‘Der Spiegel’ report claims NSA spied on United Nations
Alleged widespread surveillance of communications is codenamed ‘Blarney’
According to files supplied by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the US intelligence service reported success in “dramatically improving the data flow from teleconferences and decrypting it”. Photograph: Reuters
The US National Security Agency (NSA) conducts widespread surveillance of communications, codenamed “Blarney”, at the United Nations, in violation of international agreements, according to Der Spiegel.
According to files supplied by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the US intelligence service reported success in “dramatically improving the data flow from teleconferences and decrypt[ing] it”.
“The data traffic is flowing via the UN’s internal videoconferencing (yay!),” noted one NSA official in leaked reports that suggest the number of tapped conferences jumped in one week from 12 to 458.
The NSA reportedly also copied the hard-drive contents of computers at the EU’s UN representation in New York – codenamed “Magothy”.
After the EU moved into new offices in New York in November 2012 the NSA reportedly moved quickly to get blueprints of the new representation and its computer infrastructure.
The magazine claimed the NSA has permanent access to the virtual computer network (VPN) between the EU’s New York and Washington representations. According to Snowden documents, one NSA official wrote that if the connection was blocked – such as when an updated computer virus programme detected infiltration – “we can get it back quickly via the VPN on the other side”.
“We’ve used this many times when we were kicked out of Magothy,” wrote one NSA official, the magazine reported.
It said the NSA operates a team inside the UN disguised as regular delegation members, increasing their presence in the New York headquarters ahead of general assembly meetings.
In one case, the magazine reports, the NSA eavesdropping at the UN found the Chinese intelligence service was also tapping communications at the international organisation.
The NSA also reportedly operates a “special collection service” (SCS) – a top-secret eavesdropping network of special antennae that collects communications from about 80 US embassies and consulates around the world.
There are SCS facilities in Vienna and Frankfurt, according to Snowden’s files. Their existence is kept top secret, according to one document, because exposure would “cause serious damage to relations with the respective host country”.