Mohan Murti

America disgraced

Mohan Murti | Updated on October 30, 2013

The spying revelations have posed a threat to the Europe-Atlantic relationship.

“She isn’t prone to flare-ups of grouchiness; she isn’t a bully and she isn’t grumpy.” That is what I wrote about German Chancellor Angela Merkel (“Our lady of Europe”, June 11, 2013). To this, let me add another trait — a brilliant sense of humour.

With Merkel, what you see is what you get. Last week, amid claims that the US was spying on her, the German chancellor arrived at an EU summit in Brussels, in a car with a ‘007’ number plate! All items on the agenda were put on hold as the EU heads of state focussed on the NSA spying scandal, “Spying between friends, that's just not done,” said Merkel. “Now trust has to be rebuilt.”

Certainly, the revelations about the National Security Agency’s internet surveillance programme are disquieting.

Journalists continue to publish documents and shocking revelations from the archives of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden on the secret, unaccountable systems of America’s global surveillance.

Target: German Chancellor

In-depth investigations by Der Spiegel reveal that the US embassy in Berlin has not just been promoting German-American trade and industrial cooperation. It has been a base of clandestine, surreptitious surveillance.

The released documents reveal that the NSA has the ability to comb through all encrypted communications around the globe. And that the joint NSA-CIA unit called the Special Collection Service (SCS) very likely monitored Angela Merkel’s mobile phone between 2002 and June of 2013.

It is understood that the SCS has sites in 80 locations around the world, including two in Germany, that largely work covertly in fortified areas of the American embassy and consulate. These are people who are accredited as diplomats and enjoy immunity.

Even if wiretapping from an embassy is unlawful in nearly every country, SCS as is revealed by secret documents operates its own sophisticated listening devices with which it can intercept virtually every popular method of communication: cellular signals, wireless networks and satellite communication.

The revelations now pose a serious threat not only to German-American relations but to the Europe-Atlantic partnership as well.

The new US ambassador in Berlin was summoned by the German Foreign Minister to formally articulate German anger.

EU Repercussions

At the EU summit, there was also frenzied debate among the leaders on the allegedly 60 million or more phone calls each month that were monitored in Spain and France.

The heads of EU states agreed that the Americans had unashamedly broken the law and expressed clear disapproval of their tactics. They called for an immediate halt by the US of its transatlantic intelligence gathering and spying practices.

Clearly, trust in the US has been stunningly breached and there is increasing consensus that a proposed free trade agreement between the EU and the US be put on hold. Leaders in the EU are also asking for termination of its Safe Harbour data agreement with the US.

Across Europe, in the public eye, the US stands more and more detested, loathed, despised and isolated. Europeans are asking if this is the same US where, in 1929, the then secretary of state Henry Stimson shut down the government’s secret communications interception department saying “Gentlemen do not read other gentlemen’s mail”.

When Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, Winston Churchill stopped the UK government spying on the Russians saying: “They have become our friends and we do not spy on friends.”

Published on October 30, 2013

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