The United States bugged European Union offices and gained access to EU internal computer networks, according to secret documents cited in a German magazine yesterday, the latest in a series of exposures of alleged US spy programmes.
Der Spiegel cited a "top secret" September 2010 document from the US National Security Agency (NSA) which it said fugitive former NSA contractor Edward Snowden had taken with him and which the weekly's journalists had seen in part.
The document outlines how the NSA bugged offices and spied on EU internal computer networks in Washington and at the United Nations, not only listening to conversations and phone calls but also gaining access to documents and e-mails.
The document explicitly called the EU a "target".
According to Der Spiegel, the NSA also targeted telecommunications at the Justus Lipsius building in Brussels, home to the European Council, by calling a remote maintenance unit.
Without citing sources, the magazine reported that more than five years ago security officers at the EU had noticed and traced several missed calls to NSA offices within the Nato compound in Brussels.
Each EU member state has rooms in Justus Lipsius with phone and internet connections that ministers can use.
A slew of Snowden's disclosures in foreign media about US surveillance programmes have ignited a political furore in the United States and abroad over the balance between privacy rights and national security.
Switzerland last week said it was still awaiting a satisfactory response from Washington to its inquiries about an alleged CIA blackmail operation to spy on the country's banks, exposed by Snowden.
To date, the US has provided only a "very diplomatic" response to a Swiss request earlier this month for "clarification" about the allegations, said Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter.