Edward Snowden, in his quest to protect our freedoms, is now releasing information regarding the NSA snooping on the European Union that may potentially damage trade pacts worth hundreds of billions of dollars between the US and the EU.
After many years of planning, there is worry that this information may distract negotiations between the US and Brussels.
The newly released information suggests that the NSA spied on the Justus Lipsius building in Brussels, home of the EU council according to Der Spiegel Photograph, Don McPhee for the British Guardian.
Recent reports allege the surveillance in Europe, which is purportedly mainly on Germany, went beyond snooping to identify potential terrorists, extremists and organized criminals.
The German publication Der Spiegel gave an eyewitness report of documents that revealed the US bugged offices of the European Union in Washington and at the United Nations in New York. The NSA is also accused of directing an operation from NATO headquarters in Brussels to infiltrate the telephone and email networks at the EU’s Justice Lipsius building in the Belgian capital, the venue for EU summits and home of the European Council, according to Der Spiegel.
Der Spiegel also reported, about five years ago security officers at the EU noticed several missed calls and apparently targeting the remote maintenance system in the building that were traced to NSA offices within the NATO compound in Brussels.
This newly released information alleges that Germany was the prime target of most of the surveillance programs. The documents supposedly revealed that the US tapped half a billion phone calls, emails and text messages in Germany a month. On an average day, the NSA monitored about 20m German phone connections and 10m internet datasets, rising to 60m phone connections on busy days, the report said.
“We can attack the signals of most foreign third-class partners, and we do it too,” Der Spiegel quoted a passage in the NSA document as saying.
According to the magazine, officials in Brussels said this reflected Germany’s weight in the EU and probably also entailed elements of industrial and trade espionage. “The Americans are more interested in what governments think than the European commission. And they make take the view that Germany determines European policy,” said one of the senior officials
Sabine Luetheusser-Schnarrenberger, Germany’s justice minister is requesting the US authorities to respond to these allegations.
“If the media reports are true, it is reminiscent of the actions of enemies during the cold war,” she said, in the German newspaper Bild. “It is beyond imagination that our friends in the US view Europeans as the enemy.”
“Obviously we will need to see what is the impact on the trade talks,” said a senior official in Brussels.
One of Britain’s senior officials, Robert Madelin, tweeted that EU trade negotiators always worked under the notion that they were potentially being spied on.
A spokesman for the European commission said: “We have immediately been in contact with the US authorities in Washington and in Brussels and have confronted them with the press reports. They have told us they are checking on the accuracy of the information released yesterday and will come back to us.”
Guy Verhofstadt, the former Belgian prime minister and leader of the liberals in the European parliament, said: “This is absolutely unacceptable and must be stopped immediately. The American data collection mania has achieved another quality by spying on EU officials and their meetings. Our trust is at stake.”
Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, stated that if these allegations are true, the US government needs to cease the spying and give a commitment from the highest level of government that it will not continue.
Martin Schulz, the head of the European parliament, said: “I am deeply worried and shocked about the allegations of US authorities spying on EU offices. If the allegations prove to be true, it would be an extremely serious matter which will have a severe impact on EU-US relations.”
“On behalf of the European parliament, I demand full clarification and require further information speedily from the US authorities with regard to these allegations.”
Brussels officials have called on the US secretary of state, John Kerry, to place them on his itinerary on his way back from the Middle East to explain the latest allegations against the NSA. Officials there believe this is of vital important because the US appears be in violation of attacking the freedoms it claims to protect.
“We need to get clarifications and transparency at the highest level,” said Marietje Schaake, a Dutch liberal MEP. “Kerry should come to Brussels on his way back from the Middle East. This is essential for the transatlantic alliance. The US can only lead by example, and should uphold the freedoms it claims to protect against attacks from the outside. Instead we see erosion of freedoms, checks and balances, from within.”
The classified documents purport a secret snooping operation in September of 2010. While the EU phone and computer systems have a high level of security no system is totally secure from continuous high quality penetration operations, said a former senior official in Brussels
“We now need a debate on surveillance measures as a whole looking at underlying technical agreements. I think what we can do as European politicians now is to protect the rights of citizens and their rights to control their own personal data.”
These new assertions of spying on the EU may hinder the US relations with the European Union and potentially have lasting effects on the trade pact agreements between the two.
By: Veverly Edwards