Fury in Europe over U.S. snooping & bugging

In this picture, taken Saturday June 29, 2013, a demonstrator protests with a poster against NSA in Hanover, Germany. Germany's top justice official says reports that U.S. intelligence bugged European Union offices remind her of "the methods used by enemies during the Cold War." Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger was responding to a report by German news weekly Der Spiegel on Sunday June 30, 2013, that claimed the National Security Agency has eavesdropped on EU offices in Washington, New York and Brussels. The magazine cited classified U.S. documents taken by NSA leaker Edward Snowden that it said it had partly seen. The documents reportedly describe the European Union as a "target" for surveillance. (AP Photo/dpa, Peter Steffen)   | Photo Credit: Peter Steffen

The Europeans are furious following revelations by Germany’s influential Der Spiegel magazine that the United States spied upon the European Union, not just through its PRISM programme but by actually installing bugs in certain EU buildings and EU offices in Washington.

The magazine revealed that a document, dated September 2010, described European allies as “target countries.” From the NATO headquarters in the suburbs of Brussels, the U.S. systematically placed under surveillance all the internal computer systems of the European Union as well as telephonic and Internet traffic flowing out of the Justus Lipsius building, which houses the Council of Europe. Bugs were planted in the EU offices in Washington, the magazine claims.

Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, said he was “enormously worried and deeply shocked” by the allegations of espionage in EU offices by American agencies. “If these allegations prove to be true, it will be an extremely serious matter that will have a severe impact on EU-U.S. relations. On behalf of the European Parliament, I demand full clarification from the U.S.,” he said.

In a communiqué, the EU said: “We have contacted U.S. authorities in Washington and Brussels and confronted them with these press reports. They have told us that they will verify the exact nature of the published information and revert to us.”

There have been calls by several Euro-parliamentarians and, in particular German Green MP Daniel Cohn-Bendit, to halt negotiations on the Europe-U.S. Trade and Investment Partnership or to take other punitive measures. The PRISM scandal had already hit the headlines by the time U.S. President Barak Obama met major European partners during the G-8 Summit in Ireland.

“Barak Obama lied in Berlin,” declared the influential French daily Le Monde in a front-page editorial on Sunday. On June 19, a day after the G8 Summit, Mr. Obama went to Berlin, where he downplayed the extent of U.S. spying on Europe and Germany, claiming that U.S. surveillance operations had averted several deadly terrorist attempts, reminding his German interlocutors that the original 9/11 plot against the World Trade Centre in New York was hatched in Germany.

The revelations by the magazine indicate that U.S. spying went far beyond monitoring Internet traffic or telephone calls of ordinary citizens. The document cited by Der Spiegel, as revealed by the U.S National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, shows that the U.S. targeted European institutions and offices. The revelations have raised a public outcry in Germany, where the protection of privacy remains a prime concern. Reactions have also been strong in France, where ruling Socialist party leaders have roundly condemned U.S. actions.

Surprisingly, the magazine claims that the Europeans discovered this listening post “five years ago.” The question why the Europeans failed to raise this point with the U.S. remains unanswered. Only ultra-friendly countries of the Anglo-Saxon world, such as Britain, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand, have been part of the conspiracy and have been spared the spying. The Americans do not see them as “target countries,” the magazine remarked.

America’s image in Europe has been badly damaged by these revelations. “We thought we were friends. Is this the way the Americans treat friends?,” snorted French Socialist MP Jean-Christophe Cambadelis. Mr. Obama, too, will pay a heavy price as a result of these revelations. He has deeply disappointed the Europeans on several counts, including his failure to close down Guantanamo Bay or halt drone strikes, and his attempts to minimise the extent of U.S. spying has left European both mortified and furious.

“There is definitely a sense of betrayal, of an old trusted friendship being broken,” said political commentator Alan Frachon. “President Obama has renewed the Patriot Act, allowed this surveillance. PRISM has shown us a Promethean desire on the part of the U.S. to spy on the world.”

While it is true that the EU has issued a communiqué denouncing the spying charges and calling for clarification, most European leaders have maintained a frozen silence. “That is perhaps because the anti-terrorism cooperation among the U.S.’s closest European allies such as France, Germany, Italy or Spain or even Turkey is very strong, and there is a considerable exchange of information already,” Mr. Frachon said.

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Printable version | Oct 22, 2021 4:54:58 AM |

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