The US National Security Agency spied on officials of the European Union, infiltrated its computer network and bugged the EU's headquarters in Brussels as well as diplomatic offices in Washington DC and New York City, according to a report published by the German magazine Der Spiegel.
The magazine said it learned of the spying from secret documents obtained by whistleblower Edward Snowden, now threatened with criminal prosecution and a possible death sentence for exposing illegal US government spying.
An NSA document dated September 2010 specifically mentions the EU offices at the United Nations headquarters in New York as a "location target" for eavesdropping.
Even more serious is the apparent electronic eavesdropping of the Brussels office building where the EU Council of Ministers and the European Council are located. A security investigation by the EU five years ago monitored calls that were being made from the building's telephone system.
"Security officials managed to track the calls to NATO headquarters in the Brussels suburb of Evere," Der Spiegel reported. "A precise analysis showed that the attacks on the telecommunications system had originated from a building complex separated from the rest of the NATO headquarters that is used by NSA experts."
This revelation may have the most explosive consequences for US-European relations, since NATO, nominally a military alliance between the US, Canada and numerous European countries, has apparently been used as a screen for US surveillance of its supposed allies. Der Spiegel said the Snowden documents also revealed that the NSA taps a half billion phone calls, emails and text messages in Germany every month. The magazine quoted an NSA document saying, "We can attack the signals of most foreign third-class partners, and we do it too."