New Snowden Leaks Reveal Australia And New Zealand Spying On Indonesia, Pacific Island Nations

By on
A woman uses her mobile phone in front of sale signs in the window of a clothes store at a shopping mall in central Sydney June 6, 2013. Australia's economy posted a second straight quarter of moderate growth as a drop in business investment offset gains
A woman uses her mobile phone in front of sale signs in the window of a clothes store at a shopping mall in central Sydney June 6, 2013. Reuters/Daniel Munoz

A leaked report has confirmed Australia’s interest in Indonesia. Based on documents obtained from former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, Australian spies are targeting Indonesia’s biggest mobile network. The telecommunications systems of Australia’s small Pacific Island neighbours are also being monitored.

According to the leaked Snowden files published in New Zealand on Mar. 4, the Australian Signals Directorate has been working closely with New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau to gain access to telecommunications networks in Indonesia and the South Pacific.  The ASD, Australia’s electronic espionage agency, and the GCSB are spying on smaller Pacific island countries such as Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Kiribati, Tonga and French Polynesia.

The documents also revealed surveillance on Telkomsel, Indonesia’s biggest mobile network. The Australian and New Zealand spy agencies intercept the satellite communications and under-sea cables. Both intelligence agencies share the data on telephone calls, emails and social media messages with the rest of the Five Eyes network.

In 2009, a New Zealand intelligence officer was working on exchange in Canberra and was assigned in ASD’s network infrastructure analysis section where he was given specific tasks Indonesian telecom provider Telkomsel. According to the secret documents, the agent was tasked to “investigate” call data records sent over FTP and researching the network’s voice compression gateways.

It was revealed in 2014 that ASD stole almost 1.8 million encrypted master keys from Telkomsel, according to a 2012 U.S. NSA document. The ASD has also obtained access to bulk call data from Indosat, Indonesia’s domestic satellite telecommunications, including information on Indonesian government officials and ministers.

Australia and New Zealand also worked on getting access to the South Pacific mobile networks including the Solomon Islands. The ASD and GCSB had intercepted phone calls from a signals intelligence collection facility in Honiara.

Fiji was also mentioned in the leaked documents. The GCSB had reported that it provided assistance to the ASD’s military support unit to perform target systems analysis on the communications of the Fiji government, military and police. The surveillance on Fiji had highlighted the significance of mobile phone networks for intelligence collection.

SMH reports that the Australian government has refused to comment on the information based on documents leaked by Snowden. Prime Minister Tony Abbott has previously insisted that intelligence will not be used to the “detriment of other countries.”

Before the revelations in New Zealand, the country’s prime minister, John Key, had dismissed the fallout from the reports. Nicky Hager, the reporter who exposed the contents of Snowden’s leaked documents, had warned of new revelations about the GCSB activities, reports 

Join the Discussion