The National Security Agency spied on an American law firm that represented Indonesia in several recent trade disputes with the U.S., according to a top-secret document leaked to The New York Times
by Edward Snowden.
The February 2013 document does not disclose the name of the law firm on which the agency spied, but the Times reported on Saturday that Mayer Brown, a Chicago-based firm with an international practice, was advising the Indonesian government on trade issues at the time.
According to the Times, Indonesia was primarily involved in two trade disputes with the United States over two major exports: clove cigarettes, which had been banned in America, and shrimp, which the U.S. had contended was being dumped at below-market prices.
Snowden, 30, who lives under temporary political asylum in Russia, continues to leak classified documents that he smuggled out while working as an NSA subcontractor by downloading them onto a flash drive that had been banned from use by the agency.
In fact, journalist Glenn Greenwald, who broke the story of Snowden's revelations last year, debuted his new website, The Intercept
, on Monday with information leaked by Snowden about the NSA's role in targeted killings.
The article disclosed an NSA program
that provided geolocation data to U.S. Joint Special Operations Command to target drone strikes and capture-kill raids.
In addition, agency officials told Congress this week that a civilian employee had resigned after losing his security clearance for allowing Snowden
to use his password to obtain the classified information.
Snowden has been charged with espionage by the U.S. government. He is believed to still have 1.5 million classified documents he has yet to share.
In the latest breach, The Times reports that the document disclosed that the NSA's Australian counterpart, the Australian Signals Directorate, told the agency that it was monitoring the talks between Indonesia and the American law firm.
It offered to share the information with the NSA, saying that “information covered by attorney-client privilege may be included” in the data-gathering, according to The Times.
The Australian agency sought guidance from the NSA on the spying — and the document leaked to The Times said that NSA officials “provided clear guidance” and that the Australian agency “has been able to continue to cover the talks, providing highly useful intelligence for interested US customers.”
The NSA declined to answer questions about the reported surveillance, The Times reports.
Duane Layton, a Mayer Brown lawyer, told the newspaper that he did not have any evidence that he or his firm had been under surveillance by either inteilligence agency.
“I always wonder if someone is listening, because you would have to be an idiot not to wonder in this day and age,” he said. “But I’ve never really thought I was being spied on.”
Under American law, most attorney-client conversations are not protected from surveillance by the NSA, the Times reports.
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