Taipei part of US-Aussie spy network: ABC

By Stacy Hsu  /  Staff writer, with CNA

Thu, Oct 31, 2013 - Page 1

Taipei is reportedly among a number of locations in the Asia-Pacific region that contribute to a joint surveillance effort by the US and Australia, according to a report published by the Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC) yesterday.

The report quoted Australian intelligence expert Des Ball as saying that the Australian Signals Directorate has been using local listening posts to monitor countries in the Asia-Pacific region for the US and is sharing the collected information with the US’ National Security Agency (NSA).

“You can’t get into the information circuits and play information warfare successfully unless you’re into the communications of the higher commands in [the] various countries in our neighborhood,” Ball was quoted by ABC as saying.

Ball said Australia is equipped with four key facilities that are part of the US’ controversial Xkeyscore program, a signals intelligence collection and analysis system that critics say gives its users “near unlimited access” to Internet data.

As security is the main focus of Australia’s intelligence units, they have put communications related to terrorist activities at the top of their surveillance list, Ball said.

The report also cited a map released by NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden to back Ball’s claims. The map shows that the US has set up surveillance facilities in its embassies and consulates in several Asian cities, including Taipei, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and Beijing.

“Australia itself has used foreign embassies for listening purposes [in] an operation … in which we’ve used embassies in our region to monitor local, essentially microwave-relayed telephone conversations,” Ball told ABC.

Ball said Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Britain and the US are part of the so-called “Five Eyes” intelligence community, an international agreement for cooperation on signals intelligence under which its signatories may not spy on each other.

“I believe it [the agreement] has not been breached,” Ball was quoted as saying by ABC.