Britain spied on Argentina over Falklands: Edward Snowden

BUENOS AIRES (AFP) - Documents leaked by fugitive US intelligence analyst Edward Snowden show Britain spied on Argentina to monitor its efforts to win sovereignty over the Falkland Islands, Argentine media said Friday.

Britain, which defeated Argentina in a brief, bloody war over the South Atlantic islands in 1982, carried out "covert interception and intervention operations and other manoeuvres" on Argentina from 2008 to 2011, reported news portal TN, citing documents obtained from Snowden.

The website said the Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group, a British agency, carried out a "long-term, far-reaching" espionage programme dubbed Operation Quito that included attempts to spy on military and political leaders' communications and spreading pro-British propaganda online.

"The new, never-before-seen documents expose how (Britain's) most secret task forces used a dirty game and systematic disinformation to launch their cyber-offensive," said the website.

"The objective: to prevent Argentina from getting back the islands."

Snowden, a former contractor at the US National Security Agency, has lived in exile in Russia since 2013 after revealing mass spying programmes by the United States and its allies.

Tension over the Falklands, which Argentina calls the Malvinas, have been on the rise again since British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon last week announced plans to spend £180 million (S$360 million) over 10 years to counter "continuous intimidation" from Argentina.

Argentine President Cristina Kirchner said Thursday at commemorations to mark the 33rd anniversary of the invasion that Buenos Aires "is not a danger to anyone," dismissing London's move to beef up defences as political posturing ahead of Britain's general elections on May 7.

Argentina claims it inherited the remote, wind-swept islands from Spain when it gained independence.

Britain argues it has historically ruled the islands and that the islanders should have the right to self-determination.

In a 2013 referendum, 99.8 per cent voted to remain a British overseas territory.

The dispute has flared again in recent years since the discovery of significant oil deposits off the islands.

The 74-day Falklands War claimed the lives of 649 Argentine soldiers, 255 British soldiers and three islanders.