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German newspaper: NSA spied on U.N.

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By Reuters
Sunday, Aug. 25, 2013, 8:00 p.m.
 

BERLIN — The National Security Agency bugged the United Nations' New York headquarters, Germany's Der Spiegel weekly said on Sunday in a report on U.S. spying that could further strain relations between Washington and its allies.

Citing secret documents obtained by fugitive former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, Der Spiegel said the files showed how the United States systematically spied on other states and institutions.

Der Spiegel said the European Union and the U.N.'s Vienna-based nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, were among those targeted by intelligence agents.

In the summer of 2012, NSA experts succeeded in getting into the U.N. video conferencing system and cracking its coding system, according to one of the documents cited by Der Spiegel.

“The data traffic gives us internal video teleconferences of the United Nations (yay!),” Der Spiegel quoted one document as saying, adding that within three weeks the number of decoded communications rose to 458 from 12.

Internal files show the NSA spied on the EU legation in New York after it moved to new rooms last fall. Among the documents copied by Snowden from NSA computers are plans of the EU mission, its IT infrastructure and servers.

According to the documents, the NSA runs a bugging program in more than 80 embassies and consulates worldwide. “The surveillance is intensive and well organized, and has little or nothing to do with warding off terrorists,” wrote Der Spiegel.

Snowden's leaks have embarrassed the United States by exposing the global extent of its surveillance programs. Washington has said its spies operate within the law and that the leaks have damaged national security.

A week ago Britain, a staunch U.S. ally in the intelligence field, detained the partner of a Brazil-based journalist working for London's Guardian newspaper who has led coverage of Snowden's leaks. British police said documents seized from David Miranda were “highly sensitive” and could put lives at risk if disclosed.

The Guardian last week destroyed computer equipment containing Snowden files after it was threatened with possible legal action by senior British government advisers.

In an open letter to British Prime Minister David Cameron published on Sunday, editors of leading Nordic newspapers said Miranda's detention and moves against the Guardian were “undermining the position of the free press throughout the world”.

This month, President Obama announced plans to limit government surveillance programs, saying the United States could and should be more transparent.

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