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Report: US hacked into UN video conferencing, spied on EU

A taxi drives past the United Nations Building in New York, July 29, 2013. The main building has recently undergone a $1.8 billion dollar renovation. Carlo Allegri / Reuters file

A German magazine reported Sunday that the National Security Agency secretly monitored the United Nations' New York headquarters by hacking into the organization’s video conferencing system. 

The weekly Der Spiegel cited documents provided by former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden that show the European Union and International Atomic Energy Agency were targets of the U.S. spying effort. 

The NSA was able to crack the coding of the U.N.’s video conferencing system last summer, the magazine reported. 

Der Spiegel reported that one of the documents it obtained said, "The data traffic gives us internal video teleconferences of the United Nations (yay!)," according to a Reuters report.

Within three weeks the number of decrypted communications rose from 12 to 458, according to the report. 

Surveillance of the EU’s work in New York began in the fall of 2012 when it moved to a new room, according to the internal documents reported on by Der Spiegel. The U.S. intelligence agency spied on plans for the EU mission and its technical infrastructure. 

Der Spiegel reports that the documents provided to it reveal that the NSA has surveillance of more than 80 embassies and consultants throughout the globe, an initiative called "Special Collection Service.” 

Earlier this year, Snowden leaked information to media outlets about far-reaching government spying programs that intelligence officials say has damaged their ability to thwart potential terrorist attacks. 

Before revealing himself as the leaker, Snowden fled the United States to China, where he gave an interview with the British newspaper The Guardian, revealing his reasons for going public with the information.

"I really want the focus to be on these documents and the debate which I hope this will trigger among citizens around the globe about what kind of world we want to live in," Snowden told the newspaper. "My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them."

From there he headed to Russia, where earlier this month he was granted temporary asylum. The former Booz Allen Hamilton employee has further strained the relationship between the U.S. and Russia, prompting President Barack Obama to cancel a September meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Snowden is wanted by U.S. authorities for leaking the classified information, and Russia's unwillingness to comply with U.S. calls for his return have outraged the White House and some members of Congress.

Officials are unclear what other national security information Snowden possesses and may leak.

NSA officials have maintained that all surveillance programs have operated within the confines of the law.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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