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3 Nov, 2013 11:20

Australia and US spied on Indonesia during UN summit - report

Australia and US spied on Indonesia during UN summit - report

Australia and the US worked side by side on a large-scale joint surveillance operation on Indonesia, during the 2007 UN climate change conference in Bali, a new report from the NSA leaker, Edward Snowden, has revealed.

In 2007, Australia's newly elected prime minister, Kevin Rudd, attended the summit in Bali at the personal invitation of the Indonesian President. According to the document cited by the Guardian newspaper's Australian edition, the US and Australia's intelligence agencies were looking to collect the phone numbers of Indonesian security officials.

It was not a particularly successful operation, though, the Guardian noted, with the only practical outcome the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) achieved was the mobile phone number of Bali’s chief of police.

According to an account of the mission, included in a weekly report from the NSA base in Australia, at Pine Gap, dated January 2008, "The goal of the development effort was to gain a solid understanding of the network structure should collection be required in the event of an emergency."

At the end of the operation the NSA wrapped up: “Highlights include the compromise of the mobile phone number for Bali’s chief of police.

“Site efforts revealed previously unknown Indonesian communications networks and postured us to increase collection in the event of a crisis.”

The embarrassing revelation has heated up tensions between Australia and Indonesia. Indonesia has called in the Australian ambassador in Jakarta for an explanation.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa (AFP Photo)

The Indonesian foreign minister said it was "not cricket" for Australia to spy on the region along with the US. Earlier reports revealed by Snowden have showed that the US has been busy monitoring communication activities of up to 35 world leaders, including German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.

Communications of hundreds of millions of people across the world were also monitored, the leaked documents revealed, including British, French, Spanish and American citizens.

"If Australia was itself subjected to such an activity do you consider it as being a friendly act or not? We are deeply concerned and it's something we cannot accept," Marty Natalegawa said. ''I'm not sure what is the right term in Australian terminology. I guess it's not cricket.''

Relations between the two sides became aggravated after it was reported that Australian diplomatic missions in Asia were allegedly used to intercept phone calls and data.

A report based on a secret NSA document and published this week in Der Spiegel and the Sydney Morning Herald, has named a number of cities in which Asian embassies have been used for electronic surveillance by a group of intelligence partners known as the "Five Eyes" - the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand - all of whom are bound by a written intelligence-sharing agreement. The embassies allegedly involved in the spying spree are Jakarta, Bangkok, Beijing, Hanoi, Kuala Lumpur, and Malaysia, among others.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott refused to comment on the specifics of the state's intelligence activities, but said that "the thing about every Australian governmental agency is that we all operate in accordance with the law."

"Now, as for the precise workings of our intelligence organizations, it's been a long-standing practice not to comment on them," he told reporters.