Europeans furious over allegations of U.S. spying on EU
BERLIN — European leaders reacted with fury on Sunday to allegations in a German magazine that the United States had conducted a wide-ranging effort to monitor European Union diplomatic offices and computer networks, with some saying they expected such surveillance from enemies, not their closest economic partner.
It was the latest fallout from National Security Agency information apparently leaked by Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor whose detailing of classified information on the agency's programs has shone a rare light on U.S. surveillance efforts that range far wider than previously understood.
Underscoring the depth of the European anger over the allegations, top officials from several European countries said the reports of spying would figure into the future of transatlantic trade talks that began in June. The efforts would form the world's largest free-trade zone, and European officials said on Sunday that they suspect the target of U.S. intelligence interest was economic information, not military.
“Partners do not spy on each other,” said European Commissioner for Justice Viviane Reding during a public event in Luxembourg. “We cannot negotiate over a big transAtlantic market if there is the slightest doubt that our partners are carrying out spying activities on the offices of our negotiators.”
Other European leaders said they felt blindsided by the allegations.
“It is shocking that the United States would take measures against their most important, their nearest allies, comparable to measures taken in the past by the KGB, by the secret service of the Soviet Union,” European Parliament President Martin Schulz said in Brussels.
“This is not the basis to build mutual trust. This is a contribution to build mutual mistrust,” he said, adding that he felt treated like an “enemy.”
Germany's Der Spiegel news magazine reported last weekend that the NSA had placed listening devices in EU diplomatic offices in Washington and New York, had breached an EU computer network that provided access to internal emails and documents, and had accessed phone lines in EU headquarters in Brussels in order to monitor top officials' phone conversations. The magazine said that it had seen portions of 2010 documents from Snowden, although it did not publish them on its website, nor did it quote from them directly.
Britain's Guardian newspaper published additional information, including portions of an internal NSA presentation that appear to detail several methods by which U.S. intelligence agencies monitored diplomats inside the United States. The “Dropmire” program apparently monitored communications on an encrypted fax machine used by the EU delegation in Washington to communicate with counterparts in Europe.
The Guardian reported that another document lists 38 embassies and missions that intelligence agencies were monitoring in some way, including the embassies of allies France, Italy, Japan, India and South Korea, and others, including more traditional antagonists and Middle Eastern countries.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she had asked for further information from U.S. officials in Washington and Brussels.
A spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said the government would respond through diplomatic channels.
“While we are not going to comment publicly on specific alleged intelligence activities, as a matter of policy we have made clear that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations,” the spokesman said in a statement.
Der Spiegel on Sunday separately reported that the NSA monitored 500 million emails, phone calls and text messages in Germany every month, more than any European peer. Germany's Federal Prosecutor's Office said it would open an inquiry to determine whether charges should be filed.