by Stephen Lendman
Nations spying on each other is longstanding. Friends do it on foes. Allies do it on each other.
Washington's Government Accountability Office (GAO) said Israel "conducts the most aggressive espionage operation against the United States of any US ally."
The Pentagon accused Israel of "actively engag(ing) in military and industrial espionage in the United States."
US national security officials consider Israel at times a genuine counterintelligence and espionage threat. France perhaps feels the same way about America. Add Germany to the list.
On October 24, the Washington Post headlined "Germans launch probe into allegations of US spying."
Reports about NSA listening to her phone calls is the latest diplomatic row. Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle summoned US ambassador John Emerson to explain.
"For us, spying on close friends and partners is totally unacceptable," he said. "This undermines trust and this can harm our friendship. We need the truth now."
Merkel said "trust needs to be reestablished" with Washington.
German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere called what's gone on "really bad. We can't simply return to business as usual."
White House press secretary Jay Carney lied saying:
"The US is not monitoring and will not monitor communications of the chancellor."
At the same time, he added:
"We are not going to comment publicly on every specified, alleged intelligence activity."
"And, as a matter of policy, we have made clear that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations."
"We have diplomatic relations and channels that we use in order to discuss these issues that have clearly caused some tension in our relationships with other nations around the world, and that is where we were having those discussions."
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf lied claiming Washington isn't involved in "some big dragnet." What's ongoing "are intelligence activitiesâ€¦with a defined purpose," she said.
"We want to make sure that we're striking the proper balance between the legitimate security concerns and countering legitimate security threats, and protecting the privacy that all people around the world think is important, and we certainly do as well."
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper is a confessed perjurer. He admitted lying to Congress about NSA spying. On October 22, he said:
"Recent articles published in the French newspaper Le Monde contain inaccurate and misleading information regarding US foreign intelligence activities."
"The allegation that the National Security Agency collected more than 70 million "recordings of French citizens' telephone data" is false."
"While we are not going to discuss the details of our activities, we have repeatedly made it clear that the United States gathers intelligence of the type gathered by all nations."
"The US collects intelligence to protect the nation, its interests, and its allies from, among other things, threats such as terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction."
"The United States values our longstanding friendship and alliance with France and we will continue to cooperate on security and intelligence matters going forward."
Merkel is currently under fire for mishandling earlier reports about NSA spying. According to German Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information Peter Schaar:
"The report that the chancellor's mobile phone was also tapped shows how absurd the attempt was to end the debate about the surveillance of everyday communications in this country."
"In light of the new revelations, it was downright irresponsible not to have pushed harder to get to the truth."
Schaar referred to German Chancellery chief of staff Ronald Pofalla's August statement. At the time, he downplayed clear evidence about NSA targeting Germany and other EU nations.
Green Party parliamentary floor leader Anton Hofreiter demanded Merkel "make public what she knew and when."
Does she or doesn't she know NSA monitors her cell phone calls? Publicly she calls it a "grave breach of trust."
Other EU leaders expressed outrage. They threatened to delay trade negotiations. European parliament president Martin Schulz said:
"This is a moment when we should pause and think over how the free trade pact is being approached. For us, a line has been reached." US intelligence agencies are "out of control."
German officials launched an official investigation. On Wednesday, Merkel spoke to Obama. He lied saying Washington "is not monitoring and will not monitor" her communications.
Major Italian newspapers said a parliamentary committee was told Washington monitored internal telecommunications, emails and text messages.
Prime Minister Enrico Letta raised the issue with John Kerry. The Secretary of State lied saying Obama's goal was striking a balance between security and privacy.
Foreign leaders protest too much. They know more than they admit. Official outrage is mostly for domestic consumption. Allies spying on each other isn't new.
According to former French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner:
"Let's be honest. We eavesdrop too. Everyone is listening to everyone else. But we don't have the same means as the United States, which makes us jealous."
At the same time, security expert Constanze Stelzenmueller said there's a "general assumption that certain kinds of people were off limits."
