The latest installment of the ongoing slow release of the whistleblower Edward Snowden's cache of 1.7 million stolen NSA documents has revealed over 1,000 targets of the NSA's and GCHQ's international spying efforts between 2008 and 2011. The targets include high-ranking officials in allied nations, economic regulatory bodies, humanitarian aid agencies, and -- seemingly as an afterthought -- individuals being watched for hypothesized ties to terrorism. These particular documents were reported Friday by the American newspaper New York Times, Britain's the Guardian and Germany's Der Spiegel.
The GCHQ, or Government Communications Headquarters, is Britain's information spying agency. The documents released Friday often made little distinction as to which agency -- the NSA or GCHQ -- was doing the targeting. The documents listed off not only the targets but sometimes the content of the captured communications, which included voice calls, text messages and emails.
Much of the surveillance referred to in the documents was carried out at the GCHQ's "Bude" campus in Cornwall, England. There, agents from the GCHQ and possibly the NSA cooperatively monitored primarily satellite-based communications between a wide diversity of individuals. The agents focused on tapping data links that were detected as being in use by a plurality of predetermined target individuals. Whether this implies mass data collection and subsequent sifting for targets is unknown at this time.
Some of the notable targets included:
- Israeli then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his staff
- European Commission Vice President Joaquín Almunia, who was responsible for overseeing antitrust measures against American tech giants like Microsoft, Intel and Google
- Various French entities: the oil and gas company Total; the electronics, logistics and transport firm Thales; and a French ambassador
- A "Skype security team" in Estonia
- The German embassy in Rwanda
- Aid agencies Unicef in Geneva, the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, and Médecins du Monde (similar to Doctors Without Borders)
Actual terrorism ties were also investigated through the monitoring described in these latest reports of the Snowden documents, but only in a minority of cases. An "Israeli grey arms dealer" and the "Taleban ministry of refugee affairs" are mentioned, as are some targets in Beijing, China. Those entities were listed in the documents as possibly linked to Al Qaeda and/or jihadists.
SOURCE: New York Times