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​Aussie intelligence requested US help to spy on own citizens

Published time: May 13, 2014 08:59
A pedestrian crosses a street on a rainy day in central Sydney (Reuters / Daniel Munoz)

A pedestrian crosses a street on a rainy day in central Sydney (Reuters / Daniel Munoz)

The Australian intelligence agency asked for US help to spy more effectively on Australian citizens suspected of terrorist activities in Indonesia, according to documents published by Glen Greenwald in his book based on Edward Snowden’s leaks.

The extract was published by the British newspaper, The Guardian, as part of a promotion for the book, which is published on Tuesday.

The extract comes from a February-21, 2011 letter from the acting deputy director of the Australian intelligence agency, Defense Signals Directorate (DSD), which has since been renamed the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD).

The letter, which was sent to the NSA, mentioned DSD’s difficulties in obtaining “regular and reliable access” to communication data related to terrorist activities through their own effort.

“We have enjoyed a long and very productive partnership with the NSA in obtaining minimized access to US warranted collection against our highest value terrorist targets in Indonesia,” the letter said. "This access has been critical of DSD’s efforts to disrupt and contain the operational capabilities of terrorists in our region, as highlighted by the recent arrest of fugitive Bali bomber, Umar Patek.”

Patek was an Indonesian member of the terrorist organization, Jemaah Islamiyah. He was arrested in January 2011 for the role he played in the 2002 Bali bombings, which claimed 202 lives, including 88 Australians. Patek was sentenced to 20 years in jail in June 2012.

“We would very much welcome the opportunity to extend that partnership with NSA to cover the increasing number of Australians involved in international extremist activities – in particular Australians involved with AQAP,” the extract said, as cited by the newspaper.

AQAP stands for Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, a branch of the international terrorist network.

Australia is part of the so-called Five Eyes agreement on intelligence sharing together with the US, Canada, the UK and New Zealand. Previous publications based on documents leaked by Snowden showed that DSD offered sharing its the electronic communications metadata of Australian citizens it collected with its Five Eyes partners. It also targeted Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, his ministers, advisers and even his wife, in efforts to monitor their mobile phone communications.

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