Britain Spied On Leaders At 2009 G-20 Summit: Report

In the midst of all the illegal surveillance scandals plaguing the Obama administration, Great Britain is being accused of spying on world leaders at the G-20 Summit by intercepting phone calls during the meeting in 2009.

The British publication The Guardian reported on Monday that it received top secret documents from Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower.

The report states that the British intelligence agency GCHQ monitored the computers of delegates attending the conference and tried to break their passwords. Among the leaders targeted were the former President of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev, and Turkish finance minister, Mehmet Simsek, the newspaper said.

This comes just hours before world leaders start talks at the the G-8 Summit in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland. All members of the G-8 also belong to the G-20.

The newspaper says that it has been long suspected that there is espionage taking place at these conferences, but it has never been uncovered with evidence. The evidence was part of documents provided by Snwoden a former US private defense contractor involved in the National Security Agency (NSA) leak scandal.

These documents raise even more questions about the limits being breached by the GCHQ which is the agency equivalent to the NSA in the United Kingdom. The American entity has defended its actions by claiming that they are necessary in the fight against terrorism.

The G-20 alleged surveillance did not have terrorism as its focus, but the attempt to gain an advantage during talks. The documents reveal that during G20 meetings in April and September 2009, the GCHQ used what one document calls “ground-breaking intelligence capabilities” to intercept the communications of visiting delegations.


This included setting up internet cafes email interceptions, hacking into delegates’ BlackBerrys to monitor calls and emails, providing spy analysts, targeting the Turkish Finance Minister and his party, and spying on former Russian leader Dmitry Medvedev.

“For the first time, analysts had a live picture of who was talking to who that updated constantly and automatically,” according to an internal review. A second review implies that the findings were being relayed almost instantly to British representatives in the meetings. This was an undeniable negotiating advantage.

“In a live situation such as this (the G-20), intelligence received may be used to influence events on the ground taking place just minutes or hours later. This means that it is not sufficient to mine call records afterwards, real-time tip-off is essential.”

[Image via Shutterstock]