NSA, UK Spied On Politicians, Intercepted Emails, Eavesdropped On Russian President's Phone Calls

Tyler Durden's picture

The espionage scandal that keeps on giving has released its latest installment, once more courtesy of the Guardian, which on the eve of tomorrow's starting G-8 meeting reveals that foreign politicians and officials who took part in two G-20 summit meetings in London in 2009 had their computers monitored, their phone calls intercepted, and fake internet cafes were set up on the instructions of the British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the sister organization to the US NSA.

Naturally, it wasn't just the GCHQ - according to the Guardian, during the 2009 G-20 meeting there was an NSA attempt to eavesdrop on then-Russian leader, Dmitry Medvedev, as his phone calls passed through satellite links to Moscow.

And while broad espionage allegations can be deflected by pretending by the rhetoric-endowed and teleprompter-aided that only terrorist threats were targeted, it will be very difficult to explain why the national information super spooks used every trick of the trade to spy on the so-called leaders of the developed world.

The disclosure raises new questions about the boundaries of surveillance by GCHQ and its American sister organisation, the National Security Agency, whose access to phone records and internet data has been defended as necessary in the fight against terrorism and serious crime. The G20 spying appears to have been organised for the more mundane purpose of securing an advantage in meetings. Named targets include long-standing allies such as South Africa and Turkey.

And like that, one more conspiracy theory is relegated to the "fact" bin, as those using the "tin foil, crack-pot conspiracy theorists" fallback, are slowly becoming the biggest laughing stock in town.

So who gave the green light for this blatant spying operation, which assuredly takes place at every meeting of the world's leading political (and other) dignitaries? Why that supreme gold top-tick timer himself, Gordon Brown:

There have often been rumours of this kind of espionage at international conferences, but it is highly unusual for hard evidence to confirm it and spell out the detail. The evidence is contained in documents – classified as top secret – which were uncovered by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and seen by the Guardian. They reveal that during G20 meetings in April and September 2009 GCHQ used what one document calls "ground-breaking intelligence capabilities" to intercept the communications of visiting delegations.

The timing of today's release comes at a perfect time, just as yet another G-8 meeting is due to commence shortly in the UK:

The revelation comes as Britain prepares to host another summit on Monday – for the G8 nations, all of whom attended the 2009 meetings which were the object of the systematic spying. It is likely to lead to some tension among visiting delegates who will want the prime minister to explain whether they were targets in 2009 and whether the exercise is to be repeated this week.

What else did the revealed G-20 spying consist of:

  • Setting up internet cafes where they used an email interception programme and key-logging software to spy on delegates' use of computers;
  • Penetrating the security on delegates' BlackBerrys to monitor their email messages and phone calls;
  • Supplying 45 analysts with a live round-the-clock summary of who was phoning who at the summit;
  • Targeting the Turkish finance minister and possibly 15 others in his party;

It just goes downhill from there:

A briefing paper dated 20 January 2009 records advice given by GCHQ
officials to their director, Sir Iain Lobban, who was planning to meet
the then foreign secretary, David Miliband. The officials summarised
Brown's aims for the meeting of G20 heads of state due to begin on 2
April, which was attempting to deal with the economic aftermath of the
2008 banking crisis. The briefing paper added: "The GCHQ intent is to
ensure that intelligence relevant to HMG's desired outcomes for its
presidency of the G20 reaches customers at the right time and in a form
which allows them to make full use of it." Two documents explicitly
refer to the intelligence product being passed to "ministers".


GCHQ ragout 1


According to the material seen by the Guardian, GCHQ generated this
product by attacking both the computers and the telephones of delegates.

Most importantly, the bullshit excuse that spying by the GCHQ and the NSA, was being done to safeguard the safety and security of "the people" will no longer fly. And if anything, the latest set of disclosures should generate a diplomatic scandal of unprecedented proportions. Alas, in a world in which everyone is broke and reliant on the goodwill of the Fed, and by implication, the Fed's code breakers, the NSA, we wouldn't be surprised if nothing happens.

