US Law Firm Representing Indonesian Gov't Caught in NSA Spying Web
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - With help from the Australians, the NSA has been gathering private communications of US lawyers with their clients in the Indonesian government involved in a trade dispute with Washington, a secret document obtained by the New York Times reveals.
The document provided by the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden exposes NSA activity in monitoring an American law firm at a time when it was representing the Indonesian government during its trade talks with counterparts from the US.
Titled “SUSLOC (Special US Liaison Office Canberra) Facilitates Sensitive DSD Reporting on Trade Talks” the document did not specify which trade case was being monitored by Australian intelligence through the so-called Five Eyes network that includes, Australia, Britain, Canada and New Zealand.
The Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) offered to share with the NSA the information about monitored communications between Indonesian government officials and the unnamed US law firm, according to the February 2013 document.
The intelligence report Australia offered to share could contain “information covered by attorney-client privilege,” the spying agency warned the NSA liaison office in Canberra. Upon receiving guidelines from NSA general counsel’s office, the Australian agency has been encouraged to continue their surveillance of the talks “providing highly useful intelligence for interested US customers.”
It remains unclear who those “interested customers” might be.
At that time the Indonesian government was involved in a number of trade disputes with Washington and the New York times reports that the only US law firm involved was Chicago-based Mayer Brown.
“I always wonder if someone is listening, because you would have to be an idiot not to wonder in this day and age,” Duane Layton, a Mayer Brown lawyer involved in the trade talks told NYT “But I’ve never really thought I was being spied on.”
US intelligence officials have repeatedly claimed the NSA is not targeting American citizens and businesses without a warrant and not using its Five Eyes international network as a loophole.
But the new leak confirms that US firms providing services to foreign clients can never be sure they aren’t being spied on. Last year, the US States Supreme court dismissed such fears as “speculative theory” of “hypothetical future harm,” refusing to let Americans challenge a provision in a foreign intelligence law that lets the NSA conduct secret warrantless surveillance on any US citizen as long as they are suspected of conversing with any foreigner.
According to 2009 procedural guidelines for the NSA, when a US citizen becomes an intelligence target, the agency is required to adhere to rules to protect the target’s privacy, for instance removing the identity of the American or data that does not add to the intelligence probe before sharing it with other agencies.