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Not business as usual with Washington – Germany’s defense Minister

European leaders united in anger as they attended a summit
overshadowed by reports of widespread U.S. spying on its allies — allegations
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said had shattered trust in the Obama
administration and undermined the crucial trans-Atlantic relationship.
The latest revelations that the U.S. National Security
Agency swept up more than 70 million phone records in France and may have
tapped Merkel’s own cellphone brought denunciations Thursday from the French
and German governments.
Merkel’s unusually stern remarks as she arrived at the
European Union gathering indicated she wasn’t placated by a phone conversation
she had Wednesday with President Barack Obama, or his personal assurances that
the U.S. is not listening in on her calls now.
“We need trust among allies and partners,” Merkel
told reporters in Brussels. “Such trust now has to be built anew. This is
what we have to think about.”
“The United States of America and Europe face common
challenges. We are allies,” the German leader said. “But such an alliance
can only be built on trust. That’s why I repeat again: spying among friends,
that cannot be.”
The acting German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle speaks
after his meeting with the US ambassador …

The White House may soon face other irked heads of state and
government. The British newspaper The Guardian said Thursday it obtained a
confidential memo suggesting the NSA was able to monitor 35 world leaders’
communications in 2006. The memo said the NSA encouraged senior officials at
the White House, Pentagon and other agencies to share their contacts so the spy
agency could add foreign leaders’ phone numbers to its surveillance systems,
the report said.
The Guardian did not identify who reportedly was
eavesdropped on, but said the memo termed the payoff very meager: “Little
reportable intelligence” was obtained, it said.
Other European leaders arriving for the 28-nation meeting
echoed Merkel’s displeasure. Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt called it
“completely unacceptable” for a country to eavesdrop on an allied
leader.
If reports that Merkel’s cellphone had been tapped are true,
“it is exceptionally serious,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told
national broadcaster NOS.
“We want the truth,” Italian Premier Enrico Letta
told reporters. “It is not in the least bit conceivable that activity of
this type could be acceptable.”
Echoing Merkel, Austria’s foreign minister, Michael
Spindelegger, said, “We need to re-establish with the U.S. a relationship
of trust, which has certainly suffered from this.”
France, which also vocally objected to allies spying on each
other, asked that the issue of reinforcing Europeans’ privacy in the digital
age be added to the agenda of the two-day summit. Before official proceedings
got under way, Merkel held a brief one-on-one with French President Francois
Hollande, and discussed the spying controversy.
After summit talks that lasted until after 1 a.m. Friday,
Herman Van Rompuy, European Council president, announced at a news conference
that France and Germany were seeking bilateral talks with the United States to
resolve the dispute over electronic spying by “secret services” by
the end of this year.
“What is at stake is preserving our relations with the
United States,” Hollande told reporters at his own early-morning news
conference. “They should not be changed because of what has happened. But
trust has to be restored and reinforced.”
“It’s become clear that for the future, something must
change — and significantly,” Merkel said. “We will put all efforts
into forging a joint understanding by the end of the year for the cooperation
of the (intelligence) agencies between Germany and the U.S., and France and the
U.S., to create a framework for the cooperation.”
View gallery.”Artist A. Signl, of the artist group
Captain Borderline …
Artist A. Signl, of the artist group Captain Borderline
paints the mural ‘Surveillance of the fittes …
The Europeans’ statements and actions indicated that they
hadn’t been satisfied with assurances from Washington. On Wednesday, White
House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama personally assured Merkel that her phone
is not being listened to now and won’t be in the future.
“I think we are all outraged, across party lines,”
Wolfgang Bosbach, a prominent German lawmaker from Merkel’s party, told
Deutschlandfunk radio. “And that also goes for the response that the
chancellor’s cellphone is not being monitored — because this sentence says
nothing about whether the chancellor was monitored in the past.”
“This cannot be justified from any point of view by the
fight against international terrorism or by averting danger,” Bosbach
said.
Asked on Thursday whether the Americans had monitored
Merkel’s previous communications, White House spokesman Carney wouldn’t rule it
out.
“We are not going to comment publicly on every
specified alleged intelligence activity,” he said.
But while the White House was staying publicly mum, Carney
said the Obama administration was discussing Germany’s concerns “through
diplomatic channels at the highest level,” as it was with other U.S.
allies worried about the alleged spying.

Obama adviser for homeland security and counterterrorism
Lisa Monaco wrote in an editorial for USA Today that the U.S. government is not
operating “unrestrained.”
The U.S. intelligence community has more restrictions and
oversight than any other country, she wrote. “We are not listening to
every phone call or reading every e-mail. Far from it.”
Monaco noted that a privacy and civil liberties oversight
board is reviewing counterterrorism efforts to ensure that privacy and civil
liberties are protected.
“Going forward, we will continue to gather the
information we need to keep ourselves and our allies safe, while giving even
greater focus to ensuring that we are balancing our security needs with the
privacy concerns all people share,” she wrote.
In the past, much of the official outrage in Europe about
revelations of U.S. communications intercepts leaked by former NSA contract
worker Edward Snowden seemed designed for internal political consumption in
countries that readily acknowledge conducting major spying operations
themselves. But there has been a new discernible vein of anger in Europe as the
scale of the NSA’s reported operations became known, as well as the possible
targeting of a prominent leader like Merkel, presumably for inside political or
economic information.
“Nobody in Germany will be able to say any longer that
NSA surveillance — which is apparently happening worldwide and millions of
times — is serving solely intelligence-gathering or defense against Islamic
terror or weapons proliferation,” said Hans-Christian Strobele, a member
of the German parliamentary oversight committee.
Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament, said
Europe’s undermined confidence in the U.S. meant it should suspend negotiations
for a two-way free-trade agreement that would account for almost half of the
global economy. The Americans, Schulz said, now must prove they can be trusted.
“Let’s be honest. If we go to the negotiations and we
have the feeling those people with whom we negotiate know everything that we
want to deal with in advance, how can we trust each other?” Schulz said.
European Union Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said
for many Europeans, eavesdropping on their phone calls or reading their emails
is particularly objectionable because it raises the specter of totalitarian
regimes of the recent past.
“At least in Europe, we consider the right to privacy a
fundamental right and it is a very serious matter. We cannot, let’s say,
pretend it is just something accessory,” Barroso told a presummit news
conference.
Referring to the former East Germany’s secret police, the
feared Stasi, Barroso said, “to speak about Chancellor Merkel, in Germany
there was a part of Germany where there was a political police that was spying
on people’s lives every day. So we know very recently what totalitarianism
means. And we know very well what comes, what happens when the state uses
powers that intrude in people’s lives. So it is a very important issue, not
only for Germany but for Europe in general.”
In Berlin, the German Foreign Ministry summoned the U.S.
ambassador to stress how seriously it takes the reported spying on Merkel.
Germany’s defense minister said his country and Europe can’t return “to
business as usual” with Washington, given the number of reports that the
United States has eavesdropped on allied nations.
A German parliamentary committee that oversees the country’s
intelligence service met to discuss the spying allegations. Its head, Thomas
Oppermann, recalled previous reports to the panel that U.S. authorities had
denied violating German interests, and said, “we were apparently deceived
by the American side.”
Meanwhile, two Western diplomats told The Associated Press
that U.S. officials have briefed them on documents obtained by former National
Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden that might expose their respective
countries’ levels of intelligence cooperation with the U.S.
The diplomats said the briefings came from the Office of the
Director of National Intelligence. The Washington Post said some of the
documents Snowden took contain sensitive material about collection programs
against adversaries including Iran, Russia and China. The diplomats spoke on
condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the
intelligence briefings publicly.

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