Only four countries off limits to NSA spying, says NSA documents

1 Jul 2014

Former CIA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden

New documents appear to show that the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) authorised the surveillance on all but four foreign countries, including the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Once again, National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower, former CIA contractor Edward Snowden, is the person responsible for releasing these documents and, according to a 2010 legal document from the court included in this latest leak, the NSA had an even greater reaching remit, essentially giving it scope for most of the world with regards to digital spying on communications.

As part of FISC-approved surveillance, the NSA could access foreign information through US companies based in foreign countries and also allowed the agency to gather intelligence from some of the largest agencies in the world, including the World Bank, the European Union (EU), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The list of the 193 countries the NSA is permitted to spy on has been published on the Washington Post’s website, as well as a host of organisations the NSA would be able to spy on, including the Muslim Brotherhood and National Salvation front in Egypt and the Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP).

Speaking to the Washington Post, former US government employees who would be familiar with the list said that to list countries that would be considered friends of the US is merely a precaution in case of some unseen event.

“It’s not impossible to imagine a humanitarian crisis in a country that’s friendly to the United States, where the military might be expected on a moment’s notice to go in and evacuate all Americans,” said a former senior defence official.

However, despite four countries not being included in the list, their other territories overseas were not included, for example, the British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic