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Aussie-Indonesian Tensions Rise

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The United States is not the only nation under scrutiny for its use of cyber-surveillance on international telecommunications. In the same slew of leaks released by former NSA employee Edward Snowden, Australia is facing accusation for eavesdropping on the private cell phone calls of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and up to eight other senior officials in the Indonesian government in 2009. According to The Jakarta Post, President Yudhoyono has sent a letter to Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, demanding explanation for the overreach by the Australian government. Similar questions have been addressed to US Secretary of State John Kerry following allegations that the NSA has eavesdropped on private phone calls of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Tensions are rising as Indonesia awaits an answer, while PM Tony Abbott is said to have responded, after calling the letter to the attention of the Australian House of Representatives. Protesters outside the Australian Embassy in Jakarta are burning Australian flags and calling for Indonesian. President Yudhoyono has said that unless addressed by the Australian Parliament, Indonesian-Australian relations may be permanently damaged, according to Mr. Abbott has scolded Australian political strategist Mark Textor over his inflammatory remarks on the situation.

The two nations are each other’s closest neighbor, but relations between the two are the coldest in quite some time. Australian news sources have devoted considerably less web-space and considerably fewer articles to the spying allegations and the unrest surrounding when compared with Indonesian news. The story includes calls for war by Indonesian protesters and occupies the front and top story on many Indonesian news sites. Many Australian sites, including that of the Australian Broadcast Corporation have only one story on the issue and it can be found closer to the bottom of the front page than the top.

While Prime Minister Abbott has done little in actuality to put formally address the allegations, he continues to claim that his efforts are on re-strengthening ties between Canberra and Jakarta. President Yudhoyono is probing top Indonesian telecommunications companies on their involvement with the phone tapping. The Jakarta Post reports CEO Alex J. Sinaga of Telkomsel has promised a full audit on business practice to ensure it has been conducted lawfully and in accordance with the ISO standards for secure communication.

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