The US government eavesdropped on Tony Blair while he was British prime minister, according to claims made by a former employee of the National Security Agency.
ABC News on Monday reported that the NSA had eavesdropped on Mr Blair and Ghazi al-Yawer, the first Iraqi president following the 2003 invasion. The White House did not respond to inquiries.
Making the allegations to ABC, David Faulk, a former NSA Arabic linguist who worked for the spy agency at Fort Gordon, Georgia, claimed to have had access to a top secret database called “Anchory” in 2006 that included personal details about Mr Blair.
While the US government routinely spies on foreign governments and their leaders, the US and UK are long understood to have had a more trusting relationship. The revelations could damage the “special relationship” with Washington that London prizes so highly. Mr Blair was one of President George W. Bush’s closest allies over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Mr Faulk also claimed to have read secret NSA files on Mr Ghazr, including “pillow talk” phone calls, between 2003 and 2007. Bob Woodward, the veteran Washington Post reporter, this year reported in The War Within that the US had also eavesdropped on Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister.
Last month, Mr Faulk and another former NSA employee provided a rare glimpse into the veiled world of the NSA, by revealing that the spy agency had spied on journalists, soldiers, and non-governmental organisations, including the International Committee of the Red Cross. They told ABC that the NSA routinely spied on Americans by listening to private conversations, including pillow talk and, in some cases, phone sex.
The revelations have provided glimpses into the secret and warrantless domestic spying programme that Mr Bush approved in the wake of the September 11 terror attacks on the US.
When that domestic spying programme first came to light in 2005, the White House provided a vigorous defence, arguing that it was necessary to protect the US from terrorism.
Michael Hayden, the former NSA director who now heads the Central Intelligence Agency, insisted that the programme did not violate the rights of ordinary Americans.