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
2 words: Johnathan Pollard.
Did the US cut off Israel? No. Will Germany, France, the UK, Slovenia, Austria, Romania cut off the US?
Will they make a lot of noise and then give the NSA the back door the NSA requests?
I give you 3 guesses and the first 2 don’t count.
Wake up Doug.
Nope. Not as long as we provide their security and fight their wars.
More troubling to me is the implication that having a stateless enemy means we now spy on every state looking for one.
And for the record, they already did.
Correction: Jonathan Pollard.
Snowden’s “whistleblower” case is undermined with every new leak. So, despite his claims, he’s got no problem revealing sources and methods regarding foreign intelligence collection.
Doug is right that there won’t be serious damage to our diplomatic relationships, but you can bet that foreign governments (and not just those named) are quickly moving to better secure their own communications which will damage our ability to collect the foreign intelligence information necessary for our diplomatic, trade and other efforts.
“We should be more open about our spying activities.” -Hayden.
The comedy writes itself.
Probably not much damage to the diplomatic relationship, but only because all parties have a vested interest in continued good relations. The much bigger problem is that countries with whom we are negotiating trade agreements are going to have a helluva lot less flexibility to make concessions because their domestic constituencies won’t permit it.
And, of course, the hypocrisy of publicly chastising China while engaging in the exact same behavior will only serve to weaken the government’s ability to manipulate public opinion.
So they will deal with the open and transparent Chinese? Russians?
This is moving beyond whistleblower. Not looking quite so heroic when he reveals these kinds of ‘secrets”.
I’d guess every country does this. Probably the only thing that annoys the other countries is that it came out in the open, so their leaders have to act shocked.
@steve: This is moving beyond whistleblower.
Absolutely. This is like a double agent.
Bad on our non-compartmentalization. Bad bad bad bad bad
He’s still a hero to anyone who perceived him that way after the first leak. Nothing he’s revealed after would serve to polish or diminish that reputation since the people who thought he was a hero, in my experience, all had something to gain from tarnishing the reputation of America abroad.*
Take this leak for example. This is the sort of thing a person with a naive view of international affairs, or one without a view at all, would find shocking. It’s news because it’s not the sort of thing anyone thinks about often unless they’re involved. It brings down a specific image of America, one that has been sold instead of earned. Some people get a thrill out of that, and it doesn’t matter how slight or insignificant the actual leak is as long as it despoils that image.
* Personal satisfaction, usually.
So we are all now at the point where we accept that the leaks ARE damaging to the USA, right? Surely no one can think this is good for the USA, unless you think making it more difficult to carry out diplomacy abroad with both allies and enemies is a good thing.
The only people that think this is good are those like Snowden and Greenwald who think that there should not be an NSA at all- in order, people who think we live in Fairy Gum Drop Land.
The last time the US fought our wars was in the 90’s in the Balkans. Seems that some Americans (Tillman) have short memories, since Europeans have fought in US wars (Afghanistan, Iraq) much more recently than the other way around.
And the naive everyone-does-it-attitude: So you think the other nations have intelligence operations as extensive as the USA? And you would not be unhappy if Russia read the e-mails of every American? Get real, the US spies on the rest of the world far more than the other way around.
And of course, every time you complain about China now will only show massive hypocrisy.
BS strawman. There is quite a bit of room between thinking that the US should be able to do anything it wants in total secrecy with absolutely no oversight whatsoever, and wanting there to be absolutely no intelligence gathering whatsoever.
I consider wanting to shed light on the things that the US is doing that is counter to both the US Constitution and also International law and diplomatic custom to have a noble purpose. And while the results may cause this administration some embarassment and difficulty, I’m willing to accept that to make sure they realize that this crap will see the light of day at some point, and it will not be at a time of their choosing, so they just proceed with caution.
But you just go on beating that strawman, it looks like you’re having a grand ole time.
