They spy… October 29, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in European Politics, US Politics.
Niall Stanage in the Sunday Business Post this weekend was writing about the US phone tapping scandal. Apparently it is a scandal when political leaders of foreign states are tapped, not so much when it’s just ordinary folk. Interesting that.
It is assumed, though not proven, that information Snowden provided was also the basis for an investigation by the German magazine Der Spiegel which led to allegations that the mobile phone of Chancellor Angela Merkel was among those targeted by the United States.
The accusation was all but confirmed by the evasive response of Obama’s White House spokesman, Jay Carney.
Carney stressed that Merkel’s phone was not being tapped now and would not be in the future. But he determinedly avoided making any such declaration about the past. In doing so, he was seen to be tacitly admitting the surveillance.
”What I can’t do and won’t do is answer every allegation that appears in print about intelligence activities that may or may not have been engaged in by the United States, because the path that leads us down is not one that we can travel,” Carney said during one press briefing.
There is no mistaking the outrage that the disclosure about Merkel caused in Germany, just as somewhat similar allegations caused a furore in France.
Stanage, understandably, positions this as a problem for Obama. And no doubt it is. And he notes that:
Now, even some former Bush advisors are coming to his aid over the most recent revelations.
Stewart Baker, who was an assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security under Bush, argued that Germany and France should not be seen as entirely dependable allies of the United States.
In an article for the website of the New York Times last week, Baker contended that the two nations in question ”were not our allies” in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
No doubt they – the Bush advisors – would on foot of the latest reports that the phone-tapping of Angela Merkel was taking place from at least 2002.
The reported surveillance of Angela Merkel apparently began under the George W Bush administration and continued into the Obama administration, and required explicit presidential approval.
This last is interesting because:
Chancellery officials say Mr Obama reportedly told Dr Merkel he knew nothing of the surveillance and apologised.
The unnamed NSA official contradicts this version of events in Bild am Sonntag, claiming Mr Obama was informed of the action by NSA chief Keith Alexander in 2010.
“Obama didn’t stop the action then, rather left it run on,” said an unnamed NSA official to the newspaper, allegeding the intelligence gathered went straight to the White House.
What’s fascinating, and I mentioned this last week, is that there’s so much contention about it. I’d have thought it was sensible to assume that the US spied on anyone and everything that took its interest, as indeed would other states. That is simply standard operating procedure I would imagine in such instances.
Baker makes a point along similar lines:
”He and his administration are targets for the intelligence services of practically every nation on earth, including some of those complaining loudest,” Baker wrote. ”That’s not because he set a bad example; he could abolish the NSA, the CIA and the rest of the intelligence community tomorrow, and the US would still be the world’s biggest target.”
That may be true but it does not lessen the difficulties caused by the disclosures that have been made.
Again, as I was writing last week, that’s in no sense to deny US culpability, but it is to suggest that information and intelligence surveillance could and should be subject to much more rigorous controls at international level, in much the same way as different but no less noxious substances and materials are. But how likely is that? It’s expedient for many, if not everyone, that such practices continue and will continue into the future.
But it’s also instructive and educative, and it points up more clearly just how important it is to allow for areas of privacy for those of us in more banal areas.