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MANILA, Philippines – The US embassy in Manila is one of Washington’s “listening posts” in Asia, used to spy on communication networks and phone calls in the region, a report published Tuesday, October 29, said.
A top-secret map leaked by fugitive intelligence analyst Edward Snowden, published by German news magazine Der Spiegel on Tuesday, listed Manila as one of 90 surveillance facilities at embassies and consulates around the world.
Of the 90, at least 74 – including Manila – were listed as “staffed locations,” while at least 14 others are unmanned. Two other facilities serve as technical support centers.
There are no details yet on the extent of the operations in Manila, but the report said the facilities are used by the United States to monitor communication networks and phone calls, under the joint Central Intelligence Agency-National Security Agency group called the “Special Collection Service.”
The revelation of the listening posts followed days of angry protests from the US’s European allies after newspaper reports, based on leaks from Snowden, that Washington collected tens of millions of telephone calls and online communications in Europe as part of a vast anti-terror sweep.
Aside from Manila, the map dated August 13, 2010 listed communications intelligence facilities in cities such as Jakarta, Beijing, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, and Yangon. Facilities in East Asia, mostly in China, were also listed.
However, there are no such facilities in the US’s closest allies Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, and the United Kingdom, the Sydney Morning Herald noted.
A full version of the map was first published by Der Spiegel on its website, but was later replaced by a censored version. Rappler obtained a copy of the uncensored map online, and it confirmed Manila as listed as one of the 90 posts.
At least one country unwittingly hosting the alleged spying posts – Indonesia – has already expressed anger over the issue.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said Wednesday, October 30, that the issue had been raised with the US charge d’affaires in Jakarta.
“Indonesia cannot accept and protests strongly over the report about wiretapping facilities at the US embassy in Jakarta,” Natalegawa said in a statement.
“If confirmed, such action is not only a breach of security, but also a serious breach of diplomatic norms and ethics and certainly not in the spirit of friendly relations between nations.”
There was no immediate comment from the US embassy in Jakarta.
The anger in Asia will heap further pressure on the US as it seeks to placate European nations over the spying claims.
On Tuesday, US espionage chiefs sought to turn the tables on their European allies in the row over intercepted phone records, saying that in many cases it was European agencies – not the NSA – that gathered and shared them with America. – With reports from KD Suarez and Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com