SYDNEY, Oct 31 — The Sydney Morning Herald today reported that Australia’s electronic spy agency is using Ausytralia’s embassies in several Asian countries to intercept phone calls and internet data, according to new information disclosed by intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden and a former Australian intelligence officer.
Furthermore, SMH reports that the clandestine surveillance facilities at embassies were carried out without the knowledge of most Australian diplomats.
SMH’s revelations come as the US has been left red-faced by news it has been eavesdropping on foreign leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“Australia’s Jakarta embassy was the location of the first overseas station of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service. The unpublished diaries of one senior Australian diplomat show Australian Defence Signals Bureau, now the Defence Signals Directorate, routinely read Indonesia’s diplomatic cables from the mid-1950s onward,” said Philip Dorling, the National Affairs and Defence Correspondent for The Canberra Times.
Australian Greens leader Christine Milne yesterday called for the Australian government to review our regional intelligence collection.
She told SMH that Australia can’t tell our neighbours we are friends while being “right up to our necks” spying with the United States.
“Time will tell whether there will be any diplomatic backlash to the revelation that Australia is operating surveillance posts in our embassies.
The Australian government will do all in its power to avoid comment and controversy. There may be some political rumblings in Indonesia or Malaysia, but there will be strong inclinations to continue business as usual,” she was quoted by the SMH.
It was reported earlier that a map originally published by Germany magazine Der Spiegel today, and sighted by Australian dailies SMH and its Fairfax Media sister publication The Age, showed 90 electronic surveillance facilities worldwide, including in US embassies in Jakarta, Bangkok, Phnom Penh, and Yangon.
Dated August 13, 2010, the map however did not show any such facilities in Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Britain, and Japan, which are the US’ closest allies.
Datuk Ismail Sabri Yaakob has criticised the United States for using its KL embassy to run a monitoring station to tap telephones and monitor communications networks, describing it as “immoral” and called for protest should the allegation be true.
He said although the Cabinet will have the last say, the rural and aggro-based industries minister said Putrajaya should immediately send a protest note to Washington if the accusations are verified.
“I don’t know about the spying activities done by any country towards our country but US spying on other countries, I think the US has already received complaints from Germany.
“They have to stop [using KL as a monitoring station] in fact spying on other country is something that is immoral,” he told The Malay Mail Online.
Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had urged Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak today to lodge a protest against the United States for using its KL embassy to run a monitoring station to tap telephones and monitor communications networks.
“People are disgusted with the way that the intelligence apparatus are being used to spy ... latest of course in Spain,” the Opposition leader told The Malay Mail Online.
“I think the Malaysian intelligence, in particular the prime minister, should not be seen to be so submissive and not prepared to say anything.
“They must lodge a protest, there is no reason for any country, foreign country, whether it’s United States or any other country to be involved in any internal espionage in any country.”
In August, Australian intelligence sources had confirmed that top secret intelligence tool XKeyscore — which was revealed by on-the-run Snowden — has been used to spy on Malaysia among other Asia-Pacific countries.
The admission followed a leaked slideshow published by the UK’s daily The Guardian revealing in detail the US National Security Agency (NSA) program, which the newspaper claimed collects “nearly everything a user does on the Internet”.
The top secret slideshow made in 2008 revealed that the Xkeyscore program allows analysts to search through extensive database of emails, search queries, social media, online chats, and browsing histories of millions of people with no need for prior authorisation.
US President Barack Obama is said to be on the verge of ordering a halt to spying on the heads of allied governments following the international outcry.
At the time of writing, The Malay Mail Online could not reach the US Embassy for comments.