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Document shows secret Aust surveillance

Updated: 17:44, Sunday February 16, 2014

The New York Times is reporting that an Australian spy agency offered its US counterpart surveillance of an American law firm that was representing Indonesia in trade disputes with the US.

The story is based on a top-secret document obtained by former US National Security Agency systems analyst Edward Snowden and provided by an NSA liaison office in Canberra in a monthly bulletin.

NSA’s Australian counterpart, the Australian Signals Directorate, provides foreign signals intelligence to the Australian Defence Force and Australian government to support military and strategic decision-making.

ASD notified the NSA that it was conducting surveillance of the talks, including communications between Indonesian officials and the American law firm, and offered to share the information, the Times reported.

Liaison officials asked the NSA general counsel’s office, on behalf of the Australians, for guidance about the spying.

The bulletin notes only that the counsel’s office ‘provided clear guidance’ and that the Australian eavesdropping agency ‘has been able to continue to cover the talks, providing highly useful intelligence for interested US customers’, according to the Times story.

The NSA and the Australian government declined to answer questions about the surveillance, the Times reported.

In statements to the newspaper and The Associated Press, the NSA said it ‘does not ask its foreign partners to undertake any intelligence activity that the US government would be legally prohibited from undertaking itself’.

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