The US National Security Agency (NSA) has allegedly monitored 60 million phone calls in Spain in just one month.
The reports, stemming from Spanish newspaper El Mundo, claim that documents provided by former NSA contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden have revealed that the NSA collected the metadata – the numbers and locations of the calls – but not the content of the calls, between December 2012 and January this year.
How the NSA managed to get the information is not disclosed in the graphic that the Spanish newspaper has published.
Other documents that have been released by Snowden over the past few months have shown that the NSA has tapped into fibre-optic cables as a means of getting hold of the data it wants.
In addition, its British equivalent, GCHQ, has also colluded in the NSA’s mass-surveillance with its Tempora programme. GCHQ, according to the Snowden documents, has built a system to scoop up as much internet and telephone traffic as possible by tapping into fibre-optic cables that run across UK territory. It then passes on the details of what it has found to the NSA.
And it is not only transatlantic fibre-optic cables that the NSA has sought to tap into, according to Japanese news agency Kyodo. It claims that the NSA asked the Japenese government in 2011 to allow it to tap into fibre-optic cables that carry citizens’ data through Japan to the Asia-Pacific region.
The Japan Times said that this was a way for the US to spy on China, but that Japan refused to allow it to do so because of a lack of legal framework and personnel.
Sources told the newspaper that the Japanese government said that as there were only a small proportion of public sector employees working within the intelligence department in Japan, the kind of large-scale operation proposed by the US would need the help of the private sector.
China and Spain are not the only countries that have been the target of US and UK electronic spying, with Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone also thought to have been under surveillance by the NSA.
Reports from German news magazine Der Spiegel claim that the surveillance of her phone began in 2002, prior to her election as Chancellor, and that the monitoring only ended this summer – before President Obama visited Berlin.
German newspaper Bild am Sonntag has since claimed that President Obama was personally notified about the surveillance operation involving Merkel’s phone.
However, an NSA spokesperson responded by stating that NSA chief Keith Alexander “did not discuss with President Obama in 2010 an alleged foreign intelligence operation involving German Chancellor Merkel, nor has he ever discussed alleged operations involving Chancellor Merkel.
News reports claiming otherwise are not true”.
Merkel has reportedly made a personal phone call to President Obama, who is thought to have apologised and emphasised that he was unaware of the operation.
Der Spiegel reported that the NSA had set up a surveillance operation in Berlin’s American embassy. It is here where Chancellor Merkel’s mobile phone calls were monitored, as well as other communications within the German government’s quarter, the newspaper said.
It added that the NSA had similar operations in 80 other locations worldwide, including Paris, Madrid and Rome.
Germany and Brazil are now leading a campaign at the United Nations to protect the right to privacy on the internet.
Snowden’s documents had revealed that the NSA had spied on the president of Brazil, as well as Brazilian oil firm Petroleo Brasileiro SA (Petrobras).
At SAP’s Innovation Tour in Brazil in September, Marcel Kaskus, Petrobras’ IT software solutions general manager, said that the revelations did not just affect Petrobras, but “affected the whole country”, and that the issue goes beyond the firm’s IT infrastructure, as “it’s not a technical issue, but a political one”.