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Prism: GCHQ 'penetrated BlackBerry security' to spy on G20 attendees

The British government monitored the phone calls and emails of those who attended the 2009 G20 summits in London, according to documents published by The Guardian.

The spying was carried out by the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the UK equivalent of the National Security Agency (NSA) in the US, according to the documents, which were provided to the newspaper by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Among the allegations is that the GCHQ set up Internet cafes for delegates that used key-logging software to capture their activity on the machines. Dozens of analysts were also reportedly monitoring phone activity among delegates at the conference 24 hours a day.

The agency was also reportedly "Penetrating the security on delegates' BlackBerrys to monitor their email messages and phone calls," the paper said.

"While we cannot comment on media reports regarding alleged government surveillance of telecommunications traffic, we remain confident in the superiority of BlackBerry's mobile security platform for customers using our integrated device and enterprise server technology," a BlackBerry spokeswoman said in a statement. "Our public statements and principles have long underscored that there is no 'back door' pipeline to that platform. Our customers can rest assured that BlackBerry mobile security remains the best available solution to protect their mobile communications."

The NSA was also monitoring Russia's Dmitry Medvedev during the summit, according to The Guardian.

The publication of this information could make it awkward for the G8 nations that are meeting in Northern Ireland for a two-day meeting. According to The Belfast Telegraph, British Prime Minister David Cameron refused to comment on The Guardian's report.

Intel Chairman Defends NSA

Over in the US, meanwhile, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee penned an op-ed that defended the NSA's activities. Rep. Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican, said he was "disheartened" by Snowden's leak, which he characterised as "dangerous national security leaks that have grossly distorted two vital National Security Agency programs."

Snowden was "not involved in the careful execution of these programs, and [had] access to only small pieces of a larger puzzle," Rogers wrote in the Detroit Free Press. "He decided to break the law and the oath he took to the American people by publicly disclosing parts of these classified programs, and then fled to China. These are the actions of a felon, not a whistle-blower."

The controversy got started earlier this month when The Guardian published a FISA request for access to Verizon customer data and ramped up after The Guardian and Washington Post published an article about an NSA program known as Prism, which reportedly provided the government with direct access to the servers of nine major tech companies. Those companies have denied the authorities have such access, though.

Rogers said the FISA requests allow the NSA "to preserve a limited category of business records to help identify foreign terrorists and their plots to attack the US." Data collected does not include "the names or personal information of any American and do not include any content of calls."

Prism, meanwhile, lets the NSA "obtain the specific communications of foreign suspects from U.S. companies with a court order. This program does not create a 'back door' to any U.S. company's server. This program cannot and does not monitor the communications of any U.S. citizens," Rogers wrote.