NSA spied on Israel, EU official, aid groups: report

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US and British spy agencies eavesdropped on an Israeli prime minister, energy firms, aid agencies and an EU official overseeing anti-trust cases, the New York Times reported Friday.

In surveillance of more than 1,000 targets in more than 60 countries between 2008 to 2011, the National Security Agency and Britain's General Communications Headquarters spied on the communications of foreign leaders, including former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, according to secret documents revealed by intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.

The vice president of the European Commission, Joaquin Almunia of Spain, who has authority over anti-trust issues, also appears on a list of surveillance targets, it said.

Mr Almunia has clashed with US tech giant Google over how it operates its search engine and when contacted by the Times, said he was "strongly upset" by the revelations of eavesdropping.

The NSA did not confirm or deny the report but insisted it does not spy to assist American corporations.

"As we have previously said, we do not use our foreign intelligence capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies on behalf of - or give intelligence we collect to - US companies to enhance their international competitiveness or increase their bottom line," NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines said.

But she said intelligence agencies seek "to understand economic systems and policies, and monitor anomalous economic activities" that "are critical to providing policy-makers with the information they need to make informed decisions that are in the best interest of our national security." US and British eavesdroppers also spied on several UN missions in Geneva, including the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the UN Institute for Disarmament Research, and a medical relief agency, Medecins du Monde, according to the report.

The account was based on documents from Mr Edward Snowden which he leaked to the media and are now shared between the New York Times, The Guardian in Britain and Der Spiegel in Germany.

Mr Snowden has set off a firestorm over the past six months with bombshell leaks revealing the vast scale of NSA electronic spying. He faces espionage charges in the United States and has been granted asylum in Russia, where he has defended his disclosures as an attempt to spark debate about US government surveillance.

Few US citizens appear to be mentioned in the documents, but the intercepted communications either started or ended in the United States, the report said.

Some of the surveillance appears to have been carried out from Sugar Grove, Virginia, a listening post run by the NSA under the code name Timberline.