Information obtained by SPIEGEL shows that America's National Security Agency (NSA) not only conducted online surveillance of European citizens, but also appears to have specifically targeted buildings housing European Union institutions. The information appears in secret documents obtained by whistleblower Edward Snowden that SPIEGEL has in part seen. A "top secret" 2010 document describes how the secret service attacked the EU's diplomatic representation in Washington.
The document suggests that in addition to installing bugs in the building in downtown Washington, DC, the European Union representation's computer network was also infiltrated. In this way, the Americans were able to access discussions in EU rooms as well as emails and internal documents on computers.
The attacks on EU institutions show yet another level in the broad scope of the NSA's spying activities. For weeks now, new details about Prism and other surveillance programs have been emerging from what had been compiled by whistleblower Snowden . It has also been revealed that the British intelligence service GCHQ operates a similar program under the name Tempora with which global telephone and Internet connections are monitored.
The documents SPIEGEL has seen indicate that the EU representation to the United Nations was attacked in a manner similar to the way surveillance was conducted against its offices in Washington. An NSA document dated September 2010 explicitly names the Europeans as a "location target".
The documents also indicate the US intelligence service was responsible for an electronic eavesdropping operation in Brussels. A little over five years ago, EU security experts noticed several telephone calls that were apparently targeting the remote maintenance system in the Justus Lipsius Building, where the EU Council of Ministers and the European Council are located. The calls were made to numbers that were very similar to the one used for the remote administration of the building's telephone system.
Security officials managed to track the calls to NATO headquarters in the Brussels suburb of Evere. A precise analysis showed that the attacks on the telecommunications system had originated from a building complex separated from the rest of the NATO headquarters that is used by NSA experts.
A review of the remote maintenance system showed that it had been called and reached several times from precisely that NATO complex. Every EU member state has rooms in the Justus Lipsius Building that can be used by EU ministers. They also have telephone and Internet connections at their disposal.