I assume our government has been doing this sort of thing for decades, only now the tools have gotten much more sophisticated. I don’t like it, but I also don’t like terrorism. In general, I’d like to pull back on our overreaction to terrorism. But I’d start with military operations (fewer interventions, including getting involved in civil wars ala Syria or Libya), whereas snooping is something I’m more inclined to accept.
One quibble with your comment: the US airpower used in Libya was something our European allies wanted. It’s certainly fair to say that Europeans have fought & died in ground wars more recently (Afghanistan). But it’s not like US military power is something European governments can just shrug and do without, apparently. Their revealed preference seems to be to put up with us in case they need us. 😉 To the extent that chances in future, that’s fine by me. It might lead to less self-destructive behavior on our part.
He lost me when he went to Hong Kong. That’s not the act of someone who is genuinely concerned about what’s good for America.
Chen Guangcheng lost me when he went to America. That’s not the act of someone who is genuinely concerned about what’s good for China.
Well, he had three choices: stay in America and rot in jail for life, fly to a US ally which would hand him over to America to rot in jail for life, or fly to a US rival which would not necessarily hand him over to the US, thereby maintaining a chance for freedom.
The fact that he fled to Hong Kong doesn’t tell me as much about his feelings towards America as it tells me about his desire for continued freedom. I’m not inclined to second-guess most people’s perfectly rational desire for self-preservation.
I am basing my “straw man” on what Snowden has done and said, not on what you fondly imagine what Snowden should say and do. The real Snowden has said from day one that he wants the system of electronic surveillance dismantled altogether, and his actions have been in conformance with that goal. He has expressed no interest whatsoever in oversight reforms, and has not limited his disclosures to domestic surveillance. On the contrary , most of his revelations have been about spying abroad. Examples ( lifted from Balloon Juice):
And that was before the revelations concerning Russia and western Europe.
Folks like you only want a “good Snowden” , who’s interested only in reforming domestic surveillance and introducing greater transparency, etc. But such a Snowden only exists in your mind.
Now if you want to discuss tweaking the system for greater transparency, fine. But such discussion was ongoing long before Snowden , and its not Snowden’s goal. Just sayin’.
I wasn’t talking about Snowden. I don’t particularly care what he wants or what his motives are.
You said “The only people that think this is good are those like Snowden and Greenwald who think that there should not be an NSA at all”
You aren’t just talking about Snowden. You are attributing an extreme view to EVERYONE who thinks his disclosures have been a good thing. And that is the strawman. And quite an impressive one, at that.
Libya was the British and the French wanting to intervene. I do believe we were instrumental in that unless my memory’s faulty. Despite the reputation, not all American wars are instigated by Americans.
That’s some projection , there. In future, we’ll all do better if you respond to what I actually wrote, not what you think I wrote.
How do these revelations harm the United States? Specifically who is harmed?
I quoted exactly what you wrote.
You said that “(t)he only people that think this is good are those like Snowden and Greenwald who think that there should not be an NSA at all.”
I don’t share the view that there should be no NSA at all, and yet I think the disclosures were a good thing.
How exactly did I misinterpret what you wrote?
Libya was actually a NATO intervention, not a unilateral US intervention, as is often portrayed here. One of Obama’s strengths is that he actually believes in collective security and intervention only in as part of an international coalition.
That by definition means fewer interventions and interventions only where there is international consensus that something must be done. It also means that if there is blow-back, it won’t fall on the USA alone. For example, when Libya blow-back happened in Mali, it was France that did the cleanup, with some UK help. The US wasn’t involved.
It also means that in Syria, the USA isn’t going to go all in IMO, unless its part of a NATO effort, and neither the UK or France is ready to do that.
Let’s also keep in mind the above article downplays the scope of the NSA’s intelligence operations:
The NSA isn’t just monitoring other governments, it’s apparently spying on the entire German citizenry and any anyone else’s data it can vacuum up. The end result of this is that other countries are going to beef up their communications infrastructure so that less of it is routed through the U.S.
Because I specifically referred to Snowden (who you say you don’t care about) and Greenwald. I did not talk about “all who think the disclosures were a good thing”. That’s your gloss on what I said.
