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 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.

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.

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

"If you mod me down, I will become more insightful than you can possibly imagine." -- Slashdot

Most Popular Articles

Copyright 2018 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki