Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono recalled his ambassador from Australia on Monday and ordered a review of bilateral cooperation following reports that an Australian security agency attempted to listen to his cellphone in 2009.
Australian Broadcasting Corp. and The Guardian reported on Monday that they had documents from National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden showing that the Australian agency also targeted the phones of Indonesian first lady Kristiani Herawati and another eight government ministers and officials.
The documents reportedly showed that the Australian Defence Signals Directorate, now the top-secret Australian Signals Directorate, attempted to listen to the president’s phone conversations on at least one occasion and tracked activity on the phone for 15 days in August 2009.
The diplomatic spat is the second in less than a month between Indonesia and Australia stemming from Snowden’s revelations linking Australia with U.S. espionage.
It’s an early test for Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s new government, which was elected in September and is anxious to cement ties with it populous near—neighbor before the uncertainty of Indonesian presidential elections next year.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa told reporters in Jakarta on Monday afternoon that Yudhoyono had “directly ordered” the ambassador, Nadjib Riphat Kesoema, to be recalled.
“Never underestimate our attitude, which is very disturbed by this matter,” Natalegawa said.
Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister of Political and Security Affairs Joko Suyanto said in a statement that all cooperative relationships between the two countries were also under review, as were the postings of Australian officials in Jakarta.
Abbott, who was not in government in 2009, declined to comment on the reports in Parliament.
“All governments gather information, and all governments know that every other government gathers information,” Abbott said.
“The Australian government uses all the resources at its disposal including information to help our friends and our allies, not to harm them,” he added.
But Bob Carr, Australia’s foreign minister until Abbott’s coalition won September elections, advised Abbott to assure Yudhoyono that if his phone had been tapped, it wouldn’t happen again.
“If the American president can give a guarantee to Angela Merkel of Germany that America won’t be overhearing what she says on the phone, then we ought to be able to do it without any trouble to the president of Indonesia,” Carr told Nine Network television news.
Second on the target list after the president was his wife, also known as Ani Yudhoyono.
Vice President Boediono, who visited Australia last week, was third, and his predecessor, Jusuf Kalla, was fourth. Like many Indonesians, Boediono uses one name.
Also listed was the government’s then—foreign spokesman, Dino Patti Djalal, who later became Indonesia’s ambassador to Washington.
Former Finance Minister Sri Mulyani, now a managing director at the World Bank, was also on the list.
Earlier this month, the Indonesian government called in the Australian ambassador for an explanation following reports that the Australian Embassy in Jakarta was a hub for Washington’s secret electronic data collection program.
A document from Snowden published last month by the German magazine Der Spiegel describes a signals intelligence program called “Stateroom” in which U.S., British, Australian and Canadian embassies house surveillance equipment to collect electronic communications. Those countries, along with New Zealand, have an intelligence—sharing agreement known as “Five Eyes.”
The Australian Embassy in Jakarta was listed as one of the embassies involved in a report from Australia’s Fairfax media, along with Australian embassies in Bangkok, Hanoi, Beijing and Dili in East Timor; and High Commissions in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.