India Tuesday strongly reacted to revelations that the BJP was among the foreign political parties which the US’ National Security Agency (NSA) was authorised to spy upon, terming it totally unacceptable and “extremely disconcerting” even as both the ruling and opposition parties demanded the matter be taken up with Washington.
Answering queries from media persons here, external affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said he had only heard about and not seen the revelations but said it was “extremely disconcerting” that India’s privacy laws “concerning an individual or organisation” had been undermined.
He was responding to queries if the government had sought an explanation from the US over the reports that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was among the parties that the NSA had been authorised to spy upon.
Akbaruddin said India had in the past raised with the US the issue of its intelligence apparatus trawling electronic communications, mainly e-mails, and will follow the same procedure concerning the fresh revelations if these were true.
It was totally unacceptable that an Indian organisation’s privacy was “being trampled upon”, he said.
Calling it “a matter of deep concern”, BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy said the “revelation on spying on BJP needs to be authenticated” and “if true, MEA must respond to this appropriately”.
The opposition Congress also said the government must take up the issue with the US.
“It is incumbent upon the Indian government to take it up with their American counterparts. If at all the report is correct, and if so, what were the reasons why this alleged activity was undertaken,” said Congress leader Manish Tewari.
India was among 193 countries “concerning” whom the NSA has been authorised to intercept information by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, according to a new report.
The NSA has exempted only four countries – Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – “in a group known collectively with the United States as the Five Eyes” from such surveillance, the Washington Post reported.
The US has had broad no-spying arrangements with these four countries, the Post said, citing a new set of top secret documents leaked by Edward Snowden, former NSA contractor-turned- whistleblower who has been given asylum in Russia.
India figures in the list of “193 foreign governments as well as foreign factions, political organisations and other entities that were part of a 2010 certification approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court”, said an accompanying exhibit cited by the newspaper.
“These are the entities about which the NSA may conduct surveillance, for the purpose of gathering foreign intelligence,” the exhibit said.
“Each year a new certification must be approved by the court to permit such surveillance under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act,” it said.
The BJP was one of the six non-US political parties across the globe that the NSA received official permission in 2010 to covertly spy upon, the Post reported.
The other five were Lebanon’s Amal which has links to Hezbollah, the Bolivarian Continental Coordinator of Venezuela with links to FARC, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, and National Salvation Front as well as the Pakistan People’s Party.
The list also authorised spying on 20 organisations “not substantially composed of US persons”, including the UN, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the International Atomic Energy Agency.
“The documents underscore the remarkable breadth of potential ‘foreign intelligence’ collection,” the Post said, noting that though the law was amended to devise “a surveillance programme devoted to countering terrorism, the result was a programme far broader in scope”, the Post said.