x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

US snooping: NSA monitored over 60 million Spanish phone calls

Ambassador called in as report claims 60.5 million calls monitored.

MADRID // Spain yesterday demanded details of any US eavesdropping and said that reports of US security services having tracked 60.5 million telephone calls in Spain in a single month would be “inappropriate and unacceptable” if proven to be true.

Spain delivered the message to the US ambassador, James Costos, who was summoned as outrage spread over US snooping on telephone and online communications of ordinary citizens and world leaders.

Foreign ministry officials met the US envoy just hours after daily newspaper El Mundo published a classified document reportedly showing that US security services tracked millions of Spanish calls.

The National Security Agency in the US tracked the origin and destination of the calls and their duration but not the content, said El Mundo, which published a classified graph of 30 days of telephone call tracing.

The article included content by US blogger Glenn Greenwald, who said he had access to the previously secret documents obtained by former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.

The Spanish foreign ministry said it had underscored with the US ambassador its concern over the reported snooping.

“Spain conveyed to the United States the importance of preserving the climate of trust that governs bilateral relations and of knowing the scale of practices that, if true, are inappropriate and unacceptable between countries that are partners and friends,” it said.

Spain’s state secretary for the European Union, Inigo Mendez de Vigo, “urged the US authorities to provide all necessary information about the supposed tapping in Spain”, it said.

The US ambassador said that some of the security programmes played a “critical role” in protecting Americans and were also instrumental in protecting allied interests.

He promised to work diplomatically to address Spain’s concerns.

The classified graph published in El Mundo showed the daily volume of calls traced in the 30 days to January 8 this year.

At its peak, December 11, the graph showed that the NSA tracked more than 3.5 million calls on Spanish soil in one day.

Although not shown on the graph, the newspaper said such systematic trawling of huge volumes of digital information – metadata – would include intercepting personal details through internet web browsers, emails and social networks.

El Mundo said it had reached an agreement with Mr Greenwald for exclusive access to Spain-related spying documents leaked by Mr Snowden.

The paper urged Spanish prosecutors to charge the NSA with spying, and said such tracing of telephone calls without the proper judicial authority amounted to a criminal offence.

The Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, said after a summit with fellow European Union leaders in Brussels on Friday that he had no evidence Spain had been spied on.

But he said Madrid was calling in the US ambassador to seek further information.

At the summit, the 28 EU leaders approved a statement that said they valued the relationship with the US but it had to be based on trust and confidence, especially in matters of intelligence.

France and Germany are to lead efforts to reach a new understanding with Washington by the end of this year.

Mr Rajoy said that, for the moment, Spain would not join the Germans and the French in this effort and reiterated that intelligence issues were the responsibility of national governments, not the EU.

The Wall Street Journal said yesterday that the NSA had tapped the phones of 35 world leaders but that the White House ended surveillance of several leaders, including the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, after an internal midyear review.

An NSA spokeswoman, Vanee Vines, vehemently denied reports in Germany that the NSA chief, Gen Keith Alexander, had briefed the US president, Barack Obama, on the operation against Mrs Merkel in 2010 but that the president had allowed the spying to -continue.

* Agence France-Presse