Air France
An Air France Airbus A320 aircraft takes off at the Charles de Gaulle International Airport in Roissy, near Paris, Oct. 27, 2015. Reuters/Christian Hartmann

U.S. and British intelligence agencies have been surveilling cell phone use on commercial flights for years, according to leaked documents NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden shared with The Intercept and Le Monde.

The obtained 2010 NSA newsletter started off with the riddle: "What do the President of Pakistan, a cigar smuggler, an arms dealer, a counterterrorism target and a combating proliferation target have in common? They all used their everyday GSM phone during a flight."

Phones that are turned on when a plane is above 10,000 feet discloses your location to the NSA, according to the leaked documents.

Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and the NSA used bird names like, “Thieving Magpie” and “ Homing Pigeon,”to refer to in-flight surveilling programs involving telephone calls.

Government surveillance agencies can also extract data like email addresses, Facebook, Skype and Twitter ID information. That data is then correlated with flight and passenger information to zero-in on a specific user. Data collection was also conducted against BlackBerry phones, according to the report. Agencies can also allegedly see what someone is doing on his or her phone, such as looking at their emails or using an app.

“In a separate internal document from a year earlier, the NSA reported that 50,000 people had already used their mobile phones in flight as of December 2008, a figure that rose to 100,000 by February 2009,” the report explains. “The NSA attributed the increase to ‘more planes equipped with in-flight GSM capability, less fear that a plane will crash due to making/receiving a call, not as expensive as people thought.’ The sky seemed to belong to the agency.”

Air France was targeted in 2005 and Air Mexico as well, according to NSA documents. A CIA report said some or all “Air France and Air Mexico flights” had been “possible terrorist targets” since late 2003. The NSA’s legal department said they found “no problem with targeting Air France and Air Mexico flights overseas,” and “when the flights enter U.S. airspace, they should be more than covered by the U.S. air traffic control system,” according to Le Monde .

When Air France was asked about the British and American surveillance activities, the company told Le Monde , “We are visibly not the only ones to have been targeted and we know absolutely nothing about these practices.”