The cosy relationship between the US and Europe is being battered like an elderly cod in a Loughborough chippy after revelations that the land of the free was engaged in high-tech spying of friends and foes around the world.
According to Der Spiegel, the NSA bugged EU offices and gained access to EU internal computer networks, prompting outrage from EU politicians.
Der Spiegel also reported that the US agency taps half a billion phone calls, emails and text messages in Germany in a typical month, much more than any other European peer and similar to the data tapped in China or Iraq.
It also uses data from internet hubs in south and west Germany that organize data traffic to Syria and Mali.
EU high representative Catherine Ashton told Reuters that US authorities were immediately contacted about the report.
Apparently the EU used “strong language” to display its displeasure at the US antics.
The US authorities said that they are checking on the accuracy of the information released and will come back to them as soon as… oh look, a badger with a handgun.
French foreign minister Laurent Fabius was quoted as saying that these acts, if confirmed, would be completely unacceptable.
So far the US has said it will not comment, but pointed out that everyone spies on each other and it is a bit silly for everyone to act all surprised about it.
The Guardian, citing a September 2010 NSA document, named 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 as targets.
German justice minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said the US’ spying brought to memory actions among enemies during the Cold War. It would appear that the US sees its allies as enemies.
If EU representations in Brussels and Washington were tapped by the American Secret Service, it can hardly be explained with the argument of fighting terrorism, she said in a statement.
Germany’s federal prosecutor’s office is already looking at the idea of filing criminal charges.
It will start to look very embarrassing for German chancellor Angela Merkel who last month defended governments’ monitoring of Internet communications, and said that the US’ cyber-snooping had helped prevent attacks on German soil.
Martin Schulz, president of the EU Parliament, said that if the reports proved true then it would have a “severe impact” on relations between the EU and the United States.
Talks for a free trade agreement between Washington and the EU are likely to be stalled until the United States explains itself.
After all, you cannot negotiate over a big transatlantic market if there is the slightest doubt that partners are carrying out spying activities on the offices of negotiators.