Turkey to examine reports of US spying on Ankara

Monday, July 01, 2013

ISTANBUL - Turkey has said it will examine a recent report published in the Guardian claiming that US intelligence services spied on European allies including Turkey, according to Turkish diplomatic sources.

The Guardian published an article on Sunday alleging US National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance of EU offices, citing classified documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden. The report said one document lists 38 NSA "targets," including embassies and missions of US allies like France, Italy, Greece, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, India and Turkey.

Turkish diplomatic sources speaking to Today`s Zaman on the condition of anonymity said that Turkey is studying the issue and would demand an explanation from Washington if the claims proved true. “According to the Guardian`s report, we only have the information that Turkey is among the 38 countries. However, there is no further detail about Turkey in the report,” said the sources.

The Turkish government did not comment on the report.

According to a report by Germany`s Der Spiegel magazine on Saturday, the NSA planted bugs in the EU`s diplomatic offices in Washington and infiltrated the building`s computer network. Similar measures were taken at the EU`s mission to the United Nations in New York, the magazine said. It also reported that the NSA had used secure facilities at NATO`s Brussels headquarters to dial into telephone maintenance systems that would have allowed it to intercept senior officials` calls and Internet traffic at a key EU office nearby.

The report in Der Spiegel cited classified US documents leaked by former NSA contractor Snowden. The magazine said it had partly viewed the documents, which it did not publish, but didn`t specify how it obtained access to them.

EU demands explanation from Washington

The EU has demanded that the United States explain the report saying that if the claims are true, the alleged surveillance was "shocking."

In Washington, a statement from the national intelligence director`s office said US officials planned to respond to the concerns with their EU counterparts and diplomatic channels with specific nations. It did not provide further details.

Nearly all national governments, not just the United States, use "lots of activities" to safeguard their interests and security, US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday, responding for the first time to allegations that Washington spied on the European Union and other allies.

Kerry confirmed that EU High Representative Catherine Ashton had raised the issue with him during a meeting on the sidelines of a security conference in Brunei, but gave no further details of their exchange. He said he had yet to see details of the newspaper allegations.

"I will say that every country in the world that is engaged in international affairs and national security undertakes lots of activities to protect its national security and all kinds of information contributes to that. All I know is that is not unusual for lots of nations," Kerry told a news conference.

Some Europeans have warned that the bugging revelations could scuttle ongoing negotiations on a trans-Atlantic trade treaty, which seeks to create jobs and boost commerce by billions annually in what would be the world`s largest free trade area.

The German government on Monday invited the US ambassador in Berlin for talks, as European countries angry over reports that Washington bugged EU offices piled on to demand answers about the scope of U.S. surveillance.

It also stated that German Chancellor Angela Merkel would discuss the matter with President Barack Obama soon.

The Guardian newspaper said in an article late on Sunday that the United States had also targeted non-European allies including Japan, South Korea and India for spying -- an awkward development for Kerry as he arrived for an Asian security conference in Brunei on Monday.

Speaking on US broadcaster CBS` "Face the Nation," former NSA and CIA Director Mike Hayden downplayed the European outrage over the programs, saying they "should look first and find out what their own governments are doing." But Hayden said the Obama administration should try to head off public criticism by being more open about the top-secret programs so that "people know exactly what it is we are doing in this balance between privacy and security." Some European counties have much stronger privacy laws than the US.

Snowden, who tuned 30 last week, revealed himself as the document leaker in June interviews in Hong Kong, but fled to Russia before China`s government could turn him over to US officials. Snowden is now believed to be holed up in a transit zone in Moscow`s international airport, where Russian officials say they have no authority to catch him since he technically has not crossed immigration borders.

Guardian also reported that UK spied on Turkish minister

Last month, the Guardian reported that the UK had intercepted phone calls and monitored the computers of Turkish Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek and his delegation during a meeting in London in 2009.

The Guardian said some delegates from countries in the G-20 -- which comprises top economies around the world -- used Internet cafes that had been set up by British intelligence agencies to monitor their emails.

In a Monday statement, the Turkish Foreign Ministry demanded that the UK provide an “official and satisfying explanation” of the incident.

The statement said if the claims in the Guardian story are even partly true, it would be a scandal for Britain, and stressed that mutual trust, respect and transparency are essential in international cooperation, adding that such a behavior from an ally is “unacceptable.”

The report was published hours before leaders of the G-8 countries -- all of which are in the G-20 -- start a two-day summit in Northern Ireland.

The goal was to collect information about the Turkish position on reforms to global financial infrastructure in the wake of the world banking crisis, the Guardian said.

The newspaper said it had viewed classified documents that detailed secret monitoring by British intelligence officials at a G-20 leaders` summit and finance ministers` meeting in 2009 and suggested the spying had been sanctioned at a senior level by the government of former Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Simsek told reporters that Turkey will condemn the incident in “the strongest terms” if the claims are verified and that "all necessary steps will be taken." He said the Foreign Ministry is investigating the matter.

Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arinç said on Monday called the wiretapping an illegal and unpleasant incident.

A spokesman for Britain`s Foreign Ministry declined to comment. The Labor Party, which held power in 2009, was not immediately available for comment.

The Guardian this month reported details of surveillance by the US National Security Agency (NSA) of phone records and Internet data in the United States.

(Cihan / Today`s Zaman)

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