News Column

U.K. Spied on G20 Emails, Phone Calls

June 17, 2013

Britain spied on Group of 20 delegates' emails and phone calls at London summit meetings, The Guardian reports as Britain hosts a Group of Eight summit Monday.

Some delegates were tricked into using Internet cafes specifically set up by British intelligence agencies to read delegates' email traffic, the newspaper said in its Monday editions, basing its report on a review of top-secret documents stolen by U.S. rogue ex-contractor Edward Snowden.

The alleged spying took place during a world leaders summit meeting April 2, 2009, and at a finance ministers meeting the following September shortly before a Sept. 25 Pittsburgh G20 meeting hosted by President Barack Obama.

The April heads of state and government meeting was hosted by Gordon Brown, Britain's prime minister at the time.

The alleged spying was approved at a senior level of Brown's Labor Party government, The Guardian said.

The London and Pittsburgh summits focused on the fast-growing global financial crisis and came five months after a Washington G20 world leaders summit on the crisis, also hosted by Obama, Nov. 14-15, 2008.

The documents The Guardian cited indicated that during the two London meetings, Britain's Government Communications Headquarters intelligence agency used what one document called "groundbreaking intelligence capabilities" to intercept visiting delegations' communications.

GCHQ is the counterpart of the U.S. National Security Agency, whose cellphone and Internet data sweeps were leaked by Snowden to The Guardian and The Washington Post and published starting 11 days ago.

The latest surveillance The Guardian reported included British surveillance agencies:

-- Setting up Internet cafes where agents from GCHQ, the Secret Intelligence Service, commonly known as MI6, and others used email-interception and password-logging software to spy on delegates' computer use.

-- Penetrating delegates' BlackBerry smartphone security to monitor their emails and phone calls.

-- Giving live, round-the-clock summaries of who at the summit was phoning who to 45 intelligence analysts.

-- Targeting Turkish Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek, who has both British and Turkish citizenship, and possibly 15 others in Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party. The party is currently the subject of anti-government protests in Istanbul and other parts of Turkey.

-- Receiving reports from an NSA attempt to eavesdrop on Dmitry Medvedev, Russia's president then, as his phone calls passed through Moscow satellite links. Vladimir Putin, Russia's current president, is at the G8 summit in Northern Ireland beginning Monday. That meeting is hosted by British Prime Minister David Cameron.

The April intelligence information was intended to make sure Brown's "desired outcomes" of the leaders summit reached British ministers and other "customers at the right time and in a form which allows them to make full use of it," a document cited by the newspaper says.

The September spying on G20 finance ministers included an objective "to establish Turkey's position on agreements from the April London summit" and its "willingness (or not) to cooperate with the rest of the G20 nations," a document cited by the newspaper says.

During that meeting, intelligence agencies used a new surveillance technique to provide live reports of all delegate phone calls and to display all calls on a graphic that was projected onto a 50-square-foot video wall at GCHQ's operations center. The Guardian said. The information was also sent to the computers of 45 specialist analysts monitoring the delegates, the newspaper said.

"For the first time, analysts had a live picture of who was talking to who that updated constantly and automatically," an internal review quoted by the newspaper said.

London, Washington, Moscow, Ankara and Pretoria had no immediate comment on the report.

One of the results of the London and Pittsburgh summits was that the countries agreed the G20 would become the new permanent council for international economic cooperation, replacing the G8, which would now focus on security issues.




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Source: Copyright UPI 2013


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