UK eavesdropping on Belgian telephones


British spy agency, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), has been accused of spying on Belgium’s largest telecommunications company.

Germany magazine Der Spiegel claims to be in possession of leaked documents by former National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden, proving that Britain was involved in a cyber-espionage scheme targeting Belgium’s telecom operator Belgacom over the past few years.

Der Spiegel said on its website that it had seen classified documents relating to a GCHQ operation which was designed “to enable better exploitation of Belgacom”.

Earlier this week, Belgium federal prosecutors said they had filed a complaint over an attack last July. The prosecutors believe “international state-sponsored cyber espionage” was responsible for the hacking.

Belgian Prime Minister Elio di Rupo said the investigation will continue and the report will be “closely examined”.

“If the hypothesis involving another country is confirmed, we will of course undertake the necessary steps,” di Rupo said.

The Guardian said that GCHQ ambition is “mastering the Internet and Global Telecoms Exploitation, aimed at scooping up as much online and telephone traffic as possible. This is all being carried out without any form of public acknowledgement or debate”.

The information is gathered using fibre optic cables. In an operation codenamed Tempora, they are able to keep millions of files, including phone tapping, email messages, Facebook posts and the history of internet users’ access to websites.

Classified documents leaked by Snowden in June revealed that the GCHQ was secretly accessing the network of cables, which carry the world’s phone calls and internet traffic and has been sharing the data with its American counterpart the NSA.

GCHQ has not yet commented on the issue.

Photos GCHQ: Ministry of Defence and GCHQ/Crown Copyright