The National Security Agency eavesdropped on hundreds of phone numbers belonging to dozens of world leaders, newly leaked documents supplied by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden reveal.
Britain’s Guardian newspaper wrote Thursday that a classified memo provided to them by Mr. Snowden suggests that the NSA encouraged officials within the United States government and intelligence community to share among their colleagues contact information pertaining to international heads of state.
According to the Guardian, the memo made reference to an unnamed US official who had reportedly supplied the NSA with over 200 numbers, including 35 belonging to world leaders.
“These numbers plus several others have been tasked,” or monitored, reads the memo.
The leaders themselves are not identified in the memorandum, but classified documents previously disclosed to the media by Mr. Snowden have suggested that the NSA spied on conversations involving citizens of France, Germany, Brazil and elsewhere.
Guardian reporter James Ball writes that senior officials in the NSA’s “customer” departments — or officials within the White House, State Department and Pentagon — were asked in the memo to share their own collection of international contacts, as their unnamed colleague had, in order for the agency to add the numbers to its list of intelligence targets.
“This success leads S2 [signals intelligence] to wonder if there areNSA liaisons whose supported customers may be willing to share their ‘Rolodexes’ or phone lists with NSA as potential sources of intelligence,” Ball quotes from the memo. “S2 welcomes such information!”
“From time to time, SID [Signals Intelligence Directorate] is offered access to the personal contact databases of US officials,” it continues. “Such ‘Rolodexes’ may contain contact information for foreign political or military leaders, to include direct line, fax, residence and cellular numbers.”
When asked by the Guardian to comment, White House press secretary Jay Carney referred to comments made earlier Thursday during a briefing in which he acknowledged the NSA disclosure and said, “The revelations have clearly caused tension in our relationships with some countries, and we are dealing with that through diplomatic channels.”