The great kerfuffle over America’s surveillance of just about every phone call and Internet session in creation has annoyed a great many people. The latest folks to have their hackles raised by this wasteful approach to intelligence work are the leaders of America’s European allies. Europe is united on this; they are angry that the Americans have spied on their citizens without the knowledge of the allied governments. Some types of European unity are not good.
The leaks last week by a narcissitic NSA contractor named Edward Snowden captured the attention of the media, and indeed, his first leak was to The Guardian, Britain’s leftish quality paper. The revelations are nothing new to anyone who has been paying attention (for instance the FISA court debate years ago), but now everyone is paying attention. Many of these leaders should have known, and so perhaps their rage out to be partially directed at themselves. Nevertheless, US-EU relations just took a turn for the worse.
Michael Birnbaum writing in the Washington Post explained:
German Chancellor Angela Merkel vowed to raise the issue when she meets in Berlin with President Obama next week, a spokesman said, and other German officials said they were concerned by the apparent monitoring of their citizens. Top officials of the 27-nation European Union also said they would press the U.S. government on the matter at bilateral meetings this week.
The White House knows it has a problem on its hands. When asked about the Europeans’ anger, White House spokesman Jay Carney said President Obama “believes that this is a conversation especially worth having and a debate especially worth having here in the United States, but obviously beyond, as well. He believes when it comes to Section 702, which the director of national intelligence has discussed in some detail, that itâ€™s entirely appropriate for a program to exist to look at, you know, foreign data and potential foreign terrorists.”
This is how governments blather when they didn’t do the right thing by allies and got caught doing it. The hard part is fixing it because there is no way to repair the damage done in the eyes of European voters. Innocent Spaniards, Poles and Italians had their private communications tapped by the US government, and their own governments were not even told. In some quarters, it will call the entire alliance into question.
This could hava been avoided, and it is a major failing of the Obama administration that it was not. This White House promised openness and transparency, and at very least, that should have included cooperation and communication with Europe on this data collection pursuit. Instead, the Obama administration acted like the Bush team that believed “an ally is a government that foes as its told and doesn’t ask questions.” One had expected more of this president and his team.