Aid agencies targeted by UK, US intelligence

    Surveillance cameras. Top-secret documents revealed that that international aid organizations like UNICEF and U.N. Development Program have been targets of electronic surveillance. Photo by: Jonathan McIntosh / CC BY-SA

    British and American intelligence agencies appear to have targeted international aid agencies and relief groups as a part of their secret surveillance programs, according to whistleblower Edward Snowden.

    In top-secret documents leaked to The New York Times, The Guardian, and Der Spiegel, the organizations included  UNICEF, the U.N. Development Program, the U.N. Institute for Disarmament Research, and Medecins du Monde, a French medical relief group. All were spied on in 2008-2011 by the U.K. intelligence agency GCHQ in collaboration with the U.S. National Security Agency, which , which Snowden used to work for.

    Earlier cables from the same source hinted that the headquarters of the United Nations in New York and the World Bank in Washington, D.C. may have also been targets of electronic surveillance in the past, but U.S. President Obama ordered the surveillance stopped.

    Snowden’s revelations sparked outrage among the aid community.

    Leigh Daynes, U.K. executive director of Médecins du Monde, told The Guardian that he was “bewildered by these extraordinary allegations of secret surveillance. Our doctors, nurses and midwives are not a threat to national security.

    “There is absolutely no reason for our operations to be secretly monitored,” he added.

    Read more development aid news online, and subscribe to The Development Newswire to receive top international development headlines from the world’s leading donors, news sources and opinion leaders — emailed to you FREE every business day.

    About the author

    • Paul Stephens

      Paul Stephens is a former Devex staff writer based in Washington, D.C. As a multimedia journalist, editor and producer, Paul has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Washington Monthly, CBS Evening News, GlobalPost, and the United Nations magazine, among other outlets. He's won a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting for a 5-month, in-depth reporting project in Yemen after two stints in Georgia: one as a Peace Corps volunteer and another as a communications coordinator for the U.S. Agency for International Development.

    Join the Discussion