December 20, 2013 - 22:28 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - 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, according to the Guardian.
The papers show the UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), in collaboration with America's National Security Agency (NSA), was targeting organizations such as the United Nations development program, the UN's children's charity Unicef and Médecins du Monde, a French organization 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 latest disclosures will add to Washington's embarrassment following the heavy criticism of the NSA when it emerged that it had been tapping the mobile telephone of the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, the Guardian says.
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 defense minister, Ehud Barak, and his chief of staff, Yoni Koren.
Britain's targeting of Germany may also prove awkward for the prime minister, David Cameron; in October, he endorsed an EU statement condemning NSA spying on world leaders, including Merkel. They have both been in Brussels, attending an EU summit that concludes on Friday.
The names and details are the latest revelations to come from documents leaked by the whistleblower Edward Snowden and are likely to fuel further concern about the extent of the surveillance being conducted by GCHQ and the NSA.
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".
The new information is published in a joint investigation by the Guardian, the German news magazine Der Spiegel and the New York Times.
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.
Another target was the French defense and logistics giant Thales Group, which is part-owned by the French government.
In all, communications from more than 60 countries were being targeted in this particular operation, with other names listed in the GCHQ documents including Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the current African Union-United Nations joint special representative for Darfur as well as multiple African heads of state.
Nicolas Imboden from the non-profit Ideas centre in Geneva and Solomon Asamoah, deputy head of the Africa Finance Corporation, also appeared on GCHQ's lists.
The documents do not give any insight into why GCHQ deemed them worthy of surveillance, the Guardian says.