Another day, another blockbuster Snowden-based revelation.
From previous revelations, we knew that the NSA and Britain’s GCHQ have been vacuuming up and storing people’s information pretty indiscriminately. But today brings new revelations from the Edward Snowden documents reveal the stunning extent of targeted spying on people and organizations., including such organizations as the well-known United Nations children’s charity.
British and American intelligence agencies had a comprehensive list of surveillance targets that included the EU’s competition commissioner, German government buildings in Berlin and overseas, and the heads of institutions that provide humanitarian and financial help to Africa, top secret documents reveal.
The papers show GCHQ, in collaboration with America’s National Security Agency (NSA), was targeting organisations such as the United Nations development programme, the UN’s children’s charity Unicef and Médecins du Monde, a French organisation that provides doctors and medical volunteers to conflict zones. The head of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) also appears in the documents, along with text messages he sent to colleagues.
The disclosures reflect the breadth of targets sought by the agencies, which goes far beyond the desire to intercept the communications of potential terrorists and criminals, or diplomats and officials from hostile countries. Asked about this activity, a spokesman for GCHQ said it was “longstanding policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters”, but the official insisted the agency “takes its obligations under the law very seriously”.
However, Leigh Daynes, an executive director of Médecins du Monde in the UK, said he was “shocked and surprised by these appalling allegations of secret surveillance on our humanitarian operations”.
The prominent names that appear in the GCHQ documents include Joaquín Almunia, who is vice-president of the European commission with responsibility for competition policy.
The Spaniard is in charge of major anti-monopoly investigations, and approving mergers of companies with significant presence in the EU.
Almunia has been involved in a long-running investigation into Google over complaints about the company’s alleged stranglehold on online advertising; he has also clashed with Google and Microsoft over privacy concerns, and was prominent in the EU’s response to the global financial crisis.
I wonder how Israel and its lobby in the US will react to one of the new revelations.
One GCHQ document, drafted in January 2009, makes clear the agencies were targeting an email address listed as belonging to another key American ally – the “Israeli prime minister”. Ehud Olmert was in office at the time. Three other Israeli targets appeared on GCHQ documents, including another email address understood to have been used to send messages between the then Israeli defence minister, Ehud Barak, and his chief of staff, Yoni Koren.
It looks like everyone is a terrorist in the eyes of the NSA and GCHQ. Who knew that UNICEF harbored terrorist sympathies? UNICEF is a charity that I have given to for many years, so it looks like I could be hauled up on the charge of ‘materially supporting’ a terrorist organization.
The NSA and the GCHQ and their patrons president Obama and prime minister David Cameron must be wondering when this steady release of damaging revelations that show them to be liars will end. From what I read, what has been released is just a small fraction of the total number of documents that Snowden took with him.