Other documents record apparently successful efforts to penetrate the security of BlackBerry smartphones: "New converged events capabilities against BlackBerry provided advance copies of G20 briefings to ministers … Diplomatic targets from all nations have an MO of using smartphones. Exploited this use at the G20 meetings last year."


The operation appears to have run for at least six months. One document records that in March 2009 – the month before the heads of state meeting – GCHQ was working on an official requirement to "deliver a live dynamically updating graph of telephony call records for target G20 delegates … and continuing until G20 (2 April)."


Another document records that when G20 finance ministers met in London in September, GCHQ again took advantage of the occasion to spy on delegates, identifying the Turkish finance minister, Mehmet Simsek, as a target and listing 15 other junior ministers and officials in his delegation as "possible targets". As with the other G20 spying, there is no suggestion that Simsek and his party were involved in any kind of criminal offence. The document explicitly records a political objective – "to establish Turkey's position on agreements from the April London summit" and their "willingness (or not) to co-operate with the rest of the G20 nations".


The September meeting of finance ministers was also the subject of a new technique to provide a live report on any telephone call made by delegates and to display all of the activity on a graphic which was projected on to the 15-sq-metre video wall of GCHQ's operations centre as well as on to the screens of 45 specialist analysts who were monitoring the delegates.


"For the first time, analysts had a live picture of who was talking to who that updated constantly and automatically," according to an internal review.


A second review implies that the analysts' findings were being relayed rapidly to British representatives in the G20 meetings, a negotiating advantage of which their allies and opposite numbers may not have been aware: "In a live situation such as this, intelligence received may be used to influence events on the ground taking place just minutes or hours later. This means that it is not sufficient to mine call records afterwards – real-time tip-off is essential."

The surveillance got so far as reading people's emails at the same time as they typed!

One document refers to a tactic which was "used a lot in recent UK conference, eg G20". The tactic, which is identified by an internal codeword which the Guardian is not revealing, is defined in an internal glossary as "active collection against an email account that acquires mail messages without removing them from the remote server". A PowerPoint slide explains that this means "reading people's email before/as they do".

End result: a very grateful GCHQ:

In the week after the September meeting, a group of analysts sent an internal message to the GCHQ section which had organised this live monitoring: "Thank you very much for getting the application ready for the G20 finance meeting last weekend … The call records activity pilot was very successful and was well received as a current indicator of delegate activity 


"It proved useful to note which nation delegation was active during the moments before, during and after the summit. All in all, a very successful weekend with the delegation telephony plot."

And now we go back to your regularly scheduled prime-time soap opera tragicomedy for idiots, in which the protagonists read from teleprompters advising the same idiots, that only terrorist suspects are targeted by the totalitarian superstate, and that no matter what, one should trust the government - after all they are only here to help you.

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max2205's picture

This will go over well

Chupacabra-322's picture

Putin ought to drop a big fat ass EMP right on top of the NSA.





eclectic syncretist's picture

more than anything the governments coordinate with the TBTF banks to track all your purchases and expenditures.  The very best way to fight this is simply to USE CASH for all your transactions.  They can't track that!

Which brings up the point that companies like walmart and target must also be involved here.  It's one big collusion anti-constitutional conspiracy circle-jerk cluster fuck against the citizens, as well as whoever else the people in power are afraid of.

James_Cole's picture

Gawddamn narcissists at the guardian ruining the world! Don't they understand how self-absorbed it is to actually publish newsworthy articles? Scheiffer gets it! 

Never ever say anything useful or contrary to state interests, only narcissists do that shit!


Chupacabra-322's picture

That's why I've coined the term which describes the Criminals.

The Global Criminal Cabal Oligarch Bankster Intelligence Crime Syndicate.

Sums it up nicely.

NoDebt's picture

Just wait till they tell Obama about this one!

King_of_simpletons's picture

Those darn communist hackers. Oh wait, we are the ones doing all evil deeds.

