Spy-anoia: Alleged NSA listening post in Vienna outrages locals
The spacious villa in Vienna’s western suburbs has been in the center of a spy scandal following media reports that the building serves as an American secret spying spot. The Format magazine claimed earlier that the “listening post” is capable to tap up to 70 percent of telecommunications in the Austrian capital.
Both the American and Austrian governments denied the allegations. The American embassy insists that the building is only an “Open Source Center” evaluating information freely available in the media and the internet, even though it is run by the CIA, the AP reports.
However, in the in the wake of revelations that the US National Security Agency (NSA) spied on the EU and the UN, many Austrians remain skeptical and concerned about any US snooping organizations in their capital – whether those are open source centers or not.
“Whatever it is, it’s a confirmation of intelligence agency activity in Vienna,” AP reported activist Rudolf Fussi as saying. He accused the Austrian of cooperating with a foreign spy agency by allowing such activities and protecting the building with police.
Last weekend, he organized a rally in front of the alleged NSA listening post which gathered between100 and 200 people. The peaceful demo was meant as a gesture of protest after a blogger reportedly got detained by police when taking photos outside the villa. Many participants of the event brought cameras with them to film the alleged NSA listening post.
It is “unacceptable that the police cannot protect our data” but, instead, protect those who abuse privacy, Fussi was quoted as saying by News.At.
The alleged NSA spying post at the villa is soon expected to be discussed at the National Security Council, according to Green Party member Peter Pilz. This comes after opposition parties and some government coalition members urged such a gathering.
Meanwhile, passions are running high over the affair within the government coalition. The conservative-run Interior Ministry denies cooperation with the NSA. It suggests, though, that if there is any collaboration at all, the Defense Ministry, run by a rival party, must be involved. The Defense Ministry has yet to comment on the allegations.
According to Pilz, intelligence services run by both ministries work with and protect the NSA.
The villa is “clearly a US intelligence center and according to our information, it’s NSA,” Pilz, a member of the Parliament’s security and intelligence committee, said, citing a source in the Austrian government.
Adding even more controversy to the “NSA villa” story, Austria’s Kurier newspaper reported this week that the American government plans to wrap up its operations at the site within a couple of years. It suggested that the decision followed the unmasking of the post. According to AP, CIA spokesman Edward Price declined to comment on the issue.