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NSA monitored calls of 35 world leaders after US official handed over contacts

October 24, 2013

The National Security Agency monitored the phone conversations of 35 world leaders after being given the numbers by an official in another US government department, according to a classified document provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden. The confidential memo reveals that the NSA encourages senior officials in its “customer” departments, such the White House, State and the Pentagon, to share their “Rolodexes” so the agency can add the phone numbers of leading foreign politicians to their surveillance systems. The document notes that one unnamed US official handed over 200 numbers, including those of the 35 world leaders, none of whom is named. These were immediately “tasked” for monitoring by the NSA. The revelation is set to add to mounting diplomatic tensions between the US and its allies, after the German chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday accused the US of tapping her mobile phone. After Merkel’s allegations became public, White House press secretary Jay Carney issued a statement that said the US “is not monitoring and will not monitor” the German chancellor’s communications. But that failed to quell the row, as officials in Berlin quickly pointed out that the US did not deny monitoring the phone in the past.

The NSA memo obtained by the Guardian suggests that such surveillance was not isolated, as the agency routinely monitors the phone numbers of world leaders – and even asks for the assistance of other US officials to do so. The memo, dated October 2006 and which was issued to staff in the agency’s Signals Intelligence Directorate (SID), was titled “Customers Can Help SID Obtain Targetable Phone Numbers”. It begins by setting out an example of how US officials who mixed with world leaders and politicians could help agency surveillance. “In one recent case,” the memo notes, “a US official provided NSA with 200 phone numbers to 35 world leaders … Despite the fact that the majority is probably available via open source, the PCs [intelligence production centers] have noted 43 previously unknown phone numbers. These numbers plus several others have been tasked.” The document continues by saying the new phone numbers had helped the agency discover still more new contact details to add to their monitoring: “These numbers have provided lead information to other numbers that have subsequently been tasked.” But the memo acknowledges that eavesdropping on the numbers had produced “little reportable intelligence”. In the wake of the Merkel row, the US is facing growing international criticism that any intelligence benefit from spying on friendly governments is far outweighed by the potential diplomatic damage.

Source=The Guardian

MI5, MI6 and GCHQ chiefs to give evidence in public for first time

October 24, 2013

The heads of Britain’s intelligence agencies will give evidence to MPs in public for the first time in their history following revelations about their surveillance capabilities based on leaks by US whistleblower Edward Snowden. Sir Iain Lobban, the director of GCHQ, Andrew Parker, the director general of MI5, and Sir John Sawers, the MI6 chief, will appear together in a session that will be broadcast live on the internet with a short time delay. They will appear before MPs on Thursday 7 November as part of an inquiry by the intelligence and security committee into oversight of the UK spying agencies, following concern about the scale of mass surveillance. It will be the committee’s first open evidence session and the first time the heads of the three agencies have appeared in public together to talk about their work.

The hearing comes after the Guardian published a series of stories based on leaks by Snowden revealing GCHQ has been secretly tapping 200 subsea fibreoptic cables containing Britain’s internet traffic in a programme of mass surveillance called Project Tempora. It was announced after the committee acknowledged public concern “at the suggested extent of the capabilities available to the intelligence agencies and the impact upon people’s privacy as the agencies seek to find the needles in the haystacks that might be crucial to safeguarding national security”.

Source = The Guardian

The Independent

Edward Snowden leaks: President Obama calls François Hollande to discuss claims NSA intercepted 70m French phone calls

October 22, 2013

President François Hollande has blasted President Barack Obama over the phone after it emerged that an American spy agency had intercepted millions of French phone calls and texts, including 70 million in a single month. President Obama made a conciliatory call to President Hollande last night after Le Monde revealed that French politicians and businessmen, as well as terrorists suspects, were the target of a vast monitoring operation by the National Security Agency (NSA). The White House said later that Mr Obama recognised that the revelation – based on documents provided by the American whistleblower Edward Snowden – raises “legitimate questions for our friends and allies.”

The Élysée Palace said that Mr Hollande  had expressed “profound reprobation”. The French president also asked Mr Obama to hand over all records of US electronic espionage in France but he appears not to have received any firm commitments on this point. From 10 December to 8 January this year, the NSA intercepted up to 7 million French calls and texts a day, and 70,300,000 messages in total, according to the internal documents seen by Le Monde. This appears to have been just a random sample of a gargantuan system of American surveillance of supposed friends and allies. The agency’s sophisticated monitoring systems automatically recorded telephone calls to and from certain numbers, including those of senior French political and business figures. Text traffic was “swept” and messages recorded when  key words appeared, according to the Le Monde article co-written by the US journalist Glenn Greenwald, who broke the original NSA revelations by Mr Snowden.

Source = The Independent

New York Times

French Condemn Surveillance by N.S.A.

October 21, 2013

PARIS — The French government castigated the United States on Monday for carrying out extensive electronic eavesdropping within France, the latest diplomatic backlash against the National Security Agency’s wide surveillance net and another example of how disclosures about the program have strained relations — at least temporarily — with even the closest of Washington’s allies.  The Foreign Ministry summoned the American ambassador, Charles H. Rivkin, who met with ministry officials after an article on Monday in Le Monde, the authoritative French newspaper, said that the N.S.A. had scooped up 70 million digital communications inside France in a single month, from Dec. 10, 2012, to Jan. 8, 2013. French officials called the spying “totally unacceptable” and demanded that it cease.

“These kinds of practices between partners are totally unacceptable, and we must be assured that they are no longer being implemented,” Mr. Rivkin was told, according to a ministry spokesman, Alexandre Giorgini. The same language was used late Monday in a statement from President François Hollande describing what he had said in an earlier telephone conversation with President Obama. However, in a discreet signal that some of the French talk may have been aimed at the government’s domestic audience, France did not call this episode a breach of sovereignty, as Brazil did last month after similar revelations. During his call to Mr. Hollande, Mr. Obama assured him that the United States was working to balance the privacy concerns that “all people share” with the “legitimate security concerns” of American citizens, according to a statement from the State Department. The disclosures in France were based on secret documents provided by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor whose decision to leak information about the surveillance programs has set off a global debate on the balance between security and privacy in the digital age.

Source= The New York Times

Huffington Post

Mark Zuckerberg: US ‘Blew It’ Over NSA Spying

September 12, 2013

The US government “blew it” in the row over “spying” on users of social media, Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has said. “It’s the government’s job to protect all of us, and also to protect our freedom and protect the economy, and I think they did a bad job of balancing those things here,” he said at a technology conference in San Francisco. The US government said it was not spying on Americans – but that was not helpful to companies operating around the world, he said.

Source = Huffington Post

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