American spies covertly monitored top officials within the Japanese government and business sector to gain insight into trade plans and climate change policy, according to new documents released by WikiLeaks.
Classified National Security Agency (NSA) messages show that U.S. officials have been able to secretly look deep within the Japanese power structure since at least 2007.
Some of the documents indicate that the intercepted communications were shared with Britain, Canada and other nations in the “Five Eyes” community of intelligence sharing.
“In these documents we see the Japanese government worrying in private about how much or how little to tell the United States, in order to prevent undermining of its climate change proposal or its diplomatic relationship,” WikiLeaks head Julian Assange said in a statement on Friday. “And yet we now know that the United States heard everything and read everything, and was passing around the deliberations of Japanese leadership to Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the U.K.
“The lesson for Japan is this: Do not expect a global surveillance superpower to act with honor or respect.”
Officials at the Japanese central bank, the natural gas division of Mitsubishi, the petroleum division of Mitsui & Co, and multiple government officials were targeted by the surveillance, according to WikiLeaks.
In one document from 2008, NSA officials reported on “key objectives” for carbon emissions targets that Japanese diplomats were settling on ahead of a G-8 meeting.
In another top-secret message from 2009, the NSA described talking points of the Japanese agriculture minister as he was heading into trade talks with the U.S.
A third message describes how the Japanese government was “seeking ways to prevent damage with the U.S.,” during a scuffle over the import of American cherries. “The principal fear among the Japanese is that the issue will become similarly politicized” as a previous dispute over beef, the NSA said.
Unlike in previous NSA leaks, the messages do not appear to have been personally targeting the Japanese prime minister.
Defenders of the spy agency would say that the surveillance is routine, and par for the course for intelligence agents.
The NSA has been under fire over the last two years, however, since Edward Snowden’s leaks about its reach, and additional disclosures are likely to only further tarnish its image.