Salman Khurshid waters down US snooping, calls it cyber scrutiny

A report has claimed that the Indian embassy in the US was one of the 38 diplomatic missions which American intelligence agencies were spying on.

Updated: Jul 02, 2013, 16:17 PM IST

Zee Media Bureau

Brunei: Days after a report claimed that the Indian embassy in the US was one of the 38 diplomatic missions which the American intelligence agency NSA was spying on, Indian Minister for External Affairs Salman Khurshid on Tuesday attempted to water down the whole issue.

According to a report in the British newspaper The Guardian, the US intelligence service National Security Agency (NSA) bugged EU embassies in Washington and in New York as well as its offices in Brussels and infiltrated their internal computer networks.

“One document lists 38 embassies and missions, describing them as ‘targets’. It details an extraordinary range of spying methods used against each target, from bugs implanted in electronic communications gear to taps into cables to the collection of transmissions with specialised antennae,” the Guardian said.

It added, “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".

But Khurshid said there was no need to react strongly.

“I don’t think we should be raising it to such a high level...that it becomes a matter of serious question,” Khurshid was reported as saying by a news channel.

He further clarified, "There are issues that America is looking at. We discussed during (US Secretary of State) Kerry`s visit. Kerry and Obama have clarified, there is some information that they get out of scrutiny and they use it for terrorism purposes. It is only a computer study of patterns - meaning destination. It is not snooping."

He said India and the US have a cyber security dialogue during which such issues are discussed.

“As far as we are concerned there are no issues at stake,” he added.

"Some of the information they (the US) got out of their scrutiny, they were able to use it to prevent serious terrorist attacks in several countries," he said.

The remarks are in contrast with that of the ministry, which had initially termed as "unacceptable" any privacy violation after whistleblower Edward Snowden, a former technical assistant for the CIA, had blown the lid off US` National Security Agency`s secret spy programme.

Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal said the "government is looking at what is the nature of information being sought, and let the External Affairs Ministry first find that out".
One of the surveillance programmes, codenamed PRISM, has given the National Security Agency access to e-mails, web chats and other communications from companies such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Skype, according to documents leaked to the Washington Post and Britain’s Guardian newspaper.

According to earlier reports, India is the fifth most tracked country by the US intelligence.

The Guardian claims to have acquired top secret documents about the US National Security Agency`s data-mining tool, called Boundless Informant. The tool details and even maps by country the voluminous amount of information it collects from computer and telephone networks.

Former CIA worker Edward Snowden revealed to the Washington Post and the Guardian that the US agency has been using tech giants Microsoft, Google, Apple, Yahoo, Facebook, Skype and YouTube to spy on private information of users around the world. The PRISM programme, which has been in operation since 2007, is aimed to monitor foreign communications that take place on US servers.

(With IANS inputs)