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The NSA targeted 122 world leaders, say new Snowden documents

New documents leaked by Edward Snowden suggest up to 122 world leaders have been targeted by the National Security Agency in the course of its surveillance operations. The fresh revelations, published in Germany’s Der Spiegel over the weekend, claim that the NSA’s spying network is more wide-ranging than was previously thought.

According to the documents, a system known as Nymrod was used to gather intelligence on heads of state across various communication platforms, including computers and telephone calls. Among those named in a document dating from 2009 were German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Syrian President Bashar Asad and former Ukranian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. U.S. officials have insisted that Chancellor Merkel’s communications are not currently tapped, while stopping short of denying that they have been monitored in previous years.

The classified documents obtained and leaked by Edward Snowden continue to be a major headache for the NSA and the government. The Obama administration recently announced plans to modify the way in which telephone metadata is collected and analyzed in the United States, while other revelations have covered the hardware and software used by official agencies in their intelligence-gathering operations.

The most recent documents also outline extensive spying operations carried out by the NSA and Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) on private German companies. According to Der Spiegel, British intelligence officers surveilled employees to develop an “in-depth knowledge of key satellite service providers” in the country.

“We have made clear that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations,” National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden told The Intercept in response to the new revelations. Britain’s GCHQ, meanwhile, issued the following statement: “[Our work] is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that our activities are authorized, necessary and proportionate.”