Some Middle East embassies in the US were among those included on a list of “targets” which were spied on by US intelligence services, according to secret documents leaked by the whistleblower Edward Snowden, it was reported.
According to a report in The Guardian, the latest documents leaked by Snowden revealed that 38 foreign embassies and missions located in Washington and New York were described as "targets" and a range of spying methods were used to bug their offices.
“Along with traditional ideological adversaries and sensitive Middle Eastern countries, the list of targets includes the EU missions and the French, Italian and Greek embassies, as well as a number of other American allies, including Japan, Mexico, South Korea, India and Turkey,” the report said.
The secret documents claimed US intelligence services used a range of spying methods, including “bugs implanted in electronic communications gear to taps into cables to the collection of transmissions with specialised antennae.”
While Middle Eastern governments have yet to comment on the media reports, the EU has strongly demanded that the US States explain the reports and said the allegations, if proved true, were "shocking".
Reuters said US Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed that EU High Representative Catherine Ashton had raised the issue with him in a meeting with him in Brunei, but gave no further details of their exchange.
"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.
Martin Schulz, president of the EU Parliament, told French radio the US had crossed a line. "I was always sure that dictatorships, some authoritarian systems, tried to listen ... but that measures like that are now practiced by an ally, by a friend, that is shocking, in the case that it is true," Schulz he said in an interview with France 2.
Officials in Japan and South Korea said they were aware of the newspaper reports and had asked Washington to clarify them.
"I'm aware of the article, but we still haven't confirmed the contents of the story. Obviously we're interested in this matter and we'll seek an appropriate confirmation on this," said Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga at a news conference.
"We saw the report and will do a fact-check," a South Korean government official said. The official declined to comment further, saying it was a media report without any clear evidence.
Officials in New Delhi did not have any immediate comment but India's External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, who is also in Brunei, told the ANI television service: "These are all areas of great strategic importance that we have to cooperate and collaborate in, in counter-terrorism measures.
"I think we continue to remain in touch and cooperate and (if) there is any concern we would convey it or they would convey it to us," he added.
German magazine Der Spiegel reported on Saturday that the National Security Agency (NSA) bugged EU offices and gained access to EU internal computer networks, the latest revelation of alleged US spying that has prompted outrage from EU politicians.
The magazine followed up on Sunday with a report that the US agency taps half a billion phone calls, emails and text messages in Germany in a typical month, much more than any other European peer and similar to the data tapped in China or Iraq.
"If the media reports are correct, this brings to memory actions among enemies during the Cold War. It goes beyond any imagination that our friends in the United States view the Europeans as enemies," German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said.
"If it is true that EU representations in Brussels and Washington were indeed tapped by the American Secret Service, it can hardly be explained with the argument of fighting terrorism," she said in a statement.
Revelations about the US surveillance program, which was made public by fugitive former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, have raised a furor in the US and abroad over the balance between privacy rights and national security.
Kerry said the Obama administration believes that China could have aided the US in its efforts to arrest Snowden while he was in Hong Kong. Snowden is currently holed up at an international airport in Russia, from where he has applied for asylum in Ecuador.
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