U.S. spying on allies undermines foundation of diplomacy

Imagine buying a car and negotiating the price with a car salesman who — unbeknownst to you — is simultaneously checking your bank balance. It wouldn’t be a real negotiation.

This, we now learn, is how the United States approaches diplomacy with its allies.

In the eyes of myopic intelligence chiefs, this might look like a clever way of protecting American interests, yet — to borrow a phrase the NSA chief recently used — this will cause irreparable damage to alliances upon which the United States relies.

The NSA’s pathetic attempt at damage control is to plead, everyone does it. But even if it was true everyone would like to do it, the intelligence gathering capabilities of the United States far exceed those of any of its allies.

If President Obama wants to do something to restore U.S. credibility with its allies, he could start by firing NSA Director Keith Alexander and DNI James Clapper.

The Guardian reports: US intelligence services are spying on the European Union mission in New York and its embassy in Washington, according to the latest top secret US National Security Agency documents leaked by the whistleblower Edward Snowden.

One document lists 38 embassies and missions, describing them as “targets”. It details an extraordinary range of spying methods used against each target, from bugs implanted in electronic communications gear to taps into cables to the collection of transmissions with specialised antennae.

Along with traditional ideological adversaries and sensitive Middle Eastern countries, the list of targets includes the EU missions and the French, Italian and Greek embassies, as well as a number of other American allies, including Japan, Mexico, South Korea, India and Turkey. The list in the September 2010 document does not mention the UK, Germany or other western European states.

One of the bugging methods mentioned is codenamed Dropmire, which, according to a 2007 document, is “implanted on the Cryptofax at the EU embassy, DC” – an apparent reference to a bug placed in a commercially available encrypted fax machine used at the mission. The NSA documents note the machine is used to send cables back to foreign affairs ministries in European capitals.

The documents suggest the aim of the bugging exercise against the EU embassy in central Washington is to gather inside knowledge of policy disagreements on global issues and other rifts between member states. [Continue reading…]

Der Spiegel reports: Leading trans-Atlantic analysts have reacted with shock and horror to the weekend revelations by SPIEGEL regarding the extent to which the American National Security Agency (NSA) spied on Germany and on European Union facilities.

“This is a very serious problem for the trans-Atlantic relationship,” said Heather Conley, director of the Europe program for the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “It will make Washington’s work with Europe more difficult on a full range of issues, such as (the trans-Atlantic free trade agreement). Add this to a pre-election environment (in Germany) and the challenge becomes greater.”

The revelations are “very awkward,” agrees Charles Kupchan of Georgetown University. In the administration of President Bill Clinton, Kupchan was in charge of European issues on the National Security Council. Jack Janes, from the influential American Institute for Contemporary German Studies, says: “US Secretary of State John Kerry and possibly the president will have to address this publicly soon. They can’t stall any longer.”

A statement from German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday further indicated the volatility of the situation. “The monitoring of friends — this is unacceptable, it can’t be tolerated. We’re no longer in the Cold War,” the chancellor said through a spokesman. Merkel confirmed that she had already voiced her displeasure to the White House over the weekend and has demanded a full explanation.

An NSA spokesman on Sunday said that European concerns will be addressed using diplomatic channels. He added that the NSA does not comment on specifics of intelligence gathering operations but said “as a matter of policy, we have made clear that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations.”

Der Spiegel also reports: Germany’s Federal Prosecutors’ Office confirmed to SPIEGEL on Sunday that it is looking into whether systematic data spying against the country conducted by America’s National Security Agency violated laws aimed at protecting German citizens.

A spokeswoman at the Federal Prosecutors’ Office, which is responsible for domestic security issues, told SPIEGEL that all available and relevant information about the Prism, Tempora and Boundless Informant spying programs is currently being reviewed by the agency. The spokeswoman said the office was seeking to form a reliable understanding of the facts. However, the agency has not indicated when or if it will launch a formal investigation.

Nevertheless, the spokeswoman said that “criminal complaints” relating to the scandal appear “likely”. One criminal complaint has already been filed in Germany. SPIEGEL has learned that a provision was used at the local public prosecutor’s office in the city of Giessen to lodge a criminal complaint against an unknown perpetrator over the spying.

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1 thought on “U.S. spying on allies undermines foundation of diplomacy

  1. delia ruhe

    There isn’t a lot of difference in the way the US runs its democracy and the way it exercises its foreign policy. It cheats its voters out of votes during elections, just as it cheats its international partners during trade negotiations. These are the practices of a deeply corrupt state.

    Is it any wonder that plagiarism and cheating during final exams are at epidemic levels in colleges and universities? Is anyone surprised that teachers would change the answers of students on state-wide tests to get their schools’ scores to meet expectations?

    The US is a country where people believe they can’t compete unless they cheat. Indeed, it’s this obsession with “competitiveness” that prevents both the state and the nation from grasping the truth about their changing place in the world.

    It’s why I keep repeating, like a senile parrot: An empire in decline is at its most dangerous — dangerous to its own people and to the world at large.

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