Now if you think “the disclosures were a good thing”, good on ya, mate. But that’s a different group than Snowden, Greenwald, and those who think like them.
This is a confusing hairball of stories, I think. Mr Charles Johnson (littlegreenfootballs.com) has a post up “Guardian/Observer publishes then pulls new NSA bombshell story featuring Birther Wayne Madsen”. The gist is that the tin-foil-hat brigade (Obama is a secret homosexual, the WTC was demolished by the Bush Administration) character Mr Madsen supplied the Guardian/Observer newspaper with a story claiming that the U.S. has been hacking European email, diplomatic posts, telephone content. They later withdrew the story and now attempting to link to it one finds a page saying that the story is ‘under investigation’.
Now the Der Speigel has the story that Our Gracious Host has cut-and-pasted here. There is nothing in the Der Speigel story that attributes their story to the Guardian/Observer story. Nor is Mr Madsen named a source. But quickly reading the German story, it doesn’t seem to be very strongly ‘sourced’ — just a lot of ‘reaction’ quotes.
I suspect that there is so much electronic ‘noise’ that with the help of the conspiratorial wing of the far-right, a ‘story’ was developed that required the political leaders in Europe to denounce U.S. spying — even if it has not been authoritatively proven.
I am not completely sure that I’m correct in this; there is so much ‘noise’ it’s hard to know anything at this point. A definitive link or better interpretation would change my mind. But the idea that a tool such as data-interception would lie in the hands of the U.S. intelligence agencies and NOT be used wherever they think it’s useful for the national interest…. OF COURSE we’re listening to anyone who has something important to say about us.
A tempest in a very small teapot.
You’re not making any sense. You DID specifically say that! “The only people that think this is good are those like Snowden” – “this” refers to the disclosures, yes?
So you’re saying “the only people who think these disclosures are good are those like Snowden and Greenwald who think that there should not be an NSA at all”
Note that the German government doesn’t say :
” You shouldn’t be spying on us, because we aren’t spying on anyone”
I wonder why.
I’m betting that every country that can spy, does-to the limit of their capabilities. They do so because ‘Tis better to know than not to know and because in this wicked world, many if not most countries say one thing in public and another in private, if their national interests are at stake. One of the reasons that the USA revived its spying office in the 1930s , after closing it down in 1920s, is because it was frustrated when Japanese diplomats would say something like “We aren’t interested in invading China” and do something completely different later. The USA got a much better idea of what Japan’s intentions were when it began to intercept and read Japan’s diplomatic communications.
There’s a good argument that it would be a better world if all countries were completely honest and transparent in their dealings with one another. But we certainly aren’t there yet.
At this point, I’m just going to leave it up to those who can read and make up their minds as to what I actually said. Reading comprehension class is over. Let me just repost again exactly what I said(slight correction, it should read “in short” , instead of “in order”:
I love America as much as any other American, but if my choice was life in prison in America, or flight to Hong Kong, I’d be on a plane out of here right ricky-tick.
1-) There is a popular French Comic strip, Asterix: you can note that the Romans are supposed to represent the Americans.
2-) In some sense, Snowden is a red herring. One of the reasons that 9/11 happened was precisely because American Intelligence was constrained to using technology. Bin Laden did not use cells phones to organize the bombings, and the so called intelligence community missed the chance of catching him.
These leaks shows that the dependence from technology may have worsened and that a terrorist that does not use Cellphones(Or even Gmail) can easily escape detection.
Snowden is a smug, self-righteous, dishonest, anti-American twat. People who hail him as some kind of hero are naive and blind to ssues of character, and now they’re just stubbornly refusing to admit the obvious which is that this is an egotistical rather than idealistic act. This all Snowden’s little hero fantasy and Greenwald’s spite. A nice pair of creeps.
Not sure I understand the question. The Europeans will deal with all the countries that have something to offer. The issue is whether the U.S. will be able to extract the same kind of concessions from the EU has it would have been in the absence of the domestic pressure EU politicians will now face. I don’t see any reason to think U.S. will be able to do this. Do you?
