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Alliances -- like the Constitution -- don't seem to buy you much protection from aggressive U.S. federal spying

As revelations that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) may have engaged in a massive spying program against the EU breaks, allies are demanding answers.

I. Germany and France -- We're Not Gonna Take It

Steffen Seibert, spokesperson for Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, issued a stiff warning, stating, "If it is confirmed that diplomatic representations of the European Union and individual European countries have been spied upon, we will clearly say that bugging friends is unacceptable.  We are no longer in the Cold War.  Mutual trust is necessary in order to come to an agreement."

Germany's Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger echoes those sentiments, remarking, "If the media reports are accurate, then this recalls the methods used by enemies during the Cold War.  It is beyond comprehension that our friends in the United States see Europeans as enemies."

Angela Merkel
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (left) with Steffen Seibert [Image Source: Reuters]

The spying leaks could not come at a worse time.  The Obama administration is working to try to broker a new transatlantic trade agreement, which would lower the tariffs and tax barriers on U.S. corporations investing in Europe (and vice versa).  Now that deal may be in jeopardy.

Citing documents it had "in part seen" from whistleblower (and ex-NSA systems administrator) Edward Snowden, Germany's top newspaper Der Spiegel reported on at least three instances where the U.S. spied on European Union offices.  Two of the alleged spying incidents occurred in the U.S. -- at offices in Washington and New York -- while the other was an "electronic eavesdropping operation" against a building at the EU's headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.  One of the bugging methods, codenamed "Dropmire", involved electronic interception via a monitoring device placed in the DC office's encrypted fax machine that EU officials use to send each other private messages.

Dropmire
Dropmire was one of the plots to spy on EU officials. [Image Source: Guardian]

According to The Guardianthe British newspaper that first worked with Mr. Snowden to organize and publish the leaks with proper diligence (in a less scattershot approach than, say, Wikileaks), says leaked NSA documents reveal spying operations against 38 embassies -- most of whom are U.S. allies.  Among the other EU nations being spied on were France, Italy, and Greece.  Other allies outside the EU whom the U.S. spied upon include Japan, Mexico, South Korea, India, and Turkey.

French President François Hollande blasted the spying, commenting, "We cannot accept this kind of behaviour between partners and allies.  We ask that this stop immediately."

In addition to hinting that it might pull out of trade talks, German officials suggest that they will consider criminal actions against the U.S.  And German justice officials says its citizens -- many of whom have been spied on -- are eligible to file independent accusations against the U.S. of criminal spying.

II. Obama Administration, Kerry, Defend Spying

The only allies that the U.S. allegedly refuses to spy on include Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the UK.  The NSA refers to countries like France and Germany as "3rd party foreign partner[s]".  But while such partners assist it in spying on other nations and international fugitives, the NSA has no moral compunctions about turning around and secretly spying on them as well, stating in secret documents, "We can, and often do, target the signals of most 3d party foreign partners."

The growing anger among European allies marks the latest setback for U.S. President Barack Hussein Obama, who many Americans hoped would act as a savior to America's poor international image that suffered during the Presidency of George W. Bush (R).  Promising bold policies of "transparency" and downsizing of federal government waste and federal spying, President Obama won many supporters both in the U.S. and abroad.

But it has become increasingly clear his administration is perfectly willing to tell the public whatever they want to hear, while doing whatever suits its own interests behind closed doors -- even if that means engaging in outright lies.

Obama spying
President Obama's two-faced rhetoric on spying has created foreign ill will that rivals even his unpopular predecessor President George W. Bush.  [Image Source: AP]

The Obama Administration has refused to discuss why it may have authorized spying on top U.S. allies.  Ben Rhodes, White House deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, comments, "[The administration has not seen the report and can] not comment on unauthorized disclosures of intelligence programs. The intelligence community would be the most appropriate to do that."

Meanwhile the intelligence community seems to come close to acknowledging the spying, while defending its right to spy on allies, claiming everyone does it.  

Comments The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), "The United States government will respond appropriately to the European Union through our diplomatic channels, and through the EU/U.S. experts' dialogue on intelligence that the U.S. proposed several weeks ago.  We will also discuss these issues bilaterally with EU member states. While we are not going to comment publicly on specific alleged intelligence activities, as a matter of policy, we have made clear that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations."

John Kerry
U.S. SoS John Kerry says spying on allies is ok because everyone does it. [Image Source: AP]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, a former Democratic senator and presidential candidate, echoes that line countering the EU outrage, opining, "Every country in the world that is engaged in international affairs of national security undertakes lots of activities to protect its national security and all kinds of information contributes to that.  All I know is that is not unusual for lots of nations."

III. EU Looks to Squeeze U.S. Officials Special Interest Donors

But Europeans aren't buying the argument that everyone spies on their allies.  Comments conservative German newspaper Allgemeine Zeitung in an editorial, "Washington is shooting itself in the foot.  Declaring the EU offices to be a legitimate attack target is more than the unfriendly act of a machine that knows no bounds and may be out of the control of politics and the courts."

