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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 Reclaimer77 on 7/1/2013 4:54:25 PM , Rating: 4
quote:
Some politicians are calling him a traitor! Really? He disclosed classified info.


He disclosed classified info to a foreign power. Actually several foreign powers at this point. That's why he's a traitor.

Look, he straight up stole a USB drive from the NSA full of classified info, and just gave it to the Chinese. That's unacceptable.

He's also taken a world tour of pretty much every Communist country. Putting himself in physical risk of being compromised. If China or Russia decided to interrogate him and purge his brain of all classified info, what could anyone have done about it? He's been absolutely reckless!

Now I want to be absolutely clear on something, I completely agree with him that the public should have been made aware of these things. The problem isn't that he disclosed classified info, it's the WAY he went about it. He could have handed over that thumb-drive to a US Representative and made his case, and he wouldn't have violated his oath in doing so.

He did the right thing, in a horribly wrong way. And for that he's going to burn.


RE: How is this a threat?
By ebakke on 7/1/2013 6:20:27 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
He's also taken a world tour of pretty much every Communist country.
I'm starting to feel like the only one who doesn't care about the Communist countries. I'm far more worried about our own government abusing us with the information it has been hoarding than I am worried about Russia negatively impacting us with merely a description about the information collection mechanisms.

quote:
He could have handed over that thumb-drive to a US Representative and made his case, and he wouldn't have violated his oath in doing so.
Lol. You don't honestly believe any of this would've ever seen the light of day if he'd done that, do you? Those reps are bound by the same oath he was - they don't just get to decide to release classified material. They were gagged by the same "national security" claim.


RE: How is this a threat?
By Reclaimer77 on 7/1/2013 6:35:35 PM , Rating: 2
Okay then he could have at least went to the U.S media. I mean come on, you telling me what he did was the ONLY option? China? Really?

I'm just saying, the way he's gone about this has been reckless and has created a spectacle. If this is how he actually planned to go about this...just..wow dude.

quote:
Those reps are bound by the same oath he was


Uhhh Congress and NSA employees have different oaths, technically speaking.


RE: How is this a threat?
By ebakke on 7/1/2013 7:50:49 PM , Rating: 2
No, I'm not saying going to Hong Kong (or anywhere else for that matter) was the best option. And it certainly wasn't the only option. I agree that it seems that US media could've been a better outcome. But it's also hard to argue that going to Hong Kong and Russia has kept him from US prisons (so far).

I agree that it's been a spectacle. I guess I don't see it as reckless.
quote:
Uhhh Congress and NSA employees have different oaths, technically speaking.
I was specifically referring to the oath taken when entrusted with classified material. You sign on the dotted line saying you won't share it with anyone who isn't cleared and who doesn't have need to know. If Congressmen could share that information with the public, Snowden would've been preempted by Reps Wyden and Udall. But the most they could say was:
quote:
We believe most Americans would be stunned to learn the details of how these secret court opinions have interpreted section 215 of the Patriot Act. As we see it, there is now a significant gap between what most Americans think the law allows and what the government secretly claims the law allows. This is a problem, because it is impossible to have an informed public debate about what the law should say when the public doesn't know what its government thinks the law says.


RE: How is this a threat?
By TSS on 7/1/2013 8:27:56 PM , Rating: 4
Actually no he disclosed classified info to news papers. Which he's working with in conjunction to make sure no *specific* americans are getting hurt, just the system in general. He hasn't told any direct government anything.

And how else would you get this info to the people? You know damn well any US paper or politician would be labeled a traitor and destroyed. Nobody would take this up in the US, it would've been covered up and Snowden shipped off to Gitmo.

The guy is a hero. Why? Because he risks life and limb to expose and stop wrong doing. That's the very definition of a hero. He did the right thing in the right way, exposing it to as many people as possible. He could've just dumped everything at every newspaper in the world then dissapeared of the face of the planet, all anonymously. The guy's worked with the CIA he's not a idiot.

Everybody who calls him a traitor (including you) is only showing how far the system has fallen, how right snowden was to flee from the US and how dangerous these times have become.

It was never about the info. It was always about the reactions to said info.

"A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism."

Sounds familiar? It should. It's the first result when you google search "Facism".


RE: How is this a threat?
By Reclaimer77 on 7/2/2013 1:16:10 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
He hasn't told any direct government anything.


Wrong, he disclosed sensitive information directly to the Chinese. He also handed over a USB drive to them, stolen from the NSA. Containing who knows what!

This is the moment where your "hero" goes from whistleblower to traitor. How was disclosing this to the Chinese Government helping U.S citizens, exactly? How was that going to end domestic spying programs again? He did it to save his own neck, in exchange for sanctuary. These are facts that's not even in dispute.

