Britain-based U.S. spies have allegedly eavesdropped on Russian president Dmitry Medvedev
at his G20 visit in London back in 2009. Phone calls were intercepted and fake internet cafes were set up to spy at the highest diplomatic level, according to documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The shocking revelations are confirmed by a dedicated NSA paper, entitled: "Russian Leadership Communications in support of President Dmitry Medvedev at the G20 summit in London – Intercept at Menwith Hill station."
The secret report shows how American agents have decoded encrypted calls from London to Moscow. President Medvedev and other representatives of the Russian delegation were among the targets. The agency took pride in uncovering "a change in the way Russian leadership signals have been normally transmitted."
All in all, a very successful weekend with the delegation telephony plot.
It was not just Medvedev and the Russians, though. Members of other delegations - including U.K. allies like South Africa and Turkey - were spied on with some officials tricked into using fake internet cafes set up specially to monitor their emails. Turkish finance minister Mehmet Simsek in particular was subject to eavesdropping and just as with the other cases there are no underlying criminal motives. Instead, there is a political one - "to establish Turkey's position on agreements from the April London summit."
The UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) was no stranger to the spying. 45 experts were live monitoring delegates at the headquarters. Later internal analyst review by the NSA revealed that it was the first time that the government “had a live picture of who was talking to who.”
Telling are the words of gratitude of the internal analysts addressing the GCHQ organizers:
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.
It also underlines the importance of Menwith Hill
, the 545-acre North Yorkshire station responsible for the ‘successful’ mission. Menwith Hill was leased to the United States in 1954 and was used extensively during Cold War times. The station contains numerous giant antenna spheres called radomes and used for electronic monitoring. It is believed to be the world’s largest station of this kind. Out of its 1800 employees, 1200 are Americans, making this practically a U.S. base.
The scandal breaks out just as current Russian president Vladimir Putin heads to a G8 meeting with U.S. counterpart Barack Obama in North Ireland.
Menwith Hill Photograph by Nigel Roddis/Reuters
Header image courtesy of G8Italia.