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Intelligence expert calls Australia a ‘listening post’ for NSA spies

An intelligence expert has claimed that Australia is being used as a 'listening post' by the American National Security Agency (NSA) to monitor the Asia Pacific region.

Professor Des Ball, a veteran spy watcher, told ABC's Lateline on Tuesday that Australian intelligence agencies - including Australian Signals Directorate - have been sharing and gathering information for the NSA from four key facilities in Australia.

"You can't get into the information circuits and play information warfare successfully," he told Lateline, "unless you're into the communications of the higher commands in [the] various countries in our neighbourhood."

The Australian facilities used are reportedly part of the NSA's XKeyscore scheme, which sifts through and analyses vast swathes of Internet data.

Professor Ball also believes that the NSA and the Australian Signals Directorate are only two of several other intelligence agencies involved in monitoring international phone conversations in Australia.

"If you are making an overseas call you would be foolish not to take into account that there are at least six or eight agencies who would be party to your conversation," he said.

Nick Xenophon, an Independent Senator, is weary of the amount of power intelligence agencies are able to wield with little to no public accountability.

"At the very least the Australian government should be calling in the US ambassador", he said, and asked whether "the level of scrutiny, the level of access to citizens' phone records in Germany, France and Spain, has been happening here."

On Monday it was reported by Spanish newspaper El Mundo that the NSA secretly monitored 60 million phone calls in Spain in a single month, just a week after similar accusations of mass surveillance were reported in France.