Looks like the strategy seems to be cry wolf first and do the same thing to other countries. Dumb citizenism will believe you and support multiple wars.

varnelius's picture

Not a solution either as I suspect every $20 you pull from the ATM is tagged by serial # and logged by the business that redeposits it.  Lately I have been getting some awfully fresh $20s from the ATM, frequently with sequential serial numbers.

While I don't like breaking "big bills" ($50s/$100s) nearly anywhere, perhaps its time to start withdrawing those from the bank; then breaking them at a random biz who can actually do it (and not a gas station after dark).  Then proceed to spend most of the change freely, as it likely came from other random people.

I suspect much tracking is done on cash these days.  Serial numbers are easy to scan.

BeetleBailey's picture

............I concur. In fact, it might be good for the whole fucking planet if we take a big fat time fucking OUT on all of it.

I mean everything.....sans electric at it's most basic forms........3rd world countries are off limits....

Shut the whole system down.............then go find and kill everything Rothchild, Bilderbooger and all the other wankers....

The entire system needs an enema....


Tylers...your cue.....

Ban KKiller's picture

I NSA agree. Great NSA idea NSA to NSA spread NSA around NSA. Jefferson NSA would NSA approve. 

SnobGobbler's picture

quite the revelation to find out these psycopaths AREN'T on the same page and still need to spy on each other...

"liberty or death, words we so proudly hail! " 

p.s fuck jamie dimon, seriously.

Go Tribe's picture

Was thinking along the same lines. But a simultaneous dumping of bonds by China, several countries announcing a new reserve currency/commodity basket, and a well placed nuke against Syrian rebels might make a more lasting impression on America.

EscapeKey's picture

Obviously. The US:

CNN "celebrates 50 years of women in space";

Fox News is blabbing on about some immigration bill;

ABCNews talks about scouts demanding "apology for gay pride parade"

NYTimes is waffling on about race relations

The UK:

BBC News talking about the US and Russia "sharing aims on Syria"

Telegraph reports Boris Johnson warns on arming Syria Rebels

... only left-wing Guardian is doing its job - to report the fucking news.

trader1's picture

"left wing" Guardian...?


you might want to re-check that assumption.


hint: they're centre-left with a mix of right

EscapeKey's picture

No, they're not. You might want to get your assumptions checked.

All their social commentry is as rhetoric-rules socialistic nonsense as you'll get from a mainstream paper. The only times they side with the "right" is when the inescapable conclusion is that the "left" is wrong on the topic.

trader1's picture

i checked my assumptions.

check your calibration.

toys for tits's picture

Are you two guys idiotic enough to argue about whether a newspaper is center-left or leftist, when it's doing a noble job offending politicians of all stripes?

If they could have published this Snowden shit anonymously you two wouldn't even be having this discussion.

People are always trying to discredit the messenger, rather than embrace/attack the message, which once again shows the wisdom of the Tylers, who allow us to participate in this website.

I'm not the one junking you two despite thinking both of you are playing into the hands of the TPTB by allowing yourselves to be divided and then conquered.

chumbawamba's picture

All of you are playing into the hands of TPTB.  Left/Right/Center is irrelevant.  They are simply doing what they've been commanded to do, in this time, in this place.  We've known about this surveillance for years now.  William Binney, Siebel Edmonds, etc., they all told us this shit already.  It is simply that now is the time for this revelation to come to the fore, as it augurs in the next act of the play.

I am Chumbawamba.

DaveyJones's picture

part of me is "right" part of me is "center" and as my wife reminds me, part of me is way out in left field

none of these terms ever made sense to me really. actually, these days, nothing makes sense to me

labels are the oldest game on earth to divide and conquer, obscure the issues, persecute, prosecute, and shift the blame

I know we need labels, but they're also the bad guys favorite tools.

putaipan's picture

i'm so far left that i am right. i am so far right that i am left out. think- r.paul/dennis d.


and oh yeah- fuck neo liberals and neo conservatives!

geekgrrl's picture

I think most folks are like that, a little left, right, and center, depending on the issue. What I think is interesting is that all this surveillance stuff really transcends all those political boundaries.

hidingfromhelis's picture

Well, it should transcend those political boundaries.

