What´s with the not-really-outraged-but-slightly-scandalized reaction from European politicians to the US spy operations? They really are listening in on conversations and messages between European citizens, within and between European institutions. This really is outrageous!
And what´s with the “If this proves to be true”-comments from most of them?
”If it is confirmed that diplomatic representations of the European Union and individual European countries have been spied upon, we will clearly say that bugging friends is unacceptable… ”, said a government spokesman in Berlin.
“Ces faits, s’ils étaient confirmés, seraient tout à fait inacceptables », says French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.
”The US authorities have told us they are checking on the accuracy of the information released and will come back to us as soon as possible, says cooly Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs & Security Policy.
No need to hang about waiting for more information, the American President himself has confirmed it. What more assurance do you need before you protest loudly and clearly?
And what´s with the unconvincing American response to the European reactions? The initial answers from Barack Obama were – to say the least – not very well phrased, from a European perspective. When the scandal first broke, trying to calm American fears, he explained: ´These are mostly directed towards non-Americans.´ Not so calming to a European ear.
Visiting Berlin and Kansler Angela Merkel in June, he then told an outright lie: “It´s not like we´re sifting through millions of conversations…” Yes, actually, that´s exactly what you are doing. (You think the US doesn´t have the manpower to do it? You would be right. They´ve got computer programs doing that.)
Then it dawned on President Obama that the Europeans were really not happy about his spying. So he “vowed to listen to the European critics on Internet spying”. Again, an unhappy turn of phrase from someone accused of listening in a bit too much.
He went on to try to calm European fears by saying that the information he got, was no more (but rather less) than what he got from talking to European heads of state. Well, maybe you could do that then, Mr President? Pick up the phone and call, instead of installing spying devices all over the place?
President Obamas last line of defence so far, has been that ´you people do it too.´ “I guarantee you that in European capitals, there are people who are interested in, if not what I had for breakfast, at least what my talking points might be should I end up meeting with their leaders. That’s how intelligence services operate.”
That´s rubbish as a defence of course, but he may not be wrong in claiming that the European governments have their fingers in the pie as well. A former NSA agent popped up in media, a Mr Madsen, telling the story of several European governments having agreements with the US secret services on sharing information.
Is Mr Madsen a nutcase? He may well be but listen instead to trustworthy EU journalist Jean Quatremer of Libération, reminding us in his latest blog post that this sort of “I scratch your back, you scratch mine” between American and European spies has been going on for decades and has been revealed at least a couple of times before. (Here´s a mind blowing quote from the then head of bureau Desmond Perkins: ´I have excellent relations with the NSA. They regularly pop in and verify our encrypting systems to check they´re functioning properly…´)
So, no point in getting our hopes up that any European government is seriously going to protest to the US or try to put an end to the American spying on us. They won´t.
And they most probably won´t take in poor homeless whistle blower Edward Snowden either, who more desperate by the day, now is applying further and further away for asylum.
The only party we can hope may actually take a strong stand against the spying on European citizens and European institutions – because they are the only ones completely out of the loop, not getting any classified information from any one, certain not to have any spy system of their own set up against anybody else – is the European Parliament.
See? There is a point to this institution, after all.