You’re kidding, right? Here’s exactly what you said:
Are you now agreeing that many (if not most) people can strongly agree with what Snowden did and still be in favor of having an intelligence community? I don’t think Jon Tester, as head of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security, thinks we shouldn’t have an NSA even though he thinks Snowden’s disclosures are valuable.
Agreement on this issue would be helpful in removing the straw man arguments from the discussion?
There was a graph in the a spiegel article today along these lines:
I’m a bit surprised about the blasé manner in which the distinction between allies and enemies is bulldozed here. Trying to get additional information, sure. Paying top ranking ministerial officers for “background dossiers” or cultivating good relations with MPs on all relevant committees, sure.
But classifying one of your reliable allies as “third class ally” and “target”? Classifying a NATO partner in the same category as Iraq, Saudi Arabia or China?
People here are livid and calling for the disbanding of the current trade agreement talks. We were also trying to exchange two captured Russian spies for a captured CIA agent a a gesture of goodwill. Given that apparently the U.S., despite flowery rhetoric, are an even greater danger to our security and trade interests than the Russians and Chinese that is likely off the table.
Generally speaking, the public is livid with the anger reaching deep into the conservative “atlantician” circles. Obama had just repaired some of the damage that Bushs complete ignorance of national sovereignty with the “extraordinary renditions” did but squandered all these efforts and then some with the double blow of PRISM and targeted commercial spying.
As far as I can tell the U.S. have now completely wasted any residual goodwill stemming from WWII and Jugoslavia (among others). Don’t expect any red carpets or cooperation around these parts in the near future.
I am not stonetools*, but I think the disconnect is that you are interpreting the word “this” to be the initial disclosure, and stonetools intended the current one.
* and I am avoiding going out on the movie-based joke about who is really Spartacus
So there’s a certain size of intelligence operation that makes it okay? If we measure the size in some arbitrary units (say “Bonds, James Bonds”), having 99 BJB’s is okay, but 100 is bad? Sort of like a really destroying the body in murder is bad, but just murdering them is okay? If we’re not talking about principle (spying is bad), but just degree, then it almost sounds like jealousy.
Beyond that, other than gut feel, what evidence is there for the US spying on the rest of the world far more than the other way around?
And actually, even in terms of gut feel, I’d bet against the US spying more than the rest of the world combined. I’d guess (my own gut feel) that China and Russia are right up there with the US, and France not far behind. That the US does more than all of those combined requires some evidence.
What I am saying is that Snowden and Greenwald don’t think there should be an NSA-as well as people who think like them. Now if you and Ben want to twist my words to “all those who think the disclosures are good”-whatever that means- well, go ahead. But that’s not what I said.
Sure-if you concede-as you and others refuse to do- that the real Snowden wants to dismantle-not reform-the NSA.
I say the real Snowden because you “reformers” want to have it both ways. You want to hold up Snowden as a civil libertarian hero in favor of encouraging debate on reform, while carefully ignoring what the real Snowden actually does and says.
This schizophrenic approach won’t work-and will work even less if Snowden discloses information that actually endangers US agents and assets abroad.
So apparently the US is experiencing damage as a result of Snowden’s disclosures. Good to know.
Pointing out that the other large international partners are not exactly Boy Scouts.
The leaders have to put on a display of outrage because not being outraged at a foreign nation spying on your nation is politically unwise. They are unlikely to follow through and economically shoot themselves in the foot over this though.
Well if my kid tried to sell me that it wasn’t his fault for nicking the stuff but the other guys for catching him he would get a stern talking to. But if you want to go pre-pubescent: yeah.
Let me put it like this, I’m a conservative center-left and at the moment, if a politician said “we offer Snowden political asylum and if the U.S. objects they can fuck off” he would have my vote in the upcoming elections. I can only imagine what the feelings on the “real” left are.
This has the potential to change the election outcome like the Iraq war did in 2003. The opposition is already starting to make it into an election issue.