The issue is particularly sensitive in Germany as U.S. spying on German internet networks appears massive -- matched only by U.S. spying on nations such as China, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia.  On a daily basis the U.S. grabs data on roughly 20 million phone calls on average, grabbing as many as 60 million calls on some days.  That's not quite the rate at which the U.S. spies on its own citizens calls -- 99 percent -- but it's pretty impressive given that Germany only has 80 million citizens.  The NSA also reportedly gathers information on 10 million internet data connections in Germany daily, on average.

Euros
The EU may freeze talks on a free trade deal with the U.S. [Image Source: The Hibernia Times]

European parliamentarians are comparing the spying efforts to those of the KGB, Russia's Cold War-era spy organization.  Indeed from bugs, to interception antennas, many of the spying tactics use by the NSA against its allies appear to be straight out of a Cold War playbook.

EU's Green Party, a minority party in the European Parliament who represents a mixture of interests including protecting civil liberties and the environment, is urging France -- one of the targeted nations -- to offer asylum to leaker Edward Snowden.  For revealing the U.S. spying on its citizens and foreigners, Mr. Snowden has been charged with espionage and is reportedly holed up somewhere in Russia.

The idea of granting Mr. Snowden asylum in Europe remains controversial, over concerns of how that might damage relations.

EU Politicians
Some EU Parliamentarians are advocating a serious response. [Image Source: Alex Higgins]

However, another stand by the Green Party members of the European Parliament (MEPs) is gathering a fair deal of support.  Green MEPs are advocating freezing talks on the transatlantic trade deal until the U.S. promises to stop spying.  Such a freeze could have a serious impact on large U.S. banks and corporations, who pay for the majority of U.S. federal politicians -- including President Obama -- to gain their plush positions.

While these large special interests largely gain from spying -- both domestic and foreign -- via billion dollar contracts to private contractors like Booz Allen Hamilton Holding Corp. (BAH), strong action from the EU could make spying no longer  a lucrative proposition for the "bosses" of U.S. politicians -- large special interests.

Bribe
MEPs look to put pressure on the real rulers of the U.S. federal government -- large special corporate and bank special interests. [Imge Source: Google Images]

Thus the move might force the true powerbrokers in the U.S. -- the campaign financiers to pressure President Obama and other top officials to stop the programs of spying on allies.

Sources: Reuters, Guardian



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RE: How is this a threat?
By Jeffk464 on 7/1/2013 11:31:29 AM , Rating: 2
Yup, they sell an awful lot of german cars, medical equipment, and airbus airliners in the US market.


RE: How is this a threat?
By Jeffk464 on 7/1/2013 11:33:36 AM , Rating: 2
Don't they need to increase their security to protect them from Chinese spying anyways?


RE: How is this a threat?
By BRB29 on 7/1/2013 11:41:43 AM , Rating: 2
Trade in goods. The U.S. goods trade deficit with the EU was $115.7 billion in 2012, a 15.9% increase over 2011. U.S. goods exports in 2012 were $265.1 billion, down 1.2% from 2011, but up 57% from 2000. Corresponding U.S. imports from the EU were $380.8 billion, up 3.4 percent from 2011, and up 67% from 2000.

This is exactly why it is a hollow threat and only exaggerated by Jason's sensationalism.


RE: How is this a threat?
By Reclaimer77 on 7/1/2013 1:53:47 PM , Rating: 1
Would you rather they threaten us with war instead?

So you're pro-domestic spying AND spying on allies. You've made that clear. Obama and our government can do no wrong.


RE: How is this a threat?
By BRB29 on 7/1/2013 2:45:22 PM , Rating: 2
Why do you turn everything into an Obama bashing campaign?

How do you get "Obama can do no wrong" out of "EU is enjoying our trade deficit and they need it"

it's reclaimer rant as usual.


RE: How is this a threat?
By retrospooty on 7/1/2013 4:05:14 PM , Rating: 2
Ward is a little hard on the Beaver, but you have to admit, Beav is becoming a major f#$k-up.


RE: How is this a threat?
By Reclaimer77 on 7/1/2013 4:44:46 PM , Rating: 3
Please, don't pretend to be so indignant.

Not sure if you're aware of this, but your statements and attitude on this translate into: "So what? We can spy on them with impunity, what are they gonna do about it? They need our trade more than we need them, so fuc* em"

Combine that with your absurd statements on the NSA stories, being pro spying in general, and your pro-Obama big government slant, and that's how "I get" what I'm getting here.

Am I wrong? No, you know I'm dead right about you. You can deflect it all you want with false claims that I'm "bashing" Obama (he IS President during all this, correct?), but you're really just butthurt as usual.


