PETALING JAYA - Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was among leaders targeted for spying by the US' National Security Agency (NSA).
German news magazine Der Spiegel reported that a secret document leaked by fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden showed that the agency kept a spy database on 122 world leaders in 2009.
Snowden was a former NSA contractor.
Spiegel reported that the names of the leaders spied upon were listed in alphabetical order in the document, presumably obtained from the NSA's Centre for Content Extraction.
However, only 12 of the 122 names were shared with the magazine.
Abdullah's name topped the list while embattled Ukrainian leader Yulia Tymoshenko was at the bottom of it. Among the others in the list included German chancellor Angela Merkel and leaders of Peru, Somalia, Guatemala, Colombia, Malawi and Syria.
Abdullah's former aides said reports of the NSA surveillance did not come as a surprise, as diplomatic missions were involved in gathering intelligence on leaders.
However, they said Malaysia should protest if spying went overboard, such as tapping telephone lines and installing spy cameras in places like the Prime Minister's office or residence.
"Spying to the extent of infringing privacy and undermining national sovereignty should never be tolerated," said a former aide of Abdullah who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Another former aide said not all the officers in the Prime Minister's office were privy to information on documents that passed through the office.
"Only authorised personnel are allowed to even carry highly classified documents that are stamped as Rahsia Besar (Top Secret)," he said.
According to Spiegel, there was no specific information on the type of surveillance work that was carried out, adding that NSA had refused to comment on the matter.
It also reported that the British security agency, the Government Communications Headquarters, had infiltrated German Internet firms.