17 February 2014
Australian intelligence agency eavesdrops on American law firm
The Australian Signals Directorate, Australia’s intelligence agency, informed the NSA that it was conducting surveillance of an American law firm, which was retained by the Indonesian government for help in trade talks, and offered to share the information. This information comes from a top-secret document obtained by Edward J. Snowden, former NSA contractor. Additionally, the Australians said that ‘information covered by attorney-client privilege may be included.’ Liaison officials for Australia asked the NSA for guidance about the spying and the Australian agency ‘has been able to continue to cover the talks, providing highly useful intelligence for interested US customers.’ The Australian surveillance of such talks shows the extent to which the NSA and its allies engage in economic espionage.
The NSA and the Australian government have declined to answer questions about the surveillance. However, the Australian Defense Force stated that information gathering is to support Australia’s national interests and that intelligence agencies obey their legal obligations, including when it involves foreign counterparts. Recently disclosed documents show the cooperation between the US and Australia, including the sharing of facilities and highly sensitive intelligence. The Australian and NSA eavesdropping services focus mainly on Asia, particularly Indonesia and China.