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Monday, October 28, 2013

'Handygate': The number of EU countries involved growing by the minute

Well, this one snowballed quickly. The number of countries either implicated - or feeling the need to comment on - "Handygate" (as the Germans call it) is growing by the minute. Here's a round-up.

Germany: The fallout over allegations that the NSA hacked Angela Merkel's phone continues. According to Bild am Sonntag, US President Barack Obama was personally briefed about the eavesdropping by NSA Director, Keith Alexander, as far back as 2010. Several papers claim that the American embassy in Berlin was used as a hub for the alleged bugging.

However, according to US officials quoted by the WSJ and FAZ, Obama was unaware of the whole affair. The reason? The NSA has so many tapping operations going on that it wouldn't have been practical to brief the President about all of them. The article suggests the White House did scrap some monitoring programmes upon learning about them, including the one tracking Angela Merkel.

Spain: Spanish daily El Mundo dropped a bit of a bomb today, claiming that the NSA bugged over 60 million phone calls in Spain in just one month - between 10 December 2012 and 8 January 2013. The report, also based on former NSA agent Edward Snowden's secret documents, suggested the eavesdropping didn't involve the actual content of the phone calls - just their duration and where they were being made from. But still.

The Spanish Foreign Ministry summoned the US Ambassador in Madrid, James Costos - who later stressed in a statement that the wire-tapping activities have played "a fundamental role" in protecting both US  interests and those of its allies.

Italy: Italian magazine L'Espresso alleged last week that not only the US, but also the UK had been spying on Rome. The latest is that, according to the Cryptome website, the NSA allegedly bugged some 46 million phone calls in Italy between December 2012 and January 2013. But the Italian intelligence service has urged caution, saying there's "no evidence" supporting the claims.

France: Though the French press has been relatively quiet about the episode today, the country has already summoned the ambassador with the accompanied public outrage from politicians. It seems to be dying down a bit in France, though.

Poland: Notoriously Atlanticist, Warsaw has also been forced to go public, with Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski saying over the weekend that the alleged hacking was a "scandal which undermines trust" and that he would be inquiring with Washington whether Poland was also affected by NSA surveillance. However, asked in the interview whether Poland was under surveillance, he apparently answered with a smile: "We also use surveillance".

Sweden: Foreign Minister Carl Bildt has been taking a chilled approach, insisting that he knows "what kind of world we live in" and that "I never say things over the phone that could hurt Sweden if it ended up with a foreign power."

Netherlands: Prime Minister Mark Rutte has said that "I will support [Merkel] completely in her complaint and say that this is not acceptable. I think we need all the facts on the table first."

Belgium:  Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo commented, "The idea is to have a working method [at the EU level] by the end of the year, which should avoid that friends spy on each other." However, asked on whether the EU should suspend free trade talks with the US, Di Rupo said, "We want to avoid blackmail."

UK: Finally, though the worst fears over suspension of the EU-US trade deal so far have not materialised (although it's still balanced on a knife's edge), David Cameron remains stuck between a rock (the US) and a hard place (Germany). In the Commons today, Cameron talked up the need for a robust intelligence service, saying it has "also allowed us to warn our EU allies about terrorist plots aimed at their people."


jon livesey said...

When everyone in the EU is up in arms over some "issue" you have to suspect that they actually welcome it as a diversion from their own very serious problems.

That pathetic clown Snowden has done the EU a favour by pushing the 27% unemployed off the front pages.

Rik said...

Looks like a completely counterproductive programm.
Creating yourself the forest in which others can hide the trees.
Results look completely fabricated as well. No way you have that much attempts avoided without dead bandits/beards or courtcases or dronings to show for it.
Bit of a failure to know what my 80 year old mother has had for dinner yesterday or Merkel will wear for dress tomorrow, but not be able to come up with one piece of useful proof re the involvement of Assad in chemical attacks. Although with Merkel you can see where the suspicion she is wearing a bombbelt comes from.

Anyway as said earlier this has 'will end bad' written all over it.
Cameron should try to fly under the radar as much as possible. Likely that will be possible with Obozo of course the main target. Nobody falls as fast as somebody who was first put on the throne. The standard way of people who first bought stupidly into this drivel to show that they are on the right side after all.

Simply the first law of spying has been broken, donot get caught with your pants down.
Credibility of the US and likely more important several of its largest companies (and employers) is likely to take a hit. Competitors will be set up and get massive statesupport.
As far as I see it the UK will escape much of it, but better make a good inventory.

The underlying problem is and the US doesnot have that hole closed even after a lot of incidents that clearly showed there was one, like Wikileaks.
If you are spying upon 100 000 ooos of people with 1000s and sometime a few million of your own having access to the data it will leak. The only surprise for me is that it took that long to come to the surface.