If you cannot separate the two actions, it's your problem not mine. I'm fine with Snowden bringing this stuff to light, I support it fully. But anyone using their brain and not raw emotions HAS to draw the line at selling us out to the Chinese, or Russia, or whoever else he's blabbing to.

quote:
You know damn well any US paper or politician would be labeled a traitor and destroyed.


HUH? U.S media and papers have been going full bore on this for like a month. Name me one that's been destroyed please. Hell for 8 years under Bush we had papers and news media slamming him, our foreign policy, our agenda, the wiretaps, EVERYTHING. Nobody got "destroyed".

This calls for a little more maturity and critical thinking than you're apparently able to bring to the table.

quote:
Sounds familiar? It should. It's the first result when you google search "Facism".


wow...my brain just exploded.

Every single time I've referred to this government as "fascist", you and several others have demeaned me, accused me of being a "faux news" wacko, and a tin-foil hat nut-job.

NOW you're quoting, to ME, the definition of fascism? Just...HAHAHAH!


RE: How is this a threat?
By BRB29 on 7/2/2013 9:01:32 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Actually no he disclosed classified info to news papers. Which he's working with in conjunction to make sure no *specific* americans are getting hurt, just the system in general. He hasn't told any direct government anything.

TSS, please stick with Europe as you still know nothing about the US.

Spreading classified info to the media is no different than giving classified info to the enemy. Are you too dumb to realize that news is international even if it's just local? anybody can access news.

Sure the guys is a hero that leaked classified information when he had many other routes to go. Then he runs to 2 of the most anti-privacy countries in the world and wants to work a deal with them. What can he offer them besides Top Secret info they want? You would be naive if you believe the Chinese or Russians would actually protect him after he gives up classified data. The correct thing to do would be to get rid of him after they got what they want. He's just a liability to any country. He won't say what data he gave away even if he did because he'll then have a heavier sentence of treason, traitor, etc...

I don't call him a traitor but he may very well be. His story doesn't make sense. He's holding more in his hand than just what he supposedly stood for. He does not want to be a man and face the jury.

If all he did was leaking the 2 pages of that VZ letter then he would've gotten a maximum sentence of just a few years in a minimum security prison, lose his clearance/job, and gain millions of supporters. Instead, he hid more data to sell to other nations/organizations, ran to our worst enemies in the intelligence field, and who knows what he gave them or did.


RE: How is this a threat?
By animedude on 7/2/2013 11:15:50 AM , Rating: 2
If he wanted money, he wouldn't have quit his job and gave up his life. If he wanted things to be easy, he could have gave all these classified information to wikileaks and not filter through them himself to make sure it does not harm anyone. Why you said he sold data? Like he said if he wanted to make $$, he could have just sold the information to China and be living like a king right now in China. Also explain why he just retracted his asylum request for Russia just because Putin said the condition for him to stay is not to leak any more information. Obviously he has high standard that he abides to.


RE: How is this a threat?
By BRB29 on 7/2/2013 12:14:34 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
If he wanted money, he wouldn't have quit his job and gave up his life.

if he gave up his life, he would've stayed in the US and face the jury with millions of supporters which will get him a very lenient sentence.

quote:
he could have just sold the information to China and be living like a king right now in China. Also explain why he just retracted his asylum request for Russia just because Putin said the condition for him to stay is not to leak any more information


Sure because China and Russia is known for their honesty, human rights, privacy rights, and protects their own citizens. Are you insane?
You must believe that China is not hacking us either.
Russia....their history with us is just one lie after another.

He's running with nowhere to go and no one to back him up. Whatever info he got is the only thing keeping him alive. He's a liability to any country he's in. Any country he's in, they've got him by the balls and he's at their mercy. The only reason he's not captured is because there's too many eyes on him and he's an international dispute waiting to happen.


RE: How is this a threat?
By Reclaimer77 on 7/3/2013 12:37:35 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Whatever info he got is the only thing keeping him alive.


get a life....

This isn't the movies. Seal Team Six isn't coming after this guy with orders to "terminate with extreme prejudice".


RE: How is this a threat?
By BRB29 on 7/3/2013 12:40:02 AM , Rating: 2
I'm not talking about the US coming after him retard.


RE: How is this a threat?
By animedude on 7/3/2013 3:30:23 AM , Rating: 1
You really think he will not be tortured like Bradley Manning? You give too much credit to your government for not doing wrongs or being fair. Look at how much shit you guys gave the Chinese for hacking but when you guys did the same shits and got uncovered. You people and the government just say so what, everyone does it. Hypocrite much. Stop blindly loving your government. They can do wrongs too and this is what Snowden is sacrificing himself for. He left the country because he wants to continue with his work and not be locked up without internet. The reason why he left Hong Kong was that he will be locked up without internet during his asylum request so chose to leave.


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