UK planned to spy on 2009 Commonwealth heads of state meeting
June 17, 2013 7 Comments
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
British intelligence agencies had plans to spy on a British Commonwealth meeting, which was attended by Queen Elizabeth and the President of France, among other heads of state. The plans to spy on the meeting, which was held in 2009, are revealed in a document disclosed to The Guardian newspaper by American whistleblower Edward Snowden. Earlier this month, Snowden, a former technical assistant for the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), disclosed the existence of PRISM, a clandestine national security electronic surveillance program operated by the United States National Security Agency (NSA). The Guardian said on Sunday that it had in its possession a page from an internal classified document given to NSA by Britain’s General Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), which is tasked with collecting signals intelligence. The document apparently outlines plans to spy on international delegates in order to “give UK ministers an advantage in talks with their Commonwealth counterparts”. Some “key intelligence [collection] requirements” at the summit, which took place in 2009 in Trinidad, included “intelligence on South Africa’s views on Zimbabwe”, as well as “climate change reporting”. The document, says The Guardian, also sets out a schedule for various British intelligence agencies to arrive and begin operations in the South American island-nation. GCHQ is instructed to initiate its surveillance activities following the arrival of the international delegates. On the other hand, the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS, also known as MI6), which is Britain’s primary external intelligence agency, is expected to set up operations in Port of Spain several days prior to the event. The document states that “SIS have no past history of targeting this meeting”. This can be safely interpreted to mean that 2009 was the first time in MI6’s history that the organization was asked to target a Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. These gatherings have been taking place on an annual basis since 1971. The British delegation at the 2009 meeting in Trinidad included Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, as well as Prime Minster Gordon Brown and Foreign Secretary David Miliband. There is no indication in the document accessed by The Guardian that the British delegation to the gathering was aware of the joint MI6/GCHQ intelligence operation that was taking place in the background.