What’s a Little Spying Between Friends?

Michael In the News

The NSA continues to get into trouble for its spying.

The US was first accused of spying on top German officials in 2013. A subsequent investigation by the Germans did not find any evidence of the trespass. The German’s just dropped their investigation in June because the investigation did not turn up any evidence that documents released by Edward Snowden told the truth about Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone being tapped.

Fool Me Once

Even though the Germans dropped their investigation into the accusations after finding no evidence, there is evidence of strained tensions.

Wikileaks released new documents that doubles the supposed number of phone numbers under surveillance by the NSA. The previous leak provided by Snowden showed 56 numbers. The new leak ups the total to 125.

The intercepts of Merkel’s phone that Wikileaks released dealt with communications between her and the prince of the UAE during the international financial crisis in 2009 on Iran, as well as with advisers during the Eurozone crisis in 2011.

The surveillance also took place on several other top diplomatic officials, including chiefs of staff.

Wikileaks also had this to add, “The names associated with some of the targets indicate that spying on the Chancellery predates Angela Merkel as it includes staff of former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder (in office 1998-2002), and his predecessor Helmut Kohl.”

Shortly after this new revelation, Angela Merkel’s chief of staff summoned the US ambassador, John Emerson.

The foriegn intelligence agency of Germany, known as BND, reportedly rolled back cooperation with the NSA in May that had been ongoing for ten years. This was due to the NSA’s inability to clearly define the reasons for the surveillance it requested and doubts were raised by BND’s chief as to the veracity of the activities.

Fax and phone intercepts are still being carried out on the NSA’s behalf because of sufficient justification for the estimated millions of  numbers being tapped.

With the new allegations, Germany is demanding some sort of “informal agreement” or “common understanding” between them and the US that will ideally not commit Germany to carrying out more surviellance itself.

You’re Not Alone, Germany

In the last week of June, Wikileaks also released top secret documents that said that the NSA had been spying on another US ally: the French. These documents detailed communications of the last 3 French Presidents. The list also includes French ambassadors to the US as well as ministers.

The information gathered on the French included export contracts, trade and budget talks, French peace talks with Palestine and Israel, France’s determinations about the executive staff make-up of their United Nations council, and Greece’s possible exit from the Eurozone.

One file in 2010 even suggests that the French knew that they were being spied on.

The US National Security Council’s director said, “We are not targeting and will not target the communications of President Hollande. Indeed, as we have said previously, we do not conduct any foreign intelligence surveillance activities unless there is a specific and validated national security purpose. This applies to ordinary citizens and world leaders alike.”

In response, France has summoned the US ambassador, they have sent a top diplomatic official to the US to  clarify previous agreements made by the  two countries (in 2013 the NSA was accused on mass surveillance on French citizens, which prompted talks), and they have convened top French lawmakers on the matter.

I Think We Sprung a(nother) Leak

The new leaks suggest that the NSA may have a problem with leakers and whistleblowers.

Two sources that claim to be familiar with the information obtained and released by Edward Snowden do not recall seeing the information about surveillance being conducted on the French Presidents in the trove of data (although it was a lot to take in).

To date, Julian Assange, Wikileaks founder, has not published much if any information released by Snowden. Associates of Edward Snowden say that he was reluctant, even deliberately avoided, to give sensitive material to Assange.

Several news outlets have reported that the US and Europe are investigating the possibility of another leaker.

Even if another whistleblower/leaker has not started releasing information, the NSA still has a gaping and bleeding wound in their side from the initial leak of Edward Snowden. Two years later and new information being released is at least causing a headache among surveillance officials.

This information only affirms the belief held by many people already; no one is safe from surveillance- not even friends.

feature image courtesy of Fredrick LInge via flickr

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