Anyway Obozo is as usually mismaniging the thing. Like he did with the Arab Spring and in effect most other major international files. So not much hope from there to be expected.
He has been given for no good reason as I see it at least a lot of credibility in the West and in Europe as well but that will be gone now.

Like the way the Guardian and Co bring it into publicity well timed and well dosed to keep it as long as possible in the papers. And it is close now to setting it in the memory of the ordinary citizen. Would likely not have happened when they did it in one time. Likely Obozo has lost foreign business and now politics already.
Not much powerful friends left abroad.
Chinese from the beginning. Russia totally messed up (how Obozo will deal with them Iran file now hard to see), Arab royalty (could actually look for other sponsors when Iran is taken care off. The latest move looked like bluff. And Latin America goes from low to low as well(poor Mr Monroe).

Fortunately it is all Doubleyou's fault.

Rik said...

What has Cameron been smoking btw?

Putting in all the papers that he is going to stop publication on this.
Really beyond moronic. It is clear that the stuff is outside the US and UK as well.
Which means that it is the choice of having the publication in the UK which goes relatively smoothly now (no mass popular uprisings and that stuff) or abroad.
Anyway from a PR fall out pov he doesnot want abroad. It looks even pretty clear that in order to make as much noise as possible it would be better for the leaking side to do the publication abroad. I would take Germany for the next one and a German related topic as well btw.
It simply has got a lot of momentum there.
The Guardian only seems to be in place as they are part of the original team. If you look at the damege to be done to the programm other (foreign) papers would be much more useful. Or even some other media like mainstream TV.

In a nutshell this only makes headlines and negative ones in its own right, doesnot stop national security wise anything, but very likely will PR wise make things considerably worse.

This is the internet age btw, almost completely useless anyway. Makes it more difficult to access for UK citizens, but makes it also more attractive to do it at the same time.

Same as the UK has to move away visibly at least from Obozo, who is likely to f'up this one even when something could PR wise be solved from it. Fly under the radar. Now the US is attracting all the Flak, keep it that way.
You donot want it in German papers with a German topic and more stress on the UKs role in it.

Bad enough already that Obozo is tanking his own credibility and partly that of the US.
Simply a failed programm on which people have bet their reputation and desperately try to save it. Obozo is letting himself been pulled into it. Let them take the Flak they took the bet.

Also these messages out of nowhere trying to spin things right unlikely work. You simply never can get into a real public discussion on it as someone else will bring things up that you donot want to be brought up. Fighting with your hand tied behind your back in a weak case anyway. Simply way to risky.

Jesper said...

The isssue is whether or not a state can break laws with impunity. If the state can break laws with impunity then we are living under dictatorship. If justice is perceived to be applied unevenly then the credibility of the justice-system is severely undermined.

Mr Bildts comment implies that the victim of a crime is to be blamed for a criminal act. Distasteful.

Also, given that the political party that he represents refuses to disclose who donates money to them I find his implication about not having anything to hide so therefore he doesn't mind being monitored to be hypocritical.

Edward Spalton said...

I think the fuss is being used as a cover for something else. States always spy on each other.

Prince Charles discovered some years ago that his mobile phone could easily be tapped. Surely to goodness, a head of government uses a scrambler or some such device for matters requiring security - unless, of course, they want to mislead others,

In any case, the surveillance is not much different to that which it is possible for the EU to do on all its inhabitants through the requirement for phone companies to retain data. So why should politicians go all hoity toity when they are treated the same as the rest of us - albeit by an outsider.

I doubt very much whether this was really a surprise. It is something useful to create a diversion at the moment. I expect we'll find out what they didn't want us to know too late.

Anonymous said...

I can't wait for the next revelation;
EU Leaders knew of US eaves dropping on citizens...
Every Government wants to snoop on their own people... It's just in the UK, we're more open about it, and our government says "Yes, we do that, for your protection".

In Europe, it would be catastrophic for leaders to eavesdrop on their own. So, get the Yanks to do it and if it ever gets public - Blame the Yanks.

All this from EU Leaders is a charade for their public. C'Mon Snowden - Print the next bit... "Merkel knew also"

christina speight said...

Anybody - let alone a top politician - who ses ANY form of electronic communication must expect it to become public knowledge. It is sheer hypocrisy for them to get uppity about what (almost certainly) they are doing themselves.

I endorse Edward Spalton and Jon Livesey's postings above. They are trying to stymie Cameron's attacks on the way the EU is wrecking Europe's economy. I never expected Cameron actually to achieve anything - he's just going through the motions but those motions make the EU stink - so have a row with the USA.

Incidentally Snowden is now a Russian puppet so look for Putin's motives too!