RE: How is this a threat?
By InsGadget on 7/1/2013 10:32:07 PM , Rating: 4
A Republican would do the exact same stuff. This is an American Federal Government problem, not a partisan issue. And before you say "Well Obama's in office now, so ....", read the first sentence again, and believe it.


RE: How is this a threat?
By roykahn on 7/2/2013 6:43:35 AM , Rating: 2
Actually, you can blame Keith Alexander (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keith_B._Alexander).

The reactions from US officials to the NSA leaks should be analyzed by everyone interested in this issue. Instead of focusing on the lies and deception of the intelligence community, they focus their attention on Edward Snowden and label him a traitor - a similar reaction to which we saw with Wikileaks.

Witness the media's role in this (apart from The Guardian). See how eager they are to put the spotlight on Edward Snowden and provide politicians with ample opportunities to spew forth their vile hatred of democracy by labeling the NSA revelations as an act of treason.

This reminds me of the reaction to the torture practices at Abu Ghraib in the book Standard Operating Procedure. High-ranking US officials weren't punished, only low-ranking officers were targeted. The end result was to ban any recording devices from such places, no doubt so there would be no future evidence of torture. It's just laughable how elite immunity works.

Anyway, here's something I'd like to buy for Reclaimer77:
http://www.spencersonline.com/product/bm-bop-obama...


RE: How is this a threat?
By Adonlude on 7/2/2013 1:00:58 PM , Rating: 3
Maybe its time to ask what a Libertarian would do.


RE: How is this a threat?
By BRB29 on 7/2/2013 9:16:44 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Please, don't pretend to be so indignant. Not sure if you're aware of this, but your statements and attitude on this translate into: "So what? We can spy on them with impunity, what are they gonna do about it? They need our trade more than we need them, so fuc* em" Combine that with your absurd statements on the NSA stories, being pro spying in general, and your pro-Obama big government slant, and that's how "I get" what I'm getting here. Am I wrong? No, you know I'm dead right about you. You can deflect it all you want with false claims that I'm "bashing" Obama (he IS President during all this, correct?), but you're really just butthurt as usual.


No dumbo, I'm saying the EU is trying to use use 20% of its economy to threaten an issue over spying. It's clear that it's a hollow threat because nobody in their right mind would piss away 20% of their economy because they are upset another is spying on them, something the EU does themselves.

This is not about privacy rights, human rights or anything close to that. It is about using the current frenzy to cripple our government and our people's morale/trust and use it as leverage in their negotiations. If you ever decide to study politics, you will see that a weak national government means an even weaker international standing.

The EU have been trying to overtake the US in both economic and political power its existence. This is just another excuse. I'm sorry you can't grasp your mind around their obvious bigger objective. Every country competing with the US is enjoying this Snowden guy right now, the EU is no exception. If they wanted to offer him protection, they would've done it already. The guy is desperate and pretty much will go anywhere that doesn't land land him in prison.


RE: How is this a threat?
By ShieTar on 7/2/2013 5:03:52 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
No dumbo, I'm saying the EU is trying to use use 20% of its economy to threaten an issue over spying. It's clear that it's a hollow threat because nobody in their right mind would piss away 20% of their economy because they are upset another is spying on them, something the EU does themselves.


Exports to the US were 380 billion $ in 2012, thats 2.9% of the GDP, nowhere near 20%. Also, not having the free trade zone will not kill the already existing exports; and having the zone won't exactly double it any time soon. Even the most optimistic predictions of the people who proposed this agreement are that it will bring a 20 billion $ increase in trade, thus about 0.1% economic growth. It is an important agreement for some big companies with big lobbies on both sides, but for the people in either Union it does not mean that much. Of course I fully expect our politicians to listen to the lobbies.

quote:
The EU have been trying to overtake the US in both economic and political power its existence.


1. The economy of the EU measures 105% of the economy of the US. And that already includes the fact that a lot of services like education or health insurrance are considered to have a lower price in the EU even though they have the same quality as in the US: The EU has a 4.4 trillion $ industry producing actually usefull goods, while the US industry only brings home around 3.0 trillion $ a year. The majority of the great US economy is generated through trade alone.

2. I don't even know how to measure political power, but could you at least give me a single example where the EU even got prominently involved in foreign politics?


RE: How is this a threat?
By ShieTar on 7/2/2013 3:43:25 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, but those are huge companies that either have the means to work around customs, i.e. by having production facilities in the US (see VW), or they sell mainly to the wealthy who don't care that much about customs (so what if the mercedes costs 10% extra).

The free trade laws are more important to small companies or those selling low margin products. The main point of a free trade zone is in any way to take away money and control from the governments and let companies increase their profits by producing in place A, sell in place B and pay taxes in place C.


"Google fired a shot heard 'round the world, and now a second American company has answered the call to defend the rights of the Chinese people." -- Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.)














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