Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Report: Document shows NSA linked to spying on U.S. law firm
First Published Feb 15 2014 10:38 pm • Last Updated Feb 15 2014 10:38 pm

Washington • The National Security Agency was involved in the surveillance of an American law firm while it represented a foreign government in trade disputes with the United States, The New York Times reported in a story based on a top-secret document obtained by former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden.

The February 2013 document shows that the Indonesian government had retained the law firm for help in trade talks, the Times reported in a story posted on its website Saturday. The law firm was not identified in the document, but the Chicago-based firm Mayer Brown was advising the Indonesian government on trade issues at the time, according to the newspaper.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

The document itself is a monthly bulletin from an NSA liaison office in Canberra, the capital of Australia. The NSA’s Australian counterpart, the Australian Signals Directorate, had notified the NSA that it was conducting surveillance of the talks, including communications between Indonesian officials and the American law firm, and offered to share the information, the Times reported.

Liaison officials asked the NSA general counsel’s office, on behalf of the Australians, for guidance about the spying. The bulletin notes only that the counsel’s office "provided clear guidance" and that the Australian eavesdropping agency "has been able to continue to cover the talks, providing highly useful intelligence for interested U.S. customers," according to the Times story.

The NSA and the Australian government declined to answer questions about the surveillance, the Times reported. In statements to the newspaper and The Associated Press, the NSA said it "does not ask its foreign partners to undertake any intelligence activity that the U.S. government would be legally prohibited from undertaking itself."

Officials have said Snowden took 1.7 million documents with him when he fled the U.S. last year and has shared some of them with journalists. He has been granted temporary asylum in Russia and has been charged with theft and espionage in the U.S.

Duane Layton, a Mayer Brown lawyer involved in the trade talks, told the Times that he did not have any evidence that he or his firm had been under scrutiny by Australian or U.S. intelligence agencies.

"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 in an interview with the newspaper. "But I’ve never really thought I was being spied on."

The NSA is prohibited from targeting Americans, including businesses, law firms and other organizations based in the U.S., for surveillance without warrants, the Times reported. Intelligence officials have repeatedly said the NSA does not use the spy services of its partners in an alliance of intelligence operations — Australia, Britain, Canada and New Zealand — to skirt the law.

The Times reported that the NSA can intercept the communications of Americans if they are in contact with a foreign intelligence target abroad, such as Indonesian officials. The U.S. agency is then required to follow so-called minimization rules to protect their privacy, such as deleting the identity of Americans or information that is not deemed necessary to understand or assess the foreign intelligence, before sharing it with other agencies, the paper reported.


story continues below
story continues below

Most attorney-client conversations do not get special protections under American law from NSA eavesdropping, according to the newspaper.



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Login to the Electronic Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.