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  • Australia Said to Play Part in N.S.A. Effort

    BEIJING — Australia, a close ally of the United States, has used its embassies in Asia to collect intelligence as part of the National Security Agency’s global surveillance efforts, according to a document leaked by the former agency contractor Edward J. Snowden and published this week in the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel.

    The Chinese Foreign Ministry reacted angrily on Thursday to the assertions in the document, which also said that the American Embassy in Beijing and consulates in Shanghai and Chengdu operated special intelligence gathering facilities, and it demanded an explanation from the United States.

    “We demand that foreign entities and personnel in China strictly abide by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and other international treaties, and they must not, in any form, engage in activities that are incompatible with their position and status and that are harmful to China’s national security and interest,” Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for the ministry, said at a daily briefing for reporters.

    Australia is one of the so-called Five Eyes countries that share highly classified intelligence and agree not to spy on one another; the other four are the United States, Britain, Canada and New Zealand.

    The report by Der Spiegel and a report in The Sydney Morning Herald said that the intelligence collection program was conducted from Australian Embassies in China, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and East Timor, and the country’s high commissions — the equivalent of embassies among Commonwealth countries — in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

    The N.S.A. program was called Stateroom, and was operated by the Australian Defense Signals Directorate, Der Spiegel quoted the N.S.A. document as saying.

    A former Australian official with knowledge of Australia’s relationship with the United States said that Australia took part in the intelligence gathering to further its own national interests as well as to contribute to its alliance with Washington. The Australian intelligence operations had been going on in various forms for 20 to 30 years, the former official said.

    Australia has long felt a need to gather information in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, which lies just to the north of Australia, the former official said. The country’s volatile politics and security problems were of the highest priority to Australia for many years, and more recently the rise in the smuggling of people to Australia from there had increased the need, the former official said.

    “This was done not as a favor to the United States,” said the former official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the matter. “It was more cooperative than at the U.S.’s request.”

    Describing the surveillance operations at the Australian facilities, the N.S.A. document quoted by Der Spiegel said they were “small in size and in number of personnel staffing them.” The document added, “They are covert, and their true mission is not known by the majority of the diplomatic staff at the facility where they are assigned.”

    An email to the Australian agency assigned to answer questions about the program, the Attorney General’s Department in Canberra, was not immediately answered.

    The reports were an embarrassment to the new conservative government in Australia, especially regarding the Australian Embassy in Beijing. The buoyant Australian economy depends on China’s appetite for Australian iron ore, and Prime Minister Tony Abbott said this month that he wanted to complete a free-trade agreement with China within a year.

    The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Ms. Hua, alluded to the relationship in her comments on Thursday. China and Australia had a consensus to increase cooperation, she said, and “we hope and expect that Australia can work hard with China in this regard.”

    The New York Times
    October 31, 2013

    Find this story at 31 October 2013

    © 2013 The New York Times Company

    Revealed: How Australia spies on its neighbours

    Australia’s electronic spy agency is using the nation’s embassies to intercept phone calls and internet data in neighbouring countries, according to new information disclosed by intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden and a former Australian intelligence officer.

    The secret Defence Signals Directorate operates clandestine surveillance facilities at embassies without the knowledge of most Australian diplomats.

    Fairfax Media has been told that signals intelligence collection occurs from Australian embassies in Jakarta, Bangkok, Hanoi, Beijing and Dili, the high commissions in Kuala Lumpur and Port Moresby and other diplomatic posts.

    A secret US National Security Agency document leaked by Mr Snowden and published by Germany’s Der Speigel magazine reveals a highly sensitive signals intelligence collection program conducted from US embassies and consulates and from the diplomatic missions of other “Five Eyes” intelligence partners, including Australia, Britain and Canada.

    Codenamed STATEROOM, the collection program involves interception of radio, telecommunications and internet traffic.

    The document says the DSD operates STATEROOM facilities at Australian diplomatic posts. It says the surveillance facilities are “small in size and in number of personnel staffing them”.

    “They are covert, and their true mission is not known by the majority of the diplomatic staff at the facility where they are assigned,” it says.

    The document says the DSD facilities are carefully concealed. “For example, antennas are sometimes hidden in false architectural features or roof maintenance sheds.”

    The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade declined to comment on the potential diplomatic implications of the disclosure. A spokesperson said: “It is the long-standing practice of Australian governments not to comment on intelligence matters.”

    The leaked NSA document does not identify the location of the DSD facilities overseas. However, a former Australian defence intelligence officer told Fairfax Media that the directorate conducted surveillance from Australian embassies across Asia and the Pacific.

    In June, the East Timorese government complained publicly about Australian spying, including communications interception and the bugging of government offices during negotiations on the Timor Gap oil and gas reserves.

    The former intelligence officer said the interception facility at the Australian embassy in Jakarta played an important role in collecting intelligence on terrorist threats and people smuggling, “but the main focus is political, diplomatic and economic intelligence”.

    “The huge growth of mobile phone networks has been a great boon and Jakarta’s political elite are a loquacious bunch. Even when they think their own intelligence services are listening they just keep talking,” he said.

    He said the Australian consulate in Denpasar, Bali, had also been used for intelligence collection.

    Intelligence expert Des Ball said the DSD had long co-operated with the US in monitoring the Asia-Pacific region, including using listening posts in Australian embassies and consulates.

    “Knowing what our neighbours are really thinking is important for all sorts of diplomatic and trade negotiations,” Professor Ball told Fairfax Media.

    “It’s also necessary to map the whole of the telecommunications infrastructure in any area where we might one day have to conduct military operations so that we can make most use of our cyber warfare capabilities, however remote those contingencies might be, because you can’t get that knowledge and build those capabilities once a conflict starts.”

    Meanwhile, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa has demanded an explanation of news that the US embassy in Jakarta has been used to tap the phones of Indonesian officials.

    “Indonesia cannot accept and strongly protests the news about the existence of tapping facilities at the US embassy in Jakarta,” Mr Natalegawa said.

    ”We have spoken to the US embassy representative in Jakarta demanding an official explanation from the US government about the news. If it’s confirmed, then it’s not only a breach of security, but a serious breach of diplomatic norms and ethics, and of course it’s not in line with the spirit of having a good relationship between the two countries.”

    The Age
    Date: October 31 2013
    Philip Dorling

    Find this story at 31 October 2013

    Copyright © 2013
    Fairfax Media

    Malaysia protests at ‘US and Australia spying’ in Asia

    Malaysia has protested at the alleged spying, saying “such activities are not done among close friends”
    Continue reading the main story

    The Malaysian government has summoned the heads of the US and Australian diplomatic missions in Kuala Lumpur over a row about an alleged American-led spying network in Asia.

    The Malaysian foreign ministry said the reports of spying could “severely damage” relations.

    It said a protest note was handed over.

    China and Indonesia have already protested at the claims that Australian embassies were being used to monitor phones and collect data for the US.

    Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said “such activities are not done amongst close friends”.

    Mr Anifah said his Australian counterpart, Julie Bishop, replied that it was not her government’s policy to comment on intelligence matters, but she accepted Malaysia’s concerns.

    The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) has reported that Australian diplomatic posts in Asia were being used to intercept phone calls and data.

    The reports were based on a US National Security Agency document leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

    Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has declined to comment on the reports.

    Prime Minister Tony Abbott said: “Every Australian governmental agency, every Australian official… operates in accordance with the law.”

    Find this story at 2 November 2013

    BBC © 2013 The BBC

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