Snowden's Latest Leak Details G20 Spying

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
June 17 2013 9:55 AM

Snowden's Latest: Brits Tricked G20 Diplomats With Counterfeit Internet Cafes

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Demonstrators from the 'IF campaign' wearing masks depicting G8 leaders protest against tax avoidance during the G8 Summit in Enniskillen, in Northern Ireland, on June 17, 2013

Photo by Bertland Langlois/AFP/Getty Images

Drip, drip, drip. The latest from Edward Snowden via the Guardian (British spellings theirs):

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

Foreign politicians and officials who took part in two G20 summit meetings in London in 2009 had their computers monitored and their phone calls intercepted on the instructions of their British government hosts, according to documents seen by the Guardian. ...
The disclosure raises new questions about the boundaries of surveillance by GCHQ and its American sister organisation, the National Security Agency, whose access to phone records and internet data has been defended as necessary in the fight against terrorism and serious crime. The G20 spying appears to have been organised for the more mundane purpose of securing an advantage in meetings. Named targets include long-standing allies such as South Africa and Turkey.
There have often been rumours of this kind of espionage at international conferences, but it is highly unusual for hard evidence to confirm it and spell out the detail. The evidence is contained in documents – classified as top secret – which were uncovered by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and seen by the Guardian. They reveal that during G20 meetings in April and September 2009 GCHQ used what one document calls "ground-breaking intelligence capabilities" to intercept the communications of visiting delegations.
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According to the report, the Brits went as far as setting up fake Internet cafes to intercept diplomats' emails at a time when world leaders were scrambling to cobble together a deal aimed at addressing the global financial crisis. The British newspaper reports that the Turkish finance minister and as many as 15 other delegates from Turkey were among the main targets of the operation. According to one of the briefing papers seen by the Guardian, the intent of the British spying operation was "to ensure that intelligence relevant to [Her Majesty’s Government’s] desired outcomes for its presidency of the G20 reaches customers at the right time and in a form which allows them to make full use of it."

Several of the documents published by the Guardian contain the NSA logo, suggesting that at least some of the previously secret activities were a team effort between the long-time cross-Atlantic allies. The paper also reports that the NSA kept the British up-to-date on its own eavesdropping attempts on then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's phone calls.

The disclosures come as President Obama and other world leaders gather in Northern Ireland today for the start of the Group of Eight summit.

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