Friday, October 25, 2013

German Spy Chiefs to Travel to United States Over Phone-Tapping Scandal

German spy chiefs to travel to United States over phone-tapping scandal

By North America correspondent Michael Vincent, staff
Australian Broadcasting Corporation

German intelligence chiefs will travel to Washington next week after the European nation was left fuming over revelations the US tapped chancellor Angela Merkel's personal phone.

The White House would not deny the US National Security Agency (NSA) had tapped the phones of 35 world leaders, as revealed by security documents leaked by Edward Snowden.

Germany and Brazil are working on a UN General Assembly resolution aimed at highlighting international anger at US data snooping in other countries.

Germany is also demanding that Washington agrees to a "no spying" deal with both itself and the French government by the end of this year.

The heads of Germany's foreign and domestic intelligence services have meetings slated at the White House and NSA, which some analysts say will be a "pay off" - that the Germans will be offered more information about the NSA's capabilities to smooth over the diplomatic damage.

Key points:

German spy chiefs to head to Washington over tapping scandal.

Analysts say German's might receive an information "pay-off" to smooth over relations.
UN resolution being prepared to highlight US spying.

Eyebrows raised after activist live-tweet former US spy chief's phone rant.

Former CIA operative Robert Baer says it tapping Ms Merkel's phone was not crucial to American security and the gambit was unnecessary.

"Yes, we did learn about them and it's interesting and the information is often titillating, but was it crucial information? Was it worth the risk, listening into her phone? No," he said.

"And this is what we're seeing now - it was unnecessary. Germany was going along with everything we wanted."

The NSA's decision to trawl and hold onto great swathes of internet traffic is continuing to cause problems.

Allan Friedman from the Brookings Institution says it was a strategic decision made by a military organisation that failed to foresee the ramifications of it being made public.

"We know that they were concerned about the targets of their intelligence - the legitimate terrorists. They were worried if this information came out then they might lose access to gaining information about terror," he said.

"But, apparently, inside the security community, there was never any fear of what the ripple effects would be if this ever became public.

"That, I think, was a gross failing in the intelligence community and in the executive and legislative bodies that have responsibility for oversight."

State department spokeswoman Jen Sarki has suggested there are more revelations to come.
"We expect, we don't know, but we certainly expect that that is something that could happen in the weeks ahead," she said.

Activist live-tweets former spy boss's phone conversation

There has also been an eavesdropping incident involving the man who ran the NSA and CIA under George W Bush.

Michael Hayden was talking so loudly and negatively about the Obama administration on the phone in a public train carriage that political activist Tom Matzzie decided to live-tweet the conversations.

Mr Matzzie says someone clearly tipped off Mr Hayden because he eventually confronted him.

"The first thing he said is: 'Would you like a real interview?' I said: 'Well, I'm not a reporter.' And then he said: 'Everybody's a reporter.' Which I guess in the age of Twitter is true," Mr Matzzie said.

"And then he sat down right across from me and we discussed the Fourth Amendment, wire-tapping, the eavesdropping on foreign leaders, which is now a big international scandal that's brewing, and we went through a variety of different topics."

Mr Matzzie has been asked about Mr Hayden's right to privacy and whether it was wrong to tweet the conversation.

"He was in public. There's no reasonable expectation of privacy when you're on the train blabbing like that," he said.

"The right thing for him to do would've been to stand up, walk to the end of the train to one of the more private areas and he would have, at that point, been kind of cloaking himself in a presumption and an expectation of privacy. I would have been violating his privacy at that point."

Bizarrely at the end of the confrontation, the former spy boss posed for a photo, which Mr Mattzie tweeted.

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