Video: Watch: Michael Brissenden on how leaked documents prove Australia spied on SBY (ABC News)
Photo: The documents show the DSD tracked activity on Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s mobile phone. (Reuters: Supri)
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Australian intelligence tried to listen in to Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s mobile phone, material leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals.
Documents obtained by the ABC and Guardian Australia, from material leaked by the former contractor at the US National Security Agency, show Australian intelligence attempted to listen in to Mr Yudhoyono’s telephone conversations on at least one occasion and tracked activity on his mobile phone for 15 days in August 2009.
Spy games explained
Australia’s role in the NSA spy program, including what it means for Indonesian relations.
The top-secret documents are from Australia’s electronic intelligence agency, the Defence Signals Directorate (now called the Australian Signals Directorate), and show for the first time how far Australian spying on Indonesia has reached.
The DSD motto stamped on the bottom of each page reads: “Reveal their secrets – protect our own.”
The documents show that Australian intelligence actively sought a long-term strategy to continue to monitor the president’s mobile phone activity.
The surveillance targets also included senior figures in his inner circle and even the president’s wife Kristiani Herawati (also known as Ani Yudhoyono).
Also on the list of targets is the vice president Boediono, the former vice president Yussuf Kalla, the foreign affairs spokesman, the security minister, and the information minister.
Mr Yudhoyono’s spokesman Teuku Faizasyah has responded to the revelations, saying: “The Australian Government needs to clarify this news, to avoid further damage … [but] the damage has been done.”
Asked about the spying in Question Time today, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said: “First of all, all governments gather information and all governments know that every other government gathers information… the Australian government never comments on specific intelligence matters. This has been the long tradition of governments of both political persuasions and I don’t intend to change that today.”
Documents list ‘who’s who’ of Indonesian government
One page in the documentation lists the names and the 3G handsets the surveillance targets were using at the time.
A number of the people on the list are lining up as potential candidates for the presidential election to replace Mr Yudhoyono next year.
The documents are titled “3G impact and update” and appear to chart the attempts by Australian intelligence to keep pace with the rollout of 3G technology in Indonesia and across South-East Asia.
A number of intercept options are listed and a recommendation is made to choose one of them and to apply it to a target – in this case the Indonesian leadership.
The document shows how DSD monitored the call activity on Mr Yudhoyono’s Nokia handset for 15 days in August 2009.
One page is titled “Indonesian President voice events” and provides what is called a CDR view. CDR are call data records; it can monitor who is called and who is calling but not necessarily what was said.
Another page shows that on at least one occasion Australian intelligence did attempt to listen in to one of Mr Yudhoyono’s conversations.
But according to the notes on the bottom of the page, the call was less than one minute long and therefore did not last long enough to be successfully tapped.
Factbox: Indonesia and Australia
Indonesia is one of Australia’s most important bilateral relationships.
Indonesia was Australia’s 12th largest trade partner in 2012.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has pledged to increase two-way trade and investment flows.
President Yudhoyono has visited Australia four times during his presidency, more than any predecessor.
Asylum seekers remain a sticking point in relations; Australia seeks active cooperation.
In 2012-13, Australia’s aid assistance to Indonesia was worth an estimated $541.6 million.
Given the diplomatic furore that has already surrounded the claims that the Australian embassy in Jakarta was involved in general spying on Indonesia, these revelations of specific and targetted surveillance activity at the highest level are sure to increase the tension with our nearest and most important neighbour significantly.
On an official visit to Canberra last week, the Indonesian vice president publicly expressed Indonesia’s concern.
“Yes, the public in Indonesia is concerned about this,” Boediono said.
“I think we must look to come to some arrangement that guarantees intelligence information from each side is not used against the other.”
Last week Prime Minister Tony Abbott was keen to play down the significance of the spying allegations, saying that he was very pleased “we have such a close, cooperative and constructive relationship with the Indonesian government”.
That may be a little harder to say today.
By national defence correspondent Michael Brissenden
Updated Mon 18 Nov 2013, 8:11pm AEDT
© 2013 ABC