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What’s a Little Surveillance Among Friends?

Marsha Coleman-Adebayo

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October 31, 2013

"The U.S. was forced to acknowledge that it lied to the American public as well as its European allies."

Consider this "possible" conversation between President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel:

President Obama: Chancellor Merkel, welcome to the US – I’m confident that we will have productive discussions.

Chancellor Merkel: Thank you!  I plan to make several announcements on this trip. 1.) A sweeping new trade agreement, and  2.) A proposed partnership between German and American farmers.

President Obama: I thought you were also going to announce the expansion of NATO’s mandate?

Chancellor Merkel: Where did you get this information from?  I don’t believe we have ever made an announcement about that….

President Obama:  Oh dear, please excuse me.  I don’t remember where I heard this comment.  You wouldn’t mind forgetting that I ever said this, would you? After all, Germany is one of our closest allies and we depend on your trust and confidence.  And, on a personal level, I’ve always felt that you and I had a special relationship…..blah, blah, blah.

This week we learned from Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower who was forced to seek refuge in Russia from American prosecution, that the rogue National Security Agency (NSA) has spied not only on American citizens, but also on European Allies for the past two decades. In fact, thanks to new revelations, we know that the US has been spying on dozens of its closest European allies.

The Obama Administration’s first response to these allegations was to deny the validity of these reports.  However, in the face of the Snowden leaks, the U.S. was forced to acknowledge that it lied to the American public as well as its European allies and that the U.S. government started spying on European leaders over a decade ago.

For example, the Snowden revelations, detailing corruption and eavesdropping sanctioned at the highest levels of the US government, include information about American spying and gathering data in Spain on tens of millions of phone calls in a single month. According to El Mundo, a Spanish newspaper, the "NSA has collected information on 60 million calls in that country [since] last December."

The German tabloid Bild am Sonntag reported that according to unnamed intelligence sources: "Obama was told by Gen. Keith Alexander, the NSA director in 2010 that Merkels phone was being tapped and that Obama allowed it to continue." Der Spiegel, a German magazine reported "this has been going on for over a decade [and] the NSA first started tapping Merkel’s cell phone in 2002 when she was leader of the German opposition party."

"Republican allies are standing firm with the President on this matter, becoming Obama’s most ardent supporters."

The Obama Administration has attempted to spin this political international scandal in a variety of ways while holding firm in its denial of the timeline offered by German authorities.  According to NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines:

"[General] Alexander did not discuss with President Obama in 2010 an alleged foreign intelligence operation involving German Chancellor Merkel, nor has he ever discussed alleged operations involving Chancellor Merkel,"

Despite the Kabuki theatre between the Democrats and Republicans witnessed last week surrounding the health-care computer debacle, Republican allies are standing firm with the President on this matter, becoming Obama’s most ardent supporters.

Republican Congressman Mike Rogers, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, commenting on US surveillance of French politicians and citizens, opined that they should be grateful to the US:

"This was about a counterterrorism program that had nothing to do with French citizens,'' he said. "If the French citizens knew exactly what that was about, they would be applauding and popping champagne corks.''  He continued: "It’s a good thing. It keeps the French safe. It keeps the U.S. safe. It keeps our European Allies safe…." This is the same propaganda message of fear that is being fed, via the corporate media to the US public but from all indications the public is not buying it this time.

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y) a member of the House Intelligence Committee has also come to the aid of President Obama.  Congressman King said on NBC "Meet the Press" that the administration should not apologize or be defensive: "The reality is the NSA has saved thousands of lives, not just in the United States but in France, Germany and throughout Europe," he said. "We’re not doing it for the fun of it. This is to gather valuable intelligence, which helps not just us but also helps the Europeans."

 Former Vice President Chaney while defending the Bush administration’s despicable record of human rights abuse and torture also sided with Obama calling Snowden a "traitor" and demanding his arrest and prosecution.

"This administration must stop its illegal surveillance of American and international citizens."

However, the focus on NSA spying on European leaders does not take into consideration another important area of this conversation, namely, US intelligence gathering on international corporations, commonly known as economic espionage. Glen Greenwald has reported: "They are spying on the Brazilian Ministry of Mines and Energy in conjunction with the Canadian intelligence service, which just happens to oversee the industry in Brazil in which Canadian companies have the greatest interest. We’ve reported on extreme levels of surveillance at the Organization of American States or at economic conferences in Latin America designed to negotiate economic accords between countries…. [The] United States government has been very vocally running around for years accusing China of engaging in espionage and surveillance for economic advantage and industrial advantage. And these revelations prove that the United States is doing exactly the same thing." 

The American public must demand that all involved in this sordid affair be brought to justice, including criminal charges. The United States and this administration must stop its illegal surveillance of American and international citizens. We must demand that the intelligence community immediately cease all strategies and practices that eliminate the rights of citizens to live without intrusion into their private and political lives. This administration has used the Espionage Act to criminalize the act of blowing the whistle against corruption and unconstitutional behavior by government. We must demand an end to the hypocrisy and moral bankruptcy of this system.

Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo is the author of No FEAR: A Whistleblowers Triumph over Corruption and Retaliation at the EPA is available through amazon.com. Dr. Coleman-Adebayo worked at the EPA for 18 years and blew the whistle on a US multinational corporation that endangered vanadium mine workers in South Africa. Marsha's successful lawsuit lead to the introduction and passage of the first civil rights and whistleblower law of the 21st century: the Notification of Federal Employees Anti-discrimination and Retaliation Act of 2002 (No FEAR Act). She is Director of Transparency and Accountability for the Green Shadow Cabinet.



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