The European Commission (EC) has responded in no uncertain terms to the allegations of NSA surveillance taking place at its premises, demanding full clarification and transparency from the US government over its activities.
Documents seen by the German newspaper Spiegel suggest that not only were bugs installed by US surveillance in the EU’s offices in Washington, but also that the building’s computer network was infiltrated. Through this, surveillance teams had the capability to listen to discussions in several offices belonging to the EU, as well as being able to access emails and documents on computers.
The EC said it took immediate action to raise the matter with the European External Action Service, who will liase with US authorities.
A statement from the EC said: “These are disturbing news [sic] if proven true. They demand full clarification.”
The newspaper also alleges that offices in New York and Brussels also came under the watch of US surveillance teams, with EU security officials apparently noticing suspicious telephone calls targeting a remote maintenance system of a building in Brussels, where the EU Council of Ministers and the European Council are based. The calls are said to have been traced back to a NATO headquarters in Brussels, from a building used by NSA employees.
The EC asked for openness over the allegations, putting the ball firmly in the US authorities’ court. “The EU is now expecting to hear from the US authorities. Clarity and transparency is what we expect from partners and allies, and this is what we expect from the US,” the EC noted.
On Sunday, Spiegel also revealed that the NSA typically taps half a billion phone calls, emails and text messages per year in Germany alone. The paper also indicated that surveillance in the country was stronger than in any other EU country.
Last week, shadow home secretary David Davis told the House of Commons that UK laws to protect citizens from surveillance were ‘completely useless’. Founder of the web Tim Berners-Lee also weighed in last week, urging further advances in web freedom.
This follows allegations that security organisations such as the NSA and GCHQ were monitoring personal emails of people across the world, and accessing data from companies such as Facebook, Microsoft and Google.
The former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s location is still unknown after he failed to take a flight to Ecuador he had been booked onto last week, although it is believed he is in Russia and is seeking asylum there. The US government has issued a warrant for his arrest, with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange expressing his allegiance to Snowden.