BERLIN – The European Union was one of the “targets” of Washington’s huge Internet spy program, with bugs hidden in EU offices in Brussels and the United States, German weekly Der Spiegel said in an edition published Sunday.
The magazine said the claims were based on confidential documents it was partly able to consult through U.S. intelligence leaker Edward Snowden, who this month revealed the existence of the PRISM information-gathering program operated by the U.S. National Security Agency.
A document dated September 2010 and classed as “strictly confidential” describes how the secretive NSA kept tabs on the EU’s diplomatic mission in Washington, the magazine said. Microphones were installed in the building and the computer network had been infiltrated, giving the agency access to emails and internal documents.
The EU representation at the United Nations was subject to similar surveillance, Der Spiegel said, adding that the leaked documents explicitly referred to the Europeans as “targets.”
The spying extended to the bloc’s Brussels headquarters, Der Spiegel said, referring to an incident “more than five years ago” when EU security experts discovered telephone and online bugging devices at the Justus Lipsius building.
In 2003, the EU announced it had discovered phone taps in the building targeting the offices of several countries, including Germany, Britain and France, but it was not immediately clear if Der Spiegel was referring to that case.
In reactions published on the magazine’s website, European Parliament chief Martin Schulz said more information was needed but if the spying allegations proved correct, “it’s a huge scandal” that “would be a big strain on the relations between the EU and the U.S.”
Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said U.S. spying was “out of control,” adding, “The U.S. would do better to monitor its intelligence services instead of its allies.”
The European bloc earlier demanded swift answers from Washington about the PRISM program, warning of “grave adverse consequences” for the rights of EU citizens.
Appeal to Ecuador
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has asked Ecuador to turn down an asylum request from National Security Agency whistle-blower Edward Snowden, Ecuador’s president said Saturday.
Rafael Correa, in a weekly television address, offered little sympathy for the Obama administration’s view that Snowden is a criminal who should be swiftly returned to the U.S. At the same time, he vowed to seek American input on any asylum request and suggested Snowden will have to answer for his actions.