Enemies Close, Friends Closer? CIA Reportedly Snooped on S. Korea Via Secret Seoul Office Until 2020
13:04 GMT 31.10.2021 (Updated: 13:24 GMT 31.10.2021)
© AP Photo / J. Scott Applewhite, FileIn this 2005 file photo, a workman slides a dustmop over the floor at the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters in Langley, Va., near Washington
© AP Photo / J. Scott Applewhite, File
Washington has faced anger and resentment from allies around the world amid revelations that US spies eavesdrop on foreign leaders’ conversations, correspondence, and even their intimate moments. In May, European leaders discovered that Danish intelligence cooperated with National Security Agency (NSA) to spy on officials between 2012-2014.
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) ran a secret office in Seoul, vacuuming up intelligence on its South Korean allies for at least a decade and a half until its closure in 2020, Yonhap news agency reports, citing legal sources.
The office’s existence was discovered after three former employees took the US government to court for wrongful termination.
The three employees, all of them South Korean nationals, were hired by the office, which ran under the CIA’s Open Source Enterprise programme between 2005 and 2009, and were laid off between February and March 2020.
In their legal claim, the plaintiffs argued that there were no pressing grounds for their dismissal. The case was reportedly thrown out, however, after Seoul’s Central District Court ruled that the terminations were a sovereign decision taken by a foreign country (the United States) and were therefore outside the jurisdiction of South Korea’s court system.
The CIA has not commented on the report.
The Yonhap story is the latest embarrassing incident showcasing US spying on its own allies and partners following this summer’s revelations that the Danish Defence Intelligence Services actively assisted the US National Security Agency in its efforts to spy on high-ranking European officials, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in the early to mid-2010s.
French President Emmanuel Macron demanded an explanation from Washington and Copenhagen, saying it was “not acceptable between allies, even less between allies and European partners,” to spy on one another. The White House promised to address the issue with allies through “appropriate” national security channels.
31 May 2021, 15:55 GMT
The scale of NSA surveillance targeting top European politicians were first revealed in 2013 by whistleblower Edward Snowden, with spying taking place for years on end and including the wiretapping of leaders’ personal phones. A document dump by WikiLeaks in 2015 uncovered that the NSA also targeted Japan – including not only senior cabinet members, but major banks and corporations, including Mitsubishi, as well. US spying on German leaders goes back to at least the 1980s and revelations that then-West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl was under surveillance by American intelligence.
The more recent spying scandals aren’t unique to the modern era. In 1993, declassified documents cited by the New York Times revealed that Washington spied on its allies during the Second World War, breaking codes and intercepting secret diplomatic communiques.