” German government spokesman Georg Streiter told reporters.

German media citing sources close to the intelligence service reported on Saturday that the delegation will include top officials from the German secret service.

Earlier, Germany and France said they want “a no-spy deal” with the US to be signed by the end of the year.

The Foreign Policy reported on Saturday that 21 one countries are now participating in talks over a draft UN General Resolution aimed at holding back US government surveillance.

EU leaders say their relations with the US have been undermined by reports of NSA spying on European leaders and ordinary citizens.

A partnership with America should be built on respect and trust, they said in a joint statement on Friday.

“[The leaders] stressed that intelligence gathering is a vital element in the fight against terrorism,” the BBC cites the statement as reading. “A lack of trust could prejudice the necessary cooperation in the field of intelligence gathering.”

The European Parliament recently voted for the suspension of US access to the global financial database held by a Belgian company because of concerns that the US is snooping on the database for financial gain rather than just to combat terrorism.

However, anti-war activist Richard Becker doubted President Obama did not know the German Chancellor’s phone was bugged.

“These kinds of assertions are comical,” he told RT. “It shows that the US’ relationship with other countries is based on its notion of its “American exceptionalism.There is in fact an American exceptionalism – no other country in the world spies on everybody else and all of the countries and feels free to intervene in all other countries,” he said.

Becker says the spying scandal shows “the nature of the relationships” between the US and other states.

“Even among the allies they are in contention and competition among each other and not to mention the kind of relationship that is carried out against those countries that the US considers its enemies,” he said.

German Chancellor Merkel on NSA spy list since 2002 – reports — RT News.