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Edward Snowden’s spying revelations

Below are the main spying revelations made by Edward Snowden, a former consultant at the US National Security Agency, who announced on Friday that he was seeking political asylum in Russia.

On June 5, the British daily newspaper The Guardian revealed the existence of a secret US court order forcing US telephone company Verizon to provide the NSA with daily information on its customers’ calls from April to July.

Under the order, “the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data, call duration, unique identifiers, and the time and duration of all calls. The contents of the conversation itself are not covered, ” the report explained.

A Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Fisa) had “granted the order to the FBI on April 25, giving the government unlimited authority to obtain the data for a specified three-month period ending on July 19,” the paper reported.

A day later, on June 6, The Washington Post and The Guardian reported that the NSA and the FBI had access to servers of nine major Internet companies such as Microsoft, Yahoo!, Google and Facebook to monitor the web traffic of people outside the United States.

The Washington Post said it had been contacted by a former NSA employee, who provided documents, including a Powerpoint presentation describing the partnership between the NSA and the Internet companies.

It said the secret intelligence programme, codenamed “PRISM” had been in place since 2007 and allows the NSA to connect with the Internet companies’ servers via a portal to consult information on users where information leads it to “reasonably” think they are abroad. The snooping went ahead without a legal order.

American law protects its citizens from surveillance carried out without a legal order, but people outside US territory do not benefit from this protection and can be spied on legally.

On June 9, Snowden, from Hong Kong, said he was the source of the leaks.

In an article published on June 22 in the Hong Kong daily the South China Morning Post, Snowden said that the US government had also hacked Chinese mobile phone companies to gather millions of text messages.

It said US spies had also hacked the prestigious Tsinghua University in Beijing — home to one of six “network backbones” that route all of mainland China’s Internet traffic — and the Hong Kong headquarters of Pacnet, which operates one of the Asia-Pacific region’s largest fibre-optic networks.

On June 30 the German weekly Der Spiegel, basing itself on confidential documents provided by Snowden, said the European Union was another target of Washington’s spy programme.

According to the magazine, one document, dated September 2010 and classed as “strictly confidential”, describes how the NSA kept tabs on the EU’s diplomatic mission in Washington.

Microphones were installed in the building and the computer network infiltrated, giving the agency access to emails and internal documents.

The EU delegation at the United Nations was subject to similar surveillance, it said, adding the spying also extended to the bloc’s Brussels headquarters.