This weekend, former defense contractor and NSA leaker Edward Snowden put a momentary damper on trade talks for a new multibillion dollar trade pact between the U.S. and the EU. Snowden presented documents to the German publication Der Spiegel indicating that for more than five years, U.S. agencies had bugged and were spying on EU offices in Washington and Belgium, the United Nations offices in New York and NATO headquarters in Brussels.
In total, the NSA surveils roughly half a billion communications throughout the EU. According to the report in Der Spiegel:
What is most important about the documents is that they reveal the possibility of the absolute surveillance of a country's people and foreign citizens without any kind of effective controls or supervision... And it appears that the principle that foreign intelligence agencies do not monitor the citizens of their own country, or that they only do so on the basis of individual court decisions, is obsolete in this world of globalized communication and surveillance. Britain's GCHQ intelligence agency can spy on anyone but British nationals, the NSA can conduct surveillance on anyone but Americans, and Germany's BND foreign intelligence agency can spy on anyone but Germans. That's how a matrix is created of boundless surveillance in which each partner aids in a division of roles.
The majority of the data were collected via German communication networks. According to the BBC, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said: "Bugging friends is unacceptable ... we are no longer in the Cold War."
France's President Francois Hollande said, "we cannot accept this kind of behaviour between partners and allies. We ask that this immediately stop...There can be no negotiations or transactions in all areas until we have obtained these guarantees, for France but also for all of the European Union, for all partners of the United States."
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry defended the NSA program, saying "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." According to the Wall Street Journal, French technology minister Pleur Pellerin said that spying between allies is not uncommon: "It wouldn't be the first time that has happened in history."
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