Sunday, October 27, 2013

NSA Spying Threatens to Hinder U.S. Foreign Policy

NSA spying threatens to hinder U.S. foreign policy


Washington • Secretary of State John Kerry went to Europe to talk about Mideast peace, Syria and Iran. What he got was an earful of outrage over U.S. snooping abroad.

President Barack Obama has defended America’s surveillance dragnet to leaders of Russia, Mexico, Brazil, France and Germany, but the international anger over the disclosures shows no signs of abating in the short run.

Longer term, the revelations by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden about NSA tactics that allegedly include tapping the cellphones of as many as 35 world leaders threaten to undermine U.S. foreign policy in a range of areas.

In Washington, demonstrators held up signs reading “Thank you, Edward Snowden!” as they marched and rallied near the U.S. Capitol to demand that Congress investigate the NSA’s mass surveillance programs.

This vacuum-cleaner approach to data collection has rattled allies.

“The magnitude of the eavesdropping is what shocked us,” former French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said in a radio interview.

“Let’s be honest, we eavesdrop, too.
Everyone is listening to everyone else. But we don’t have the same means as the United States, which makes us jealous.”

So where in the world isn’t the NSA? That’s one big question raised by the disclosures. Whether the tapping of allies is a step too far might be moot.

The British ambassador to Lebanon, Tom Fletcher, tweeted this past week: “I work on assumption that 6+ countries tap my phone. Increasingly rare that diplomats say anything sensitive on calls.”

Diplomatic relations are built on trust. If America’s credibility is in question, the U.S. will find it harder to maintain alliances, influence world opinion and maybe even close trade deals.

To Henry Farrell and Martha Finnemore at George Washington University, damage from the NSA disclosures could “undermine Washington’s ability to act hypocritically and get away with it.”


The Record: Spies everywhere

SATURDAY OCTOBER 26, 2013, 10:09 AM

CONCERNS ABOUT government spying continue to grow – both here and abroad. Our nation's European allies say they can no longer trust Washington. In our region, Muslims still await a federal probe into the New York City Police Department's surveillance of the Muslim community in New Jersey and New York.

The latest spying revelation concerning the National Security Agency's activities abroad is disturbing. While the NSA's gathering of the phone records of unsuspecting American citizens was chilling, news that the NSA also gathered more than 70 million phone records in France and possibly even tapped the cellphone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel has sent shock waves across Europe.

The White House has not denied Merkel's phone may have been tapped in the past. A White House spokesman on Thursday said, "We are not going to comment publicly on every specific alleged intelligence activity."

Spying on the chancellor of Germany is not a random allegation of U.S. spying. If this indeed is true, it compromises the United States in the eyes of its most needed allies in the ongoing war against global terrorism. And for what purpose was the spying conducted? What legitimate reason can be given for tapping the phone of a head of state of an allied nation?

While there are valid reasons for limited spying to safeguard American interests, there is no valid reason for wiretapping Merkel's cellphone. During the Bush administration, civil liberty watchdogs heavily criticized the actions of the Department of Justice in the months and years after the 9/11 attacks. The Obama administration has proved to be no greater friend to civil liberty.

More than two years ago, The Associated Press reported that the NYPD had been throwing a massive, indiscriminate net over the Muslin community in the greater metropolitan region. Houses of worships, restaurants, universities and businesses all were being spied upon without reasonable cause for secret surveillance. Despite requests from civil rights organization and members of Congress to conduct a full investigation into what happened and why, the Justice Department has yet to take noticeable action. This is unacceptable.

America remains a target of global terrorists because it is a free, democratic society. America is where liberty comes to grow. But increasingly, our government is choking that liberty, ironically, in the name of liberty. That this is counterproductive is obvious.

The NYPD spying undermined years of relationship-building between local law enforcement and Muslim communities. Those relationships are vital in the war against terror, and we have yet to receive a full accounting of why the NYPD needed to do what it did – assurances from New York police officials and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg are not good enough.

In Europe, the consequences of the NSA's actions could be far-reaching. Not only have relationships between the United States and the security agencies of our allies been compromised, but so are diplomatic and trade relationships. The global economy is fragile enough without adding a new level of distrust between our allies and Washington.

