Foreign leaders, Google, and the American public are all targets of NSA (U.S. National Security Agency) spying according to documents released by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Now, that list has grown, as new documents state that the NSA and its British counterpart, the GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters), also spied on the OPEC oil cartel.
Information on oil exporting countries had been available to the NSA for years, but in 2008 the agency finally infiltrated OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) and has since been able to access information specifically regarding oil exporting countries and the price of oil.
First Petrobras, Now OPEC
This is not the first time that we have learned of the NSA's interest in oil -- just two months ago it was revealed that the NSA was spying on Brazil's Petrobras. Although the government agency never denied spying on Petrobras, it claimed it never had access to "secrets."
It makes sense that the NSA has been targeting OPEC, with the documents showing that numerous U.S. agencies including the CIA and Department of Energy praised the NSA for its spying. In 2010, for example, the CIA had suspected that Saudi nations were reporting incorrect oil production figures but the agency did not know for sure. The NSA quickly swooped in and saved the day by spying on those countries via OPEC and, therefore, confirmed the CIA's suspicions.
Since OPEC is one of the most important coalitions in the world, it was not easy for the NSA to infiltrate its system. A document from Britain's GCHQ, released in 2010, announced that after a long period of meticulous work, the agencies had finally infiltrated OPEC's computer network. Prior to 2010, the NSA and GCHQ only had minimal access to OPEC.
These latest documents show that OPEC is among the NSA's most important targets, at least up until April 2013. Now, it does not appear as though the organization is as "important" to the NSA, but it was one of the agency's primary targets for at least three years.
The List Grows
The U.S. has had tumultuous relationships with Middle Eastern OPEC countries for a long time and these documents will only hurt those relationships. For many years, some of these countries have attempted to distance themselves from the U.S. dollar when trading oil and now that Snowden has revealed the NSA's interest in OPEC, oil producing countries will definitely be evaluating their options to deal with the U.S. as little as possible.
Over the span of just a few weeks, the NSA has managed to anger multiple European nations after Snowden documents revealed that it had spied on millions of European citizens, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The list of targets has continued to grow after Google went against the NSA over allegations that the agency had tapped Google's fiber lines, which run between the search giant's data centers. At this point, Snowden's original claims suggesting that everyone in the world is a potential target of the U.S.' spying, seem to be quite accurate.