India plays down US cyber snooping reports

New Delhi, July 2 (IANS) India Tuesday sought to play down reports of the US cyber snooping at diplomatic missions, including at the Indian embassy in Washington, and said it was merely a “computer study of patterns” and also cast doubts on the veracity of the revelations.

“I don’t think we should be raising it to such a high level… that it becomes a matter of serious question. It is only a computer study of patterns – meaning destination. It is not snooping,” External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said in Brunei where he has gone to attend meetings with ASEAN countries.

He said the issue was discussed during the India visit of US Secretary of State John Kerry. “Kerry and (US President Barack) Obama have clarified, there is some information that they get out of scrutiny and they use it for terrorism purposes,” he said.

He said India and the US have a cyber security dialogue during which such issues are discussed.

“As far as we are concerned, there are no issues at stake,” he added.

Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal said the “government is looking at what is the nature of information being sought, and let the external affairs ministry first find that out”.

According to media reports, US spies eavesdropped on European diplomats in European Union buildings in Washington. German magazine “Der Spiegel” reported that computers were also hacked so the US could access computer files and e-mails.

The latest disclosures come days after fugitive former CIA agent Edward Snowden blew the whistle on massive data mining by America’s National Security Agency (NSA), using its top-secret Prism programme.

India has said earlier that it would be “unacceptable” if it is revealed that the cyber snooping infringed on the privacy laws of Indian citizens.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari termed the revelations hearsay and said the government should be allowed to study the report and take a “holistic view” on the issue.

“Since these are revelations which are coming from an individual, they are really hearsay, it is not as if this is verified information that is being put in the public space. We also need to see the other aspect of it as to how seriously should we take unverified content,” Tewari told TV news channel Times Now.

“We should allow the government to formulate a holistic view. We will apply ourselves to whatever has been written in those communications so that the government can take a holistic view as to how best to respond to it,” he added.

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