Australian embassies part of US spy network
Australian diplomatic posts throughout Asia and the Pacific are spying on foreign governments through electronic intercepts that are fed into the vast intelligence network operated by the United States National Security Agency.
The latest revelations of Australian involvement have come from an NSA document leaked by American whistleblower Edward Snowden to the German publication Der Spiegel and supported by intelligence experts.
Previous leaks have claimed Australia has been eavesdropping on confidential telephone calls and electronic communications from neighbouring countries including Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia.
Fairfax newspapers reported yesterday that radio, telecommunications and internet traffic was being intercepted by surveillance facilities hidden in embassies in Jakarta, Bangkok, Hanoi, Beijing and Dili, high commissions in Kuala Lumpur and Port Moresby, and other diplomatic posts.
Australian intelligence is fed into the global "Five Eyes" network linking Australia with the US, Britain, New Zealand and Canada.
The Australian Signals Directorate, the nation's key electronic intelligence-gatherer, has been a full intelligence partner with the US since 2004, granting Australia the highest level of co-operation available to a foreign agency.
The directorate is a full partner in the NSA's XKeystore programme, opening a huge pool of electronic data - including emails, search inquiries and online conversations - to intelligence analysts.
Australian data is collected and disseminated through the joint Australia-US base at Pine Gap near Alice Springs, the Shoal Bay Receiving Station near Darwin, the Kojarena satellite ground station near Geraldton in Western Australia, and the naval communications facility HMAS Harman near Canberra.
Australia and the US also share geospatial intelligence gathered by a satellite network.
New evidence that Australian embassies are also linked to the NSA's global electronic web has come from the document leaked by Snowden to Der Spiegel revealing an intercept programme operated from the diplomatic posts of the "Five Eyes" partners.