By a Newsnet reporter
Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown is facing questions after a national newspaper alleged a senior figure in the last Labour government sanctioned the spying of foreign officials at the 2009 G20 summit in London.
A diplomatic row has broken out after the Guardian newspaper claimed to have seen documents implicating the former Labour party leader in what has been described as a “national scandal” by Turkey’s Foreign Minister.
According to the newspaper, computers were monitored and phones hacked in an elaborate scam involving the British Security Services.
It is alleged that UK intelligence agencies set up fake internet cafes to allow them to access electronic communications of delegates attending the summit. Foreign officials also had their phone conversations intercepted on the instruction of British Government officials.
The revelations are said to have been contained in documents uncovered by Edward Snowden the ex-CIA worker who leaked secret US surveillance details.
Amongst revelations are that US spies attempted to intercept phone calls from Russian delegate Dmitry Medvedev to Moscow and that the Turkish delegation was specifically targeted as was the South African delegation.
Information gathered was said to have been in passed in real time to analysts, allowing British representatives access to confidential information of their allies as well as other delegates. The documents are also said to contain claims that the spying was sanctioned at senior level of then Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Government and that the intelligence gathered was passed to Cabinet Ministers.
The revelations have led to a diplomatic row, with the Turkish Foreign Minister condemning the behaviour.
In an official statement, Professor Ahmet Davutoğlu said: “The claims published in today’s edition of ‘The Guardian’ that phone conversations of our Minister of Finance Mehmet Şimşek and his delegation were tapped during their visit to the United Kingdom in 2009, on the occasion of the G-20 meeting, are alarming.
“If there is even the slightest truth to any of these claims contained in this news report, this will evidently constitute a scandal primarily for the country concerned. In an environment where mutual trust, respect and transparency should be essential for international cooperation, such act by an allied country would clearly be deemed unacceptable, should the news report turn out to be true.
“The British authorities are expected to present an official and satisfactory explanation on this issue. As a matter of fact, necessary diplomatic initiatives have been taken in this regard.”
The suggestion that a senior figure in Gordon Brown’s government sanctioned the spying will raise speculation that the former Prime Minister was himself aware of the plans.
In 2008, at the time of the Chilcot inquiry, Mr Brown told the House of Commons that he planned to accept recommendations on the use of wire-tapping and intercepts as a measure to safeguard national security, but only in criminal cases.
“The use of intercept in evidence characterises a central dilemma we face as a free society, that of preserving our liberties and the rule of law, while at the same time keeping our nation safe and secure,” Brown said in a statement.
Brown stressed that the use of intercepts would be subject to strict controls and that guidelines would be drawn up to ensure that national security interests were not compromised.
The revelations that UK intelligence agencies subsequently used the tactic in order to spy on foreign delegates, including allies, will be embarrassing to current PM David Cameron who is currently attending the G8 summit in Northern Ireland.