The Obama administration must be held accountable for what the NSA is doing here and abroad. The president needs to put the full force of his office behind a Justice Department investigation of NYPD spying on Muslims in this region. A failure to do both compromises the integrity of our great republic.

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Barack Obama 'approved tapping Angela Merkel's phone 3 years ago'

President Barack Obama was told about monitoring of German Chancellor in 2010 and allowed it to continue, says German newspaper

Philip Sherwell By Philip Sherwell, New York and Louise Barnett in Berlin
6:18PM GMT 27 Oct 2013

President Barack Obama was dragged into the trans-Atlantic spying row after it was claimed he personally authorised the monitoring of Angela Merkel’s phone three years ago.

The president allegedly allowed US intelligence to listen to calls from the German Chancellor’s mobile phone after he was briefed on the operation by Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency (NSA), in 2010.

The latest claim, reported in the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag, followed reports in Der Spiegel that the surveillance of Mrs Merkel’s phone began as long ago as 2002, when she was still the opposition leader, three years before being elected Chancellor.

That monitoring only ended in the weeks before Mr Obama visited Berlin in June this year, the magazine added.

Citing leaked US intelligence documents, it also reported that America conducted eavesdropping operations on the German government from a listening post at its embassy beside the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, one of more than 80 such centres worldwide.

Mr Obama’s European allies will now ask him to say what he personally knew about the NSA’s global eavesdropping operation and its targeting of world leaders, including those from friendly states. The White House declined to comment on the German media reports.

Last week, however, Mr Obama assured Mrs Merkel that her phone is not being monitored now – and will not be in future. But the US has pointedly declined to discuss the NSA’s actions in the past.

Its surveillance operations raises questions about whether US officials breached domestic laws. Hans-Peter Friedrich, the German interior minister, said: “If the Americans intercepted cellphones in Germany, they broke German law on German soil”. He noted that wiretapping was a crime in Germany and “those responsible must be held accountable”.

Even before the latest reports, German intelligence chiefs were preparing to travel to Washington this week to demand answers from the NSA about the alleged surveillance of Mrs Merkel.

John Kerry, the US secretary of state, received a dose of European fury this weekend when he visited Paris and Rome.

The trip was arranged to discuss the Middle East peace process, the Syrian civil war and Iran’s nuclear programme. Instead, he was confronted by outrage over the scale of US surveillance operations.

“The magnitude of the eavesdropping is what shocked us,” said Bernard Kouchner, a former French foreign minister, in a radio interview. “Let’s be honest, we eavesdrop too. Everyone is listening to everyone else.

But we don’t have the same means as the United States, which makes us jealous.”

According to the leaked documents in Spiegel, NSA officials acknowledged that any disclosure of the existence of the foreign listening posts would lead to “grave damage” for US relations with other governments.

Such posts exist in 19 European cities, including Paris, Madrid, Rome and Frankfurt, according to the magazine, which has based its reports on documents provided by Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor.

Mr Obama did not comment, but Republican supporters of the US intelligence community began a fightback on the political talk-shows.

Mike Rogers, the chairman of the intelligence committee in the House of Representatives, said that America’s allies should be grateful for surveillance operations which targeted terrorist threats. “I would argue by the way, if the French citizens knew exactly what that was about, they would be applauding and popping champagne corks,” he told CNN’s State of the Union.

“It’s a good thing. it keeps the French safe. It keeps the US safe. It keeps our European allies safe.”

Peter King, a fellow Republican congressman, said that Mr Obama should not apologise for NSA operations in Europe.

“The president should stop apologising, stop being defensive,” he said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “The reality is the NSA has saved thousands of lives not just in the United States but in France, Germany and throughout Europe. Quite frankly, the NSA has done so much for our country and so much for the president, he’s the commander in chief. He should stand with the NSA.”

John Schindler, a former NSA official, noted that planning for the terrorist attacks on Sept 11, 2001 had taken place in Hamburg.

“If 9/11 had happened to Germany and been planned in NY not Hamburg, I’d expect [German] intel to monitor USA top 2 bottom,” he wrote on Twitter.

A German intelligence official, quoted by Die Welt, said: “The Americans did not want to rely exclusively on us after September 11th. That is understandable.”

Another told the newspaper: “Without information from the Americans, there would have been successful terrorist attacks in Germany in the past years.”

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