The Australian Government tracked phone calls made by Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and those in his inner circle and attempted to listen in on at least one conversation, according to documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden to two news agencies.
According to the ABC and the Guardian, the Australian Signals Directorate, one of the country’s intelligence agencies, targeted the phones of the Indonesian president, his wife, several high-ranking government figures and even the country’s former vice president.
The leaked slide documents, given to both publications, cover the attempts of the Australian Government to continue intercepting communications while 3G technology was rolled out across Indonesia in 2009.
The documents list the handsets used by each of the targets - in most cases the Nokia E90-1 - as part of a long-term strategy to monitor the mobile communications of the targets.
The ASD tracked call data on President Yudhoyono’s phone for 15 days in August 2009, the news outlets reported, charting in and outbound calls, call duration and call nature (SMS or voice).
It also attempted to listen in on one phone call without success. The conversation lasted less than one minute and could not be tapped, the ABC reported.
The leak is the second in recent weeks made by Snowden involving Australia’s intelligence gathering efforts on Indonesia.
Indonesian foreign minister Marty Natalegawa recently lashed out against the Government’s alleged joint efforts with the US to target Indonesian officials via the Australian embassy in Jakarta and threatened to revoke partnership in several areas including people smuggling.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott attempted to play down the significance of the alleged spying and said on ABC’s 7.30 program last Wednesday all countries and governments gather information.
"We use the information that we gather for good, including to build a stronger relationship with Indonesia,” he said.
“And one of the things that I've offered to do today in my discussions with the Indonesian vice president is to elevate our level of information sharing, because I want the people of Indonesia to know that everything, everything that we do is to help Indonesia as well as to help Australia."