The UK’s Guardian newspaper revealed on Monday that foreign politicians and officials had their computers monitored and their phone calls intercepted by UK security services whilst in London in 2009 for two G20 summits.
The information was said to have been obtained from top-secret documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the ex-CIA whistleblower who previously revealed details of the US National Security Agency’s PRISM programme, which monitored communication via direct access to the systems of Google, Facebook, Apple and other US internet giants.
The newspaper accused the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) of a number of intelligence collecting techniques, including setting up internet cafés with email interception programmes and accessing the delegates’ BlackBerrys to monitor their emails and phone calls. The information collected was then relayed live to 45 analysts, whose findings were in turn being relayed to British representatives at the G20 meetings.
Whilst the PRISM programme was defended as crucial in the fight against terrorism, the Guardians claims that the spying at the G20 summits was “for the more mundane purpose of securing an advantage in meetings”.
The documents indicate that the operation was approved at a senior government level and that it ran for at least six months.
It seems likely that this will put a strain on the G8 summit, which began on Monday in Northern Ireland and includes delegates from countries who were present in 2009 and who will now no doubt have questions regarding the leaks for Prime Minister David Cameron.