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Edward Snowden, a former contractor for the CIA, left the US in late May after leaking to the media details of extensive internet and phone surveillance by American intelligence. Mr Snowden, who has been granted temporary asylum in Russia, faces espionage charges over his actions.

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The paper published the secret court order directing telecommunications company Verizon to hand over all its telephone data to the NSA on an "ongoing daily basis". That report was followed by revelations in both the Washington Post and Guardian that the NSA tapped directly into the servers of nine internet firms, including Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, to track online communication in a surveillance programme known as Prism.

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Britain's electronic eavesdropping agency GCHQ was also accused of gathering information on the online companies via Prism. He has been charged in the US with theft of government property, unauthorised communication of national defence information and wilful communication of classified communications intelligence.

The paper revealed it had obtained documents from Edward Snowden showing that the GCHQ operation, codenamed Tempora, had been running for 18 months. GCHQ was able to boast a larger collection of data than the US, tapping into fibre-optic cables to give it the ability to monitor up to million communications every day, according to the report. The information from internet and phone use was allegedly stored for up to 30 days to be sifted and analysed.

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Although GCHQ did not break the law, the Guardian suggested that the existing legislation was being very broadly applied to allow such a large volume of data to be collected. The revelations were sourced to Edward Snowden. It is alleged that three undersea cables with terminals in Italy were targeted.

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Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta called the allegations "inconceivable and unacceptable" and said he wanted to establish the truth. He said targets in Hong Kong included the Chinese University, public officials and businesses. The paper added that it had been shown the "top secret" files by Edward Snowden.

The files allegedly suggested that the NSA had also conducted an electronic eavesdropping operation in a building in Brussels, where the EU Council of Ministers and the European Council were located. It is not known what information US spies might have obtained. But observers say details of European positions on trade and military matters could be useful to those involved in US-EU negotiations.

The allegations dominated an EU summit, with Mrs Merkel demanding a full explanation and warning that trust between allies could be undermined. He assured her that her calls were not being monitored now and that it would not happen in future. But the White House did not deny bugging her phone in the past.

Past surveillance by secret police - whether Nazi or communist - has made Germans very sensitive about privacy issues.

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Mrs Merkel grew up in the former East Germany, where the Stasi spied on millions of citizens. France's President Francois Hollande meanwhile expressed alarm at reports that millions of French calls had been monitored by the US. The Guardian later reported that the NSA had monitored the phones of 35 world leaders after being given their s by another US government official. Again, Edward Snowden was the source of the report. A total of 38 embassies and missions have been the "targets" of US spying operations, according to a secret file leaked to the Guardian.

EU embassies and missions in New York and Washington were also said to be under surveillance. The file allegedly detailed "an extraordinary range" of spying methods used to intercept messages, including bugs, specialised antennae and wire taps. The Guardian report also mentioned codenames of alleged operations against the French and Greek missions to the UN, as well as the Italian embassy in Washington. US Secretary of State John Kerry said that activities to protect national security were "not unusual" in international relations.

The paper cited leaked documents showing that, at least untilthe NSA ran the operation from a base in Brasilia, seizing web traffic and details of phone calls from around the region. US agents apparently ed forces with Brazilian telecoms firms to snoop on oil and energy firms, foreign visitors to Brazil, and major players in Mexico's drug wars.

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But the revelations on Latin America kept coming, and in September more specific claims emerged that s and phone calls of the presidents of Mexico and Brazil had been intercepted. Also, the US had been spying on Brazil's state-owned oil firm Petrobras.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff cancelled a state visit to the US in the most high-profile diplomatic move since the scandal hit. The papers revealed that US citizens were inadvertently snooped on for reasons including typing mistakes and errors in the system. In one instance ina "large " of calls placed from Washington DC were intercepted after an error in a computer program entered "" - the telephone area code for Washington DC - into a data query instead of "20", the country code for Egypt.

In Januarythe Guardian newspaper and Channel 4 News reported that the US had collected and stored almost million text messages per day across the globe.

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The programme, Dishfire, analyses SMS messages to extract information including contacts from missed call alerts, location from roaming and travel alerts, financial information from bank alerts and payments and names from electronic business cards, according to the report. Through the vast database, which was in use at least as late asthe NSA gained information on those who were not specifically targeted or under suspicion, the report says.

The revelations came on the eve of an expected announcement by President Obama of a response to recommendations by a US panel on ways to change US electronic surveillance programmes. US spy agency 'collects phone records'. UK spy agency 'taps fibre-optic cables'. US 'hacks China networks'.

EU offices 'bugged'. Merkel phone calls 'intercepted'. Embassies 'under surveillance'. Latin America 'monitored'. US spying 'errors'. SMS messages 'collected and stored'. Related Topics. National Security Agency.

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