SYDNEY, November 18, /ITAR-TASS/. Australian intelligence agencies in August 2009 during 15 days were listening or recording mobile phone conversations of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, ABC television reported on Monday with reference to documents passed to the media by former CIA employee, NSA leaker Edward Snowden.
“The documents show that Australian intelligence actively sought a long-term strategy to continue to monitor the president's mobile phone activity. The surveillance targets also included senior figures in his inner circle and even the president's wife Kristiani Herawati (also known as Ani Yudhoyono),” ABC said. “Also on the list of targets is the vice president Boediono, the former vice president Yussuf Kalla, the foreign affairs spokesman, the security minister, and the information minister.”
The current ABC exposure has added fuel to the fire of scandal that broke out in relations between Canberra and Jakarta after in late October the local media reported a secret spy operation (interception of phone calls, radio, Internet traffic) that Australian intelligence agencies conduct under the guise of the country’s embassies and consulates in Jakarta, Bangkok, Hanoi, Beijing, Dili (East Timor), in the office of high commissioners in Kuala Lumpur and Port Moresby (Papua New Guinea) and in diplomatic missions in other countries. The data collected by the Australian intelligence service are processed within Operation Stateroom, which is jointly conducted under the leadership of the United States by intelligence communities of five countries that form the so-called group of Five Eyes. In addition to the United States and Australia, it includes Canada, the United Kingdom and New Zealand.
Indonesia has called the spying activities of Australian intelligence agencies in Jakarta unacceptable and demanded an explanation and its immediate cessation. In response, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said they took very seriously Jakarta’s concerns, but traditionally did not comment on the work of the intelligence community. Mr Yudhoyono’s spokesman Teuku Faizasyah said: “The Australian Government needs to clarify this news, to avoid further damage ... (but) the damage has been done.” Tony Abbott said: “First of all, all governments gather information and all governments know that every other government gathers information... the Australian government never comments on specific intelligence matters. This has been the long tradition of governments of both political persuasions and I don't intend to change that today.” The Australian prime minister also said that the government was using all the resources at its disposal, including information, in order to help the friends and allies, and not harm them.