The US has been spying on dozens of foreign embassies and missions belonging to its rivals and allies in America to keep tabs on disagreements between them, new documents leaked by Edward Snowden revealed.
Elaborate means were used to install bugs and gather intelligence.
One document mentioned in the Guardian report on the leaks lists 38 foreign embassies and mission in US and describes them as “targets” under surveillance.
Targets in the September 2010 document included not only US rivals, but also American allies, such as EU mission in New York and its embassy in Washington, along with the French, Italian and Greek embassies, as well as Japan, Mexico, South Korea, India, Turkey and Middle Eastern countries. But the UK and Germany, along with some other European states were not mentioned.
US intelligence used a number of creative spying techniques, including bugging electronic communications equipment and tapping into cables to collect transmissions with specialized antennae.
One of the eavesdropping methods was codenamed “Dropmire” and involved putting a bug in an encrypted fax machine used at the EU embassy in Washington, DC, the Guardian quoted a 2007 document as saying. The fax machine was used to send cables to foreign affairs ministries in EU.
The US spied in order to gain insight into policy disagreements on global issues and other splits between member states, the leaked document revealed.
US spy operations on dozens of foreign embassies and mission in US had a range of creative codenames.
An operation carried out in the EU mission at the UN and was
called ‘Perdido’. It collected intelligence through implants or
bugs that were placed inside electronic devices, along with
targeted computers inside the mission copying everything saved on
its hard drives.
The EU delegation on K Street in Washington was hit with three spy operations that targeted the embassy's 90 staff. Two of them used electronic implants and the third used antennas to collect transmissions.
Codename ‘Blackfoot’ was used in an operation against the French mission to the UN and the name ‘Wabash’ referred to bugging the French embassy in Washington.
The Italian embassy in Washington was also targeted and codenamed as both ‘Bruneau’ and ‘Hemlock’.
Spying on the Greek UN mission was named ‘Powell’ and the operation against its embassy was known as ‘Klondyke’, documents revealed.
The operations are described as "close access domestic collection" and it remains unclear whether NSA solely carried its operations or in combination with FBI or CIA.
The new leak comes as European nations are already angry by what Snowden has revealed.
France and Germany have demanded the US account for leaked reports of massive-scale US spying on the EU. French President Francois Hollande called for an end to surveillance, while Germany said such “Cold War-style behavior” was “unacceptable.”
German publication Der Spiegel reported on Sunday that the US National Security Agency (NSA) had bugged EU offices in Brussels, New York and Washington.
Following the release of the report, the president of the EU parliament demanded an explanation from Washington, stressing that if the allegations were true there would be a significant backlash on US-EU relations.
Edward Snowden, a former CIA employee and ex-staff member of a private contractor working for the NSA, disclosed secret documents revealing US surveillance programs and British secret Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) sharing its intelligence with NSA, as part of the Tempora data collection project.
Snowden left the US for Hong Kong in May and currently remains in the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport while Ecuador reviews his asylum request.
The US has charged Snowden with espionage and is trying to extradite him.