"No one has a problem with spying on the bad guys. But when you start spying on your partner in leadership, who is presumably not a terrorist, that raises a lot of questions about trust."
London's Guardian said "(w)ith each leak, American soft power hemorrhages, and hard power threatens to seep away with it."
Merkel is known as a frequent cell phone communicator. She often sends text messages that way.
Last summer, her upgrading it to a modified BlackBerry Z10 made national headlines.
On October 24, Der Spiegel headlined "Frenemies: Spying on Allies Fits Obama's Standoffish Profile," saying:
Diplomats aren't surprised about US spy agencies monitoring allies like Merkel. She and Obama aren't close friends. Obama "failed to foster close relationships with other heads of state," said Der Spiegel.
It "caus(ed) much frustration around the world."
"Complaints about Merkel's 'lost friend' are misplaced. Obama doesn't want to be a friend."
The atmosphere during a recent unnamed EU head of state Washington visit was called "frosty by those in the entourage."
"Obama didn't find the time for even a little small talk. (I)t seemed to some like an appointment with a lawyer."
Obama was "initially uncomfortable" about Washington's so-called "special relationship" with Britain.
An unnamed African head of state remarked after visiting Washington that he longed for the days of George Bush. At least with him, he said, you knew where you stood.
Israel was upset that Obama didn't visit during his first term. He's upset other heads of state.
"So much non-diplomacy is new among US presidents," said Der Spiegel. Reagan wooed Margaret Thatcher.
GHW Bush confided in Helmut Kohl. Clinton was close to Tony Blair. GW Bush had "a whole team of 'buddies.' " He entertained them at his ranch.
In 2010, Washington Post columnist Jackson Diehl said Obama has no close friends among world leaders. "But what for," asked Der Spiegel? "He has the NSA."
On October 23, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) headlined "NSA Spying in Congress: Stop the Intelligence Committee and What to Watch for in Upcoming Bills."
Congress was busy during the 16 day government shutdown. Various NSA related bills are being considered. A "still secret" House and Senate intelligence one aims to continue unrestrained telecommunications monitoring.
It'll "likely provide some window dressing transparency, while shoring up the legal basis for the spying," said EFF.
Since Snowden's documents were released, House and Senate intelligence committee chairs Rep. Mike Rogers (R. MI) and Senator Diane Feinstein defended NSA spying.
"While we have opinions about what the best way forward is, the only sure way to not go backwards, or seal the status quo into stone, is to stop the bill currently in the works by the Intelligence Committee chairs," said EFF.
It wants congressional legislation enacted against mass spying. It should either reverse Patriot Act provision 215 or act in some other way.
Section 215 pertains to alleged suspects. It authorizes government access to "any tangible item."
Its language is vague and deceptive. It permits meta-data-mining.
Virtually anything can be monitored. Warrantless searches without probable cause are authorized.
Information obtained can include financial records and transactions, education and medical records, phone conversations, emails, other Internet use, and whatever else Washington wants access to.
At issue are serious constitutional violations. First and Fourth Amendment rights are compromised. Other constitutional protections are at risk.
Anyone can be spied on for any reason or none at all. No probable cause, reasonable grounds, or suspicions are needed.
Lawless practices need fixing, said EFF. FISA Court operations need curbing. Increased transparency is vital. Intrusive National Security Letters (NSLs) are troubling.
They've been around since the mid-1980s. Pre-9/11, they had more limited authority to secure records and other personal information on alleged terrorists and spies.
The USA Patriot Act's Section 505 changed things. It permits expanded FBI's authority to obtain personal customer records from ISPs, financial institutions, credit companies, and other sources without prior court approval.
At issue only is claiming information sought relates to alleged terrorism or espionage investigations. No proof is needed.
Innocent people are targeted. Virtually anything in public or private records can be obtained.
Gag orders prevent targeted individuals or groups from revealing the information demanded. NSL use continues increasing exponentially. Doing so reflects police state tyranny.
Congressional action can change things. Legislation is being proposed to do so. Passage appears unlikely. Hardliners want status quo maintained. Future prospects look dim.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
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