The latest Snowden leak reveals a list of bizarre targets for NSA/GCHQ surveillance, including the World Health Organization, Unicef and Medecins Sans Frontiers; the VP of the European Commission (whose file included EU competition policy); the UN's special representative to Darfur; German diplomatic networks; and other diplomatic targets. The program was run through GCHQ's Bude listening station in Cornwall, which receives large amounts of funding from the NSA. There's no colourable claim that this surveillance had anything to do with preventing terrorism or enhancing national security. It's an incoherent mishmash of out-and-out industrial espionage, institutional mistrust of humanitarian relief agencies, and a reflexive need to spy. And it's going to piss a lot of people off.
The papers show GCHQ, in collaboration with America's National Security Agency (NSA), was targeting organisations such as the United Nations development programme, the UN's children's charity Unicef and Médecins du Monde, a French organisation that provides doctors and medical volunteers to conflict zones. The head of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) also appears in the documents, along with text messages he sent to colleagues.
The latest disclosures will add to Washington's embarrassment following the heavy criticism of the NSA when it emerged that it had been tapping the mobile telephone of the German chancellor, Angela Merkel.
One GCHQ document, drafted in January 2009, makes clear the agencies were targeting an email address listed as belonging to another key American ally – the "Israeli prime minister". Ehud Olmert was in office at the time. Three other Israeli targets appeared on GCHQ documents, including another email address understood to have been used to send messages between the then Israeli defence minister, Ehud Barak, and his chief of staff, Yoni Koren.
GCHQ and NSA targeted charities, Germans, Israeli PM and EU chief [James Ball and Nick Hopkins/The Guardian]