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7/7/13

"Der Shitstorm" - American espionage and Europe: Sense, sensibilities and spying

The noun “Der Shitstorm” made a timely entrance to the official German lexicon this week. France is in a similar “avalanche d’emmerdements”. So, too, are countries as far afield as Japan, India and Turkey, which are also digesting revelations about the nature and extent of America’s electronic espionage on them.

Material leaked to Germany’s Der Spiegel and Britain’s Guardian by Edward Snowden, a former contractor at the National Security Agency, says its programmes “can and often do target the signals” of around 30 “third-party” states, with which America has otherwise friendly ties. It spied on, among other targets, the European Union’s diplomatic headquarters in Brussels, using NATO premises to do so. The NSA exempts only a handful of close “second-party” allies, chiefly Australia, Britain, Canada and New Zealand.

The fear in Europe is that, once so many data are in American hands, who is to say that they will not be misunderstood, leaked or misused? The information may help catch terrorists and gangsters today, but become part of American power politics (or commercial advantage) tomorrow. European policymakers took a lot of persuading before they agreed to share data on financial transactions and airline passenger lists with America. Now European Parliament members are threatening to suspend the deals. Another potential casualty is a proposed transatlantic free-trade deal, on which talks are due to start on July 8th (see article). France (never enthusiastic) and left-wing politicians in other countries want them halted, pending full clarification of the espionage programs.

Read more: American espionage and Europe: Sense, sensibilities and spying | The Economist

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