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'Insane, Disgusting' and 'Epic Treachery': NSA Spied on Climate Talks

'Obama admin. clearly never wanted Copenhagen talks to work,' says Bill McKibben following latest NSA revelations concerning climate talks

Jon Queally

While climate activists from around the world gathered outside the UN climate summit in Copenhagen in 2009 called for "System Change, Not Climate Change' while demanding to be heard by world leaders, the U.S. delegation inside the talks was busy listening to something else: a steady stream of surveillance intelligence on other nations provided by the National Security Agency.

That's according to new documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden and published Thursday by reporters at the Huffington Post and the Danish newspaper Information, with help from American journalist Laura Poitras.

As the Information reports:

At the Copenhagen Climate Summit in 2009, the world's nations were supposed to reach an agreement that would protect future generations against catastrophic climate change. But not everyone was playing by the rules. A leaked document now reveals that the US employed the NSA, its signals intelligence agency, to intercept information about other countries' views on the climate negotiations before and during the summit. According to observers, the spying may have contributed to the Americans getting their way in the negotiations.

And HuffPost's Ryan Grim and Kate Sheppard add:

The document, with portions marked "top secret," indicates that the NSA was monitoring the communications of other countries ahead of the conference, and intended to continue doing so throughout the meeting. Posted on an internal NSA website on Dec. 7, 2009, the first day of the Copenhagen summit, it states that "analysts here at NSA, as well as our Second Party partners, will continue to provide policymakers with unique, timely, and valuable insights into key countries' preparations and goals for the conference, as well as the deliberations within countries on climate change policies and negotiation strategies."

"Second Party partners" refers to the intelligence agencies of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, with which the U.S. has an intelligence-sharing relationship. "While the outcome of the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference remains uncertain, signals intelligence will undoubtedly play a significant role in keeping our negotiators as well informed as possible throughout the 2-week event," the document says.

According to Grim and Sheppard, citing the document, the intel gathered by the NSA was likely "used to brief U.S. officials, such as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and [President] Obama, among others." 

Even more troubling, according to Information's assessment, is that the top secret "document suggests that the NSA's [...] focus in relation to climate change was spying on other countries to collect intelligence that would support American interests, rather than preventing future climate catastrophes."

Climate activists who had placed high hopes in the Copenhagen talks at the time responded to the new revelations with anger on Thursday, with key members of the advocacy group 350.org expressing contempt for the Obama administration's role in sabotaging the talks:

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