The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

BRUSSELS (AFP) – A long-awaited trade deal between the European Union and the United States could be in jeopardy over allegations that Washington bugged EU offices, European Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding warned.

It is the latest spying claim attributed to fugitive intelligence analyst Edward Snowden. Revelations in Monday’s Guardian that the U.S. also targeted the Washington embassies of France, Italy and Greece look set to further strain relations.

Brussels, Paris and Berlin reacted angrily to a report in German weekly Der Spiegel on Sunday which detailed covert surveillance by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) on EU diplomatic missions.

The report was based on confidential documents, some of which it had been able to consult via Snowden.

Reding warned that talks to create what would be the world’s biggest free trade area, formally launched earlier this month, could be jeopardised if the bugging allegations proved true.

“We can’t negotiate a large transatlantic market if there is any doubt that our partners are bugging the offices of European negotiators,” Reding said at a meeting in Luxembourg, her spokesperson told AFP.

“We have immediately been in contact with the US authorities in Washington D.C. and in Brussels and have confronted them with the press reports,” the European Commission said in a statement.

The U.S. said Sunday it would respond to the EU via diplomatic channels over the bugging allegations.

“While we are not going to comment publicly on specific alleged intelligence activities, as a matter of policy we have made clear that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations,” said a statement from the office of the Director of National Intelligence in Washington.

One document, dated September 2010 and classed as “strictly confidential”, describes how the NSA kept tabs on the European Union’s mission in Washington, Der Spiegel said.

According to documents seen by the Guardian, bugs were implanted on the encrypted fax machine at the embassy as part of operation ‘Perdido’, set up to learn about rifts between member nations.

The EU delegation at the United Nations was subject to similar surveillance, Der Spiegel said, adding that the spying also extended to the 27-member bloc’s Brussels headquarters.

The files also revealed that, in addition to the EU, the U.S. embassies of France, Greece and Italy were among 38 “targets” of NSA spying operations, Monday’s Guardian reported.

In the only US reaction to the Spiegel claims so far, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, while refusing to be drawn into commenting directly on the allegations, said Saturday it was “worth noting” the US was “very close” to EU security services.

The reports are the latest in a series of allegations about U.S. spying activity revealed by Snowden, a former NSA contractor.

He is now stranded at a Moscow airport transit zone looking for a country to accept his asylum request after the United States issued a warrant for his arrest and revoked his passport.

EU powerhouse Germany said the United States must quickly say whether the spying allegations were true or not.

“It’s beyond our imagination that our friends in the U.S. consider the Europeans as enemies,” Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said in a statement.

“If the media reports are accurate, it is reminiscent of actions among enemies during the Cold War.”

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Paris had also demanded an explanation from U.S. authorities. Such spying activities, if confirmed, would be “totally unacceptable”, he said.

European Parliament president Martin Schulz said in a statement he was “deeply worried and shocked” by the reports.

“If the allegations prove to be true, it would be an extremely serious matter which will have a severe impact on EU-US relations.”

In its latest report on Sunday, Der Spiegel said leaked documents showed that the U.S. secret services had targeted Germany more than any other EU country.

Citing figures from NSA documents, the magazine said that half a billion forms of communication — phone calls, emails, text messages and Internet chat entries — were monitored in Germany every month.

The U.S. authorities issued an arrest warrant this month for Snowden after he revealed details of the NSA’s so-called PRISM programme which collects and analyses information from Internet and phone users around the world, with access to data from Google, Yahoo! and other Internet firms.

U.S. officials say the information gathered is vital in the fight against global terrorism, but the scale of the programme raised deep concerns around the world.

Snowden himself remains in political limbo at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport after flying in from Hong Kong last week, unable to fly on without legal travel documents or exit the airport without a Russian visa.

Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa said U.S. Vice President Joe Biden had asked Quito to reject any asylum request from the 30-year-old. Washington wants to put him on trial on charges including espionage.

Correa said Snowden’s fate was in Russia’s hands as Quito could not process his asylum request until he was on Ecuadoran soil.

Advertising

Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Donald Trump
Youtube Screenshot

Allies of former President Donald Trump have advised members of the Republican Party to cool down their inflammatory rhetoric toward the United States Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation following the execution of a search warrant at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida on Monday.

Trump supporters, right-wing pundits, and lawmakers have been whipped into a frenzy over what Trump called a "raid" by federal agents in pursuit of classified documents removed from the White House during Trump's departure from office.

Keep reading... Show less

Former President Donald Trump

Youtube Screenshot

On August 20, 2022, Donald Trump will have been gone from the White House for 19 months. But Trump, unlike other former presidents, hasn’t disappeared from the headlines by any means — and on Monday, August 8, the most prominent topic on cable news was the FBI executing a search warrant at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in South Florida. Countless Republicans, from Fox News hosts to Trump himself, have been furiously railing against the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). And in an article published by Politico on August 11, reporters Kyle Cheney and Meridith McGraw describe the atmosphere of “paranoia” and suspicion that has become even worse in Trumpworld since the search.

“A wave of concern and even paranoia is gripping parts of Trumpworld as federal investigators tighten their grip on the former president and his inner circle,” Cheney and McGraw explain. “In the wake of news that the FBI agents executed a court-authorized search warrant at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida, Trump’s allies and aides have begun buzzing about a host of potential explanations and worries. Among those being bandied about is that the search was a pretext to fish for other incriminating evidence, that the FBI doctored evidence to support its search warrant — and then planted some incriminating materials and recording devices at Mar-a-Lago for good measure — and even that the timing of the search was meant to be a historical echo of the day President Richard Nixon resigned in 1974.”

Keep reading... Show less
{{ post.roar_specific_data.api_data.analytics }}