US National Security Agency

Indonesia protests to US over reported NSA spying in Jakarta

Jakarta launches protest over wiretapping claims, and China vows to guard data better

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 October, 2013, 4:47am
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 October, 2013, 4:47am

Indonesia protested strongly to the United States yesterday after claims Washington had monitored phone calls and communication networks from its embassy in Jakarta, as the spying row spread to Asia.

Australia's The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper reported on Tuesday that a top-secret map leaked by fugitive intelligence analyst Edward Snowden showed 90 US surveillance facilities at embassies and consulates.

The report, based on a map in German news weekly Der Spiegel, gave details about such centres around the world, but paid particular attention to their presence in Australia's Asian neighbours.

It followed days of angry protests from America's European allies after reports, based on leaks from Snowden, that Washington collected tens of millions of telephone calls and online communications in Europe as part as a vast anti-terror sweep.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said the issue had been raised with the US chargé d'affaires in Jakarta.

"Indonesia cannot accept and protests strongly over the report about wiretapping facilities at the US embassy in Jakarta," Natalegawa said.

"If confirmed, such action is not only a breach of security, but also a serious breach of diplomatic norms and ethics and certainly not in the spirit of friendly relations between nations."

The Sydney Morning Herald reported the map showed there were also intelligence facilities at embassies in Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Phnom Penh and Yangon. It said the US facilities in East Asia were focused on China, with centres in the US embassy in Beijing and US consulates in other cities.

China said yesterday that it would take steps to protect its data better in the wake of allegations that the NSA collected millions of phone records of European citizens and spied on its allies. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing that China was concerned by the recently exposed surveillance activities. "We will also take necessary measures to resolutely uphold our own information security," she said.

It was also claimed yesterday that the US eavesdropped on cardinals before the March conclave to elect a new pope.

Italian magazine Panorama accused the NSA of listening in to phone calls to and from the Vatican, including calls by Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio before he was elected Pope Francis.

The allegations follow a report on surveillance website Cryptome that said the US intercepted 46 million telephone calls in Italy in December 2012 and early January 2013.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said "we have heard nothing of this and are not worried about it".

Meanwhile, German political and intelligence envoys were due to hold talks with US officials in Washington overnight on rebuilding a "basis of trust" after alleged US tapping of Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone.

Agence France-Presse, Associated Press