New NSA Leaks Reveal Spying On European Union, European Allies
The latest NSA leaks are likely to prove to be diplomatically embarrassing.
The Guardian is out today with a new set of leaks apparently from Edward Snowden that are raising eyebrows across Europe due to the extent it reveals the NSA’s surveillance of ostensible allies in Europe:
US intelligence services are spying on the European Union mission in New York and its embassy in Washington, according to the latest top secret US National Security Agency documents leaked by the whistleblower Edward Snowden.
One document lists 38 embassies and missions, describing them as “targets”. It details an extraordinary range of spying methods used against each target, from bugs implanted in electronic communications gear to taps into cables to the collection of transmissions with specialised antennae.
Along with traditional ideological adversaries and sensitive Middle Eastern countries, the list of targets includes the EU missions and the French, Italian and Greek embassies, as well as a number of other American allies, including Japan, Mexico, South Korea, India and Turkey. The list in the September 2010 document does not mention the UK, Germany or other western European states.
One of the bugging methods mentioned is codenamed Dropmire, which, according to a 2007 document, is “implanted on the Cryptofax at the EU embassy, DC” – an apparent reference to a bug placed in a commercially available encrypted fax machine used at the mission. The NSA documents note the machine is used to send cables back to foreign affairs ministries in European capitals.
The documents suggest the aim of the bugging exercise against the EU embassy in central Washington is to gather inside knowledge of policy disagreements on global issues and other rifts between member states.
The new revelations come at a time when there is already considerable anger across the EU over earlier evidence provided by Snowden of NSAeavesdropping on America’s European allies.
Germany’s justice minister, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, demanded an explanation from Washington, saying that if confirmed, US behaviour “was reminiscent of the actions of enemies during the cold war”.
The German magazine Der Spiegel reported at the weekend that some of the bugging operations in Brussels targeting the EU’s Justus Lipsius building – a venue for summit and ministerial meetings in the Belgian capital – were directed from within Nato headquarters nearby.
The US intelligence service codename for the bugging operation targeting the EU mission at the United Nations is “Perdido”. Among the documents leaked by Snowden is a floor plan of the mission in midtown Manhattan. The methods used against the mission include the collection of data transmitted by implants, or bugs, placed inside electronic devices, and another covert operation that appears to provide a copy of everything on a targeted computer’s hard drive.
The eavesdropping on the EU delegation to the US, on K Street in Washington, involved three different operations targeted on the embassy’s 90 staff. Two were electronic implants and one involved the use of antennas to collect transmissions.
Although the latest documents are part of an NSA haul leaked by Snowden, it is not clear in each case whether the surveillance was being exclusively done by the NSA – which is most probable as the embassies and missions are technically overseas – or by the FBI or the CIA, or a combination of them. The 2010 document describes the operation as “close access domestic collection”.
Not surprisingly, this isn’t being taken very well in Europe:
LONDON — European officials reacted angrily on Sunday to a report that the United States had been spying on its European Union allies, saying the claims could threaten talks with Washington on an important trade agreement.
The latest allegations surfaced in the online edition of the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, which reported that American agencies had monitored the offices of the European Union in New York and Washington. Der Spiegel said information about the spying appeared in documents obtained by Edward J, Snowden, the former American intelligence contractor, and seen in part by the magazine.
The president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, said in a statement that he was “deeply worried and shocked.”
“If the allegations prove to be true, it would be an extremely serious matter which will have a severe impact on E.U.-U.S. relations,” he said, adding that he wanted a “full clarification” and would demand “further information speedily from the U.S. authorities.”
Viviane Reding, the European Union’s commissioner for justice, responding to a question at a meeting in Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg, said that “partners do not spy on each other.”
“We cannot negotiate over a big trans-Atlantic market if there is the slightest doubt that our partners are carrying out spying activities on the offices of our negotiators,” she said. “The American authorities should eliminate any such doubt swiftly.”
According to Der Spiegel, the National Security Agency installed listening devices in European Union diplomatic offices in downtown Washington and tapped into its computer network.
“In this way, the Americans were able to access discussions in E.U. rooms as well as e-mails and internal documents on computers,” the article said. It said that the bloc’s representative offices at the United Nations in New York were similarly targeted.
On some level of course, this really isn’t entirely surprising. Spying and surveillance of foreign nations, even friendly ones, is something that every nation engages in. It is one of those dirty little secrets of international diplomacy that everyone knows about but nobody talks about because, well, it ends up being something of a diplomatic embarrassment. However they might actually feel about it, European leaders are going to be obligated to speak harshly about the reports in public, and we’ve already seen evidence, via protests in Germany and elsewhere, that the European public is reacting very negatively to this news. I doubt that there will be serious damage to the diplomatic relationship between the United States and Europe over this, but it’s going to make things bumpy for some time time to come.
Photo via Der Spiegel