The Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in Britain has been spying on hotel reservations worldwide to monitor diplomats, a new report says.
On Sunday, German weekly Der Spiegel
reported that for more than three years, GCHQ has been using a system to automatically monitor hotel bookings of at least 350 hotels around the world in order to detect diplomats’ travels.
The report was based on leaked documents by US intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden.
According to the report, the aim of the program, codenamed “Royal Concierge,” is to inform the GCHQ, at the time of the booking, of the location and hotel a foreign diplomat plans to visit.
The leaked documents stated that the booking information enables the “technical operations community” to make the necessary preparations prior to the diplomat’s visit.
Among the so-called preparations included wiretapping the hotel room telephone and fax machine as well as the monitoring of computers connected to the hotel network (“computer network exploitation.”)
Furthermore, the leaked documents showed that in cases of “governmental hard targets,” the surveillance could involve “human intelligence” operations, such as deploying human spies to listen in on a diplomat’s conversations at the hotel lounge.
The German weekly said the revelations cast doubt on the reliability of the testimony given by the heads of the three British intelligence services -- the GCHQ, MI5 and MI6 -- to a parliamentary committee last week.
During the hearing on November 7, the heads of the three spying agencies stated that the exclusive purpose behind the surveillance is to fight terrorism and to monitor the latest postings by al-Qaida and similar units.
The United Kingdom has sought to defend its intelligence-gathering activities in the wake of Snowden’s intelligence leaks about the joint spying practices of the GCHQ and its American counterpart, the NSA.