Spanish authorities demand explanation after Snowdon documents reveal yet another mass surveillance operation
The US National Security Agency (NSA) collected information on around 60 million phone calls made in Spain during a period of one month, according to the latest classified information disclosed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
According to Spanish newspaper El Pais, the NSA collected information about 60 million calls in Spain between 10 December 2012 and 8 January 2013. Emails and texts were also monitored. It is not clear what technology the agency used to retrieve this data, but the information included just the metadata – the time, duration, numbers and locations of the caller and the recipient.
The Spanish National Intelligence Center (CNI) had previously acknowledged that the NSA was conducting mass surveillance operations in the country; however the true extent of these operations was unknown. In Spain, surveillance without legal justification is a criminal offence.
Crisis of trust
Spanish President Mariano Rajoy has summoned the US ambassador in Madrid, James Costs, to explain the reason behind US spying on its allies. The US ambassador in Paris, Charles Rivkin, was summoned by the French government last week after it emerged that the NSA has stored information about more than 70 million phone calls made in France between 10 December 2012 and 8 January 2013.
So far, there has been no official comment from the White House.
The alleged revelations are likely to increase concern in Europe about the NSA’s activities, with a delegation from the EU parliament due to discuss the citizens’ right to privacy with representatives of the US Congress.
Last week, the European parliament voted in favour of suspending a transatlantic bank data sharing agreement, after it emerged that the NSA was monitoring international bank transfers and credit card transactions, including those managed by Visa.
Meanwhile, the Kyodo news agency revealed that in 2011 the NSA asked the Japanese government to help it monitor fibre optic cables carrying data through Japan, across the Asia-Pacific region and into China. Japanese authorities refused, citing legal restrictions and a shortage of personnel.
The Guardian has also claimed the NSA has monitored the phones of at least 35 world leaders, adding contact details collected by various government departments to its surveillance database. However, in the memo published by the newspaper, the agency acknowledged that this monitoring produced “little reportable intelligence”.
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