Burticus's picture

The political spectrum is from 100% (totalitarian) gubmint to 0% (absence of) gubmint.

Except for a few centrists (like Ron Paul) who advocate only enough gubmint to protect individual rights, the entire parasite class and lamescream corporate media cartel globally are on the extreme or far left.

Most ZH readers would be considered centrists, who advocate individual liberty, limited gubmint and free enterprise economics.

The hundreds of millions people robbed, kidnapped or murdered by gubmints throughout history could make a persuasive argument for anarchy.

trader1's picture

can't you see we're both screwing around?  

and who are TPTB?

last time i checked, i am.

(no i'm not drunk...i only know it's just a ride)



Mine Is Bigger's picture

The American political landscape is highly skewed to the right.  What is considered right wing in some countries would be center or even center-left in the U.S.

lolmao500's picture

Fox News is blabbing on about some immigration bill;

That is very important... it's a part of the security state if it passes...


Immigration reform bill establishes a national biometric database of all Americans

zerozulu's picture

This bill, no doubt is important for US but not for the hard working Mexicans who have decided to go back home when there are no jobs here. This bill won't be able to stop the exodus.

Monedas's picture

Eavesdropping on .... Dmitry "tell Vlad I'll be more flexible after the election" Medvedev .... so called leader .... of the .... so called developed world .... is the equivalent of spying .... on Joe "this is a big fuckin' deal" Biden !

chumbawamba's picture

...like a kidney stone.

I am Chumbawamba.

Jorgen's picture

Will there be enough space in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for The Guardian personnel involved in publishing these revelations? Move over Mr. Assange...

Aurora Ex Machina's picture

Someone made a comment to me last week, that I thought was insightful:

All the old media know their days are numbered, that they're dead in the water, but bless the Guardian, they're going out swinging.


Pretty much sums it up.

trader1's picture

does anyone know how much money is left in the scott trust?

rage, rage against the dying of the light

Aurora Ex Machina's picture

Not as much as Bloomberg's or Murdoch's, that's for certain.

trader1's picture

but, guardian is a member of project syndicate, no?  wouldn't soros bail them out in case of liquidity problems?

BeetleBailey's picture

some editor there is getting butt-fucked for running this as we speak....




some Bilderbooger elitist douchebag is getting pole-axed

trader1's picture

but none of this shit is all that new...



who junks me for posting the truth?  wtf!  

thestarl's picture

See Murdoch and his wife have filed for divorce hope she takes him to the cleaners.

Im gunna piss all over that pricks tombstone one day.

RichardP's picture

That's a slogan fit for a t-shirt.

trader1's picture

all of this is great press for the IT security industry...

zee germans want to play.


trader1's picture

looks like i've attracted serial junker(s) like Aurora...fun!

i never thought i could be *that* special...

freewolf7's picture

"it will be very difficult to explain why the national information super spooks used every trick of the trade to spy on the so-called leaders of the developed world."

Just keeping an eye on the kids in daycare.

machineh's picture

Perfidious Albion ...

Call me when the Guardian releases Obama's REAL birth certificate!

EscapeKey's picture

Who the fuck cares. Do you seriously think it matters one iota which Republicrat or Democan puppet is elected?

All this nonsense about fucking birth certificates is just another red herring.

Lore's picture

The point is, who the hell is this guy REALLY?  Aren't you a little curious?

EscapeKey's picture

Oh I can tell you that. He's just another empty suit.

In a few years, he'll be replaced by another charismatic empty suit.

It'll be portrayed as a huge success for the populace that this particular empty suit won a narrow victory versus the other empty suit. But at the end of the day, their policies would have been exactly the same, though the rhetoric would have attempted to mask it.

chubbar's picture

Well, the beauty of finding out this guy is a manchurian candidate is the ability to nulllify every dumbass legislation that  was passed on his watch. Just think of being able to take down NDAA, Patriot Act extension, Obamacare, etc., in one fell swoop.