POLITICS

Reports say Australia tried to monitor Indonesian leader's cellphone

11/18/2013 02:50 EST | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST
CANBERRA, Australia - Prime Minister Tony Abbott refused to comment Monday on media reports that an Australian security agency attempted to listen in on Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yuhoyonon’s cellphone in 2009.

Australian Broadcasting Corp. and the Guardian reported Monday that they had documents from National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden that showed the agency also targeted the phones of Indonesian First Lady Kristiani Herawati as well as another eight government ministers and officials.

The documents reportedly showed that the Australian Defence Signals Directorate, now the top-secret Australian Signals Directorate, attempted to listen to the president’s phone conversations on at least one occasion and tracked activity on the phone for 15 days in August 2009.

Abbott, who was not in government in 2009, declined to comment on the reports in parliament.

“All governments gather information, and all governments know that every other government gathers information” Abbott said. “The Australian government never comments on specific intelligence matters.”

The Indonesian government called in the Australian ambassador for an explanation earlier this month following reports that the Australian Embassy in Jakarta was a hub for Washington’s secret electronic data collection program.

A document from Snowden published last month by German magazine Der Spiegel, describes a signals intelligence program called “Stateroom” in which U.S., British, Australian and Canadian embassies house surveillance equipment to collect electronic communications. Those countries, along with New Zealand, have an intelligence-sharing agreement known as “Five Eyes.”

The Australian Embassy in Jakarta was listed as one of the embassies involved in a report from Australia’s Fairfax media, along with Australian embassies in Bangkok, Hanoi, Beijing and Dili in East Timor; and High Commissions in Kuala Lumpur and Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.