Australia accused of using embassies to spy on neighbours

Documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden contain details of surveillance collection programme across Asia

Australia’s embassies are part of a US-led global spying network and are being used to intercept calls and data across Asia, it has been claimed.

There are surveillance collection facilities at embassies in Jakarta, Bangkok, Hanoi, Beijing and Dili, and high commissions in Kuala Lumpur and Port Moresby, Fairfax Media reports, with diplomats unaware of them.

Some of the details are in a secret US National Security Agency (NSA) document leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden and published by Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine.

The document reveals the existence of a signals intelligence collection program – codenamed STATEROOM – conducted from sites at US embassies and consulates and from the diplomatic missions of intelligence partners including Australia, Britain and Canada.

The document says the Australian Defence Signals Directorate operates STATEROOM facilities “at Australian diplomatic facilities”.

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

A former Australian Defence Intelligence officer told Fairfax the directorate conducted surveillance operations from Australian embassies across Asia and the Pacific.

The Department of Foreign Affairs would not comment on “intelligence matters”, Fairfax said.

The US has been embarrassed by media leaks from Snowden that the NSA listened in on the communications of dozens of foreign leaders, including the German chancellor, Angela Merkel.

Australian Associated Press, Wednesday 30 October 2013 22.30 GMT

Find this story at 30 October 2013

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