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Russia among countries atop NSA surveillance priority list

Published time: August 11, 2013 09:55
Edited time: August 11, 2013 15:13
The Russian Government House on Moscow's Krasnopresnenskaya Embankment. (RIA Novosti/Sergey Subbotin)

The Russian Government House on Moscow's Krasnopresnenskaya Embankment. (RIA Novosti/Sergey Subbotin)

Russia, alongside the EU, China and Iran, are on top of the NSA’s spying priority list, according to a document leaked by fugitive Edward Snowden and published by Der Spiegel weekly.

In the classified document, dated April 2013, countries are assigned levels of interest for NSA surveillance from 1 (the highest) to 5 (the lowest).

Among the top surveillance targets are China, Russia, Iran, Pakistan, North Korea and Afghanistan. The EU, as a whole is also ranking high, though individually its 28 member-states are of lesser importance to the US intelligence, with Germany and France representing mid-level interest, while countries like Finland, Croatia and Denmark are denoted as almost irrelevant in data gathering.

Specification is also provided on what areas of interest are to be mostly looked at in different countries. Der Spiegel, which published the leaked document on Saturday, focuses on which German issues interested US spying agency the most. 

The new National Security Agency (NSA) Utah Data Center facility is seen under construction in Bluffdale, about 25 miles (40 km) south of Salt Lake City, Utah in this NSA file photo shot in May of 2013 and released to Reuters July 9, 2013. (Reuters/National Security Agency/Handout via Reuters)

The top ranking areas marked with a ‘3’ are the country’s foreign policy and economic issues. Arms exports, new technology, advanced conventional weapons and international trade were all assigned a lesser priority of ‘4’. When it comes to the whole of the European Union, the spheres of interest are almost identical.  

This most recent leak is complementary to the earlier ones, stating that EU offices in Brussels, Washington and New York were under NSA surveillance and that Germany was the most spied upon of all EU countries.

Chancellor Merkel has been criticized for the lack of response to the leaks, suggesting that Germany was not only spied on extensively, but actually cooperated with the NSA in its surveillance programs.

Merkel first denied all knowledge of the NSA spying, but soon afterwards turned to justifying the US, saying “intelligence was essential for democracies”.

Germans are seemingly not convinced by this type of reasoning, as Snowden’s revelations have sparked massive rallies across the country.