The NSA has had its Australian colleagues spy on American lawyers. The NSA itself is not allowed to spy on Americans and should never have intercepted this communication itself.
The Australian Secret Service Australian Signals Directorate warned the NSA in advance that communications from US lawyers would be intercepted and the US Secret Service nevertheless agreed to have the information collected and received, the American newspaper The New York Times reported. based on documents from whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The American lawyers assisted the Indonesian government in an undisclosed trade dispute with the American government. According to The New York Times, it’s about shrimp or kretek, cigarettes made with cloves. The Australian Secret Service said the information would be of interest to “American customers,” but it is unknown whether the agency was only targeting secret services or also companies.
The documents reinforce the idea that the NSA has often used espionage resources for economic benefit to the US government or US companies. The shrimp trade is worth a maximum of 750 million euros per year, the American newspaper writes. With kreteks, this concerns a maximum of several tens of millions of euros per year.
The Australian secret service, together with the NSA, has access to Indonesian communications through the company Indosat, which handles satellite communications for the Indonesian government, according to the documents. The secret services have 1.8 million ‘master keys’ in their hands and are said to have decrypted them. The situation with lawyers wiretapping is precarious, because the NSA itself should never have engaged in the spying activities without permission from a secret court.