NSA spied on business leaders, EU antitrust chief, new Snowden docs claim

And Joaquin Almunia, who has been embroiled in a three-year saga with Google, is not happy about it one bit.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor

New documents leaked by former U.S. government contractor Edward Snowden suggest the dragnet surveillance programs were a little more targeted than first thought, and didn't just include world leaders and heads of state.

Reported on Friday by The New York Times, the documents point to U.S. and U.K. intelligence agencies working together to acquire information on heads of international aid organizations, directors of the United Nations, foreign energy firms, and the head of the European Union's antitrust division.

EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia was spied on between 2008 and 2009 during a time European authorities were investigating U.S. technology giants Microsoft and Intel, the documents suggest.

Almunia, as the European Commission's head on antitrust and competition matters, has more recently been embroiled with Google for the past three years over how the company runs its search business. Unhappy with the search giant's latest concessions package, Almunia may dish out up to a $5 billion fine to Google for falling foul of Europe's antitrust laws.

The new Snowden leaks do not, however, detail exactly which agency — either the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) or Britain's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) — conducted the spying, or whether it was part of a wider surveillance operation or a longstanding surveillance target.

Almunia told the Times he was "strongly upset" by the claims.

Meanwhile, the NSA's spokesperson told the publication it does "not use our foreign intelligence capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies." The spokesperson also said it did not give the intelligence to U.S. companies to "enhance their international competitiveness or increase their bottom line."

The new Snowden documents also further support earlier claims that foreign energy firms were targeted.

Earlier this year, Brazilian partly state-owned oil giant Petrobras was targeted by the NSA, but the details of the alleged surveillance was not disclosed.

The documents also said Israeli officials had their email traffic monitored, in spite of the claim that the U.S. government hands "raw" and unchecked information to Israel's intelligence agencies.

But some of the details published by the Times was withheld at the request of Britain's GCHQ, leaving a somewhat large question mark over exactly what was important enough for national security not to disclose.

Editorial standards