We’re not twisting anything. You are completely ignoring what you wrote and claiming it’s something else. Once again:
And I responded by saying “you’re wrong, those aren’t the only people who think this is good”. I because I think this is good, and I don’t think like Snowden.
Since I don’t even care what Snowden wants, sure I’ll concede that. And now that I’ve conceded that Snowden wants to tear down the NSA, I’ll follow it up by saying “Who gives a flying f&%$?” I’m not interested in what Snowden wants or what his motives are, nor am I interested in him in any way. I am not holding him up as a hero, I’m not even talking about him. He is not the story, the disclosures are.
As Doug pointed out in a recent post, the “real” Snowden is entirely irrelevant. When it comes to discussing the policy ramifications of his leaks, I simply do not care what his motives are or where he lives. I also don’t know why anyone else would think those issues are relevant to the policy discussion.
Lots of commenters have attacked Snowden and I’ve never responded to any of those attacks because the attacks are the equivalent of tabloid gossip. They’re interesting. They may even be true. But, more importantly, they are purely speculative and entirely irrelevant. The fact that I’m glad Snowden made these disclosures does not in any way mean I endorse all of his views. By my reading, most commenters here who’ve supported his disclosures have their own views on how vast the surveillance apparatus should be. I think we’re all prepared to argue those views, but not Snowden’s.
Of course, the leaders will do this. But these leaders’ ability to agree to trade concessions will be affected by the degree of rage their domestic constituents feel over this issue. The madder they are, the less willing they will be to accept concessions that the leaders propose.
To argue otherwise, undermines the claim that the leaders “have to put on a display of outrage.” That display is an attempt to assuage their domestic constituencies.
I am certain that if the British were caught spying in the USA, there would be a big stink.
There certainly was a big stink when Israel was caught spying in the US. The way the game is played is that governments spy on each other. If they get caught, there is always a big kerfuffle, spies get expelled or arrested and tried, governments do a mea culpa and promise not to do it any more, and then they carry on as before. I am as certain as can be that there are Israeli and Russian spies operating in the US as we speak and that China is busily hacking into US government and corporate networks. I am sure that German spies are listening in on their ancient enemies the Poles and the Russians. And vice versa.
The Great Game will probably never end.
Americans are extremely naive when they think that the world is divided between allies and enemies. Almost all countries in the world are neither allies nor enemies, they pursue their own interests regardless of what Uncle Sam thinks.
Actually it was an American, Henry Kissinger, who said that the USA had no friends, only interests. If you take a realpolitik view of the world, spying on allies makes perfect sense, if only to make sure that they remain your allies. See Israel’s spying on the US.
So the goals of the real Snowden are now irrelevant, even though the actions (disclosures) in pursuit of those goals are good. Interesting.
Guess what, in the real world, people don’t make those distinctions. Which is why there is no popular support for NSA reforms. People just don’t care anymore, not that they did much. And it’s far from clear that the later disclosures are in fact , “good” for the US.
Pretty sure Machiavelli said it (in general) first. And its always been true. Its pretty interesting, for instance, reading what was going on internally in both Allied and Central powers camps during WW1, and I’d bet the same was true in WW2.
And the cold war. And the Napoleonic wars. etc.
And all the periods between wars. Doesn’t make it right, but it does make it funny when politicians pretend to be shocked.
Sorry, where is the damage? I haven’t been harmed. Have you? Your dog? I suppose if you define the “U.S.” as the power elite who will now have greater difficulty using the country to further their personal interests, then there might be some harm.
But I don’t consider those people the United States. Do you?
Snowden’s goals have ALWAYS been irrelevant to the policy discussion. It would be childish to stop discussing the policy alternatives merely because some people don’t like his goals.
By your line of thinking, if only Snowden hadn’t declared his goal of doing away with the NSA, we could then have a discussion about whether the NSA has gone too far or if there is effective oversight.
Why do you try running that one past John Q. Voter. Good luck with that.
I am John Q. Voter.
@Spartacus: I’m fairly confident John Q. Voter doesn’t comment extensively on blogs.