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Snowden Fallout: Bad PR for Obama in Europe


The Europeans are none too happy with President Obama. The German news magazine Der Spiegel broke news on Saturday that the NSA had bugged EU offices in Washington and New York, as well as a number of national embassies. The New York Times:

According to Der Spiegel, the N.S.A. installed listening devices in European Union diplomatic offices in downtown Washington and tapped into its computer network. The Guardian reported that the eavesdropping involved three different operations focused on the office’s 90 staff members. Two were electronic implants, and one involved the use of antennas to collect transmissions.

“In this way, the Americans were able to access discussions in E.U. rooms, as well as e-mails and internal documents on computers,” Der Spiegel reported.

The report, based on documents leaked by Edward Snowden, has gotten a number of politicians up in arms across the Atlantic. Françios Hollande described the allegations as unacceptable, and a spokesman from German Chancellor Angela Merkel suggested the US was treating its European allies like Cold War enemies.

We’ll have to wait for the details to come out to see whether or not this is a tempest in a teapot. Espionage is a complicated game, and allies do sometimes keep an eye on each other in ways that aren’t exactly aboveboard. Indeed, the Times piece referred to a 2003 report alleging that the Justus Lipsius Building in Brussels, where many Eurocrats have their offices, was allegedly bugged by other Europeans.

Nevertheless, apart from the national security implications, the Snowden leaks have certainly caused a major PR headache for the administration. President Obama’s first-term ambition to restore America’s image in Europe after that rotten cowboy Bush had tarnished it appears to be in serious trouble.

[Image of Obama in Germany courtesy of Shutterstock]

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  • Corlyss

    “President Obama’s first-term ambition to restore America’s image in Europe after that rotten cowboy Bush had tarnished it appears to be in serious trouble.”

    When he was riding high with that patented leftist claptrap, WE were in trouble. It’s refreshing to see that now the whole world knows Obama for the empty suit he is, his “vision” is in trouble. We’re still in trouble, but I’m glad that some of the source has been identified. I just wish it had more import for him here at home than it seems to.

    “a spokesman from German Chancellor Angela Merkel suggested the US was treating its European allies like Cold War enemies.”

    Merkel is kidding only herself if she seriously believes we didn’t bug Cold War allies as well.

    • bpuharic

      Obama is, of course, a moderate. The US right is so extremist, radically right than any sign of moderation is ‘leftist’.
      And, of course, these programs have been going on for years. I’m old enough to actually remember the Gough Whitlam affair, mentioned in the “Falcon and the Snowman”, after which it was reported that we don’t spy on only 3 countries. WRM’s being a little disingenuous here.

      • ojfl

        How is the US right extremist bpuharic? And how is president Obama a moderate? Compare him to Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton and you will see no such moderation. Go a little further back and compare him to JFK and the contrast will be even more striking.

        • bpuharic

          Can’t help it if you don’t know current political thought. The American right is radical:

          Perhaps if you actually got specific…

          • ojfl

            Maybe you should get specific. What exactly is extremist about the current GOP?

          • Tom

            It’s bpuharic. The answer is: everything.

          • ojfl

            You are probably right Tom.

          • bpuharic

            I gave you the reference showing it was true.

            Can’t help it if you can’t handle the truth

          • Tom

            And I can’t help it if I find your sourcing..iffy. At best.

          • bpuharic

            Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein have made the same analysis, as has Richard Posner

            None of that means anything to the right, since if it doesn’t come from Fox it can’t be true. Thus the ‘epistemic closure’ on the right, leading it to become even MORE radicalized as its policies continue to fail.

          • ojfl

            Not sure if you are following the debate with bpuharic Tom but bpuharic is unpersuadable.

          • bpuharic

            That can happen when the facts are on your side.

          • ojfl

            It will never happen bpuharic as you are convinced that the GOP is party of racist bigots and the Democrats the party of good and purity. In your mind they cannot have different approached to the same problem. The Republicans have to be motivated by ill intentions. So it will never change. Although you have chosen the wrong forum to display that animosity. WRM never does that.

          • bpuharic

            Nowhere did I say any such thing but you’re welcome to make up whatever arguments you need. Certainly it’s more elucidating to you to argue with yourself than it is to address other’s arguments.

            I specifically said above that racism is NOT endemic to contemporary conservatives. While I have an Extra class Ham license, perhaps I should have sent that in Morse code since you didn’t bother reading what I wrote.

          • ojfl

            Follow the logic if you will bpuharic. You stated that conservatives left the Democratic party and joined the GOP. You said explicitly that happened due to the ‘Southern Strategy’. You also said the conservatives of the time were racists and even cited two writers. You also said the current voter ID laws currently being pushed by the GOP have no other intent but to disenfranchise minorities. You even quoted articles that said so explicitly. You also said that conservative ideology is associated with racism, not party identification. These are all in your comments, are they not? And you wrote them, did you not?

          • bpuharic

            No, I did not. Sorry. Both writers I cited are dead. While there are racist conservatives (see the recent CPAC conference where a young conservative said slaves were ‘lucky’ because their owners fed them), and John Derbyshire IS an avowed racist, he was fired from National Review for that exact reason, as have other writers recently

            Sorry. Try again.

            The consequences of the recent changes to the law pushed by conservative have racist outcomes, but they’re more radically right wing and cynical than they are racist.

          • Tom

            That is correct. That is because he is a diehard leftist, as fundamentalist on the subject as the religious people he holds in such contempt.

          • bpuharic

            Fanatical libertarian economic fundamentalism and right wing Christian social policy.

          • ojfl

            By your definition, when were they not bpuharic?

          • bpuharic
          • ojfl

            Citing Robert Reich is not exactly a ringing endorsement of unbiased analysis of the GOP bpuharic. Besides this article only talks about the courts and not about the party having changed.

          • bpuharic

            Well I’ve cited at least 4 references.

            You’ve been engaged in special pleading. I think we’ll let it go at that.

          • ojfl

            4 references bpuharic? You cited only Robert Reich’s article. Let us deconstruct his arguments, shall we? What evidence do we have that the decision in Citizens United changed the balance of power, particularly money? Judging by the presidential election and Congressional races, none. What evidence do we have that voter ID laws disenfranchise minorities? There are a few states that already have voter ID laws and the existing evidence minorities are disenfranchised is zero. What evidence is there that voter suppression will occur once the Southern states no longer have to submit for pre-approval? Zero. Besides the federal government can still sue the states if they think it is disenfranchising minorities. I think you can do better than that, particularly because we are talking about the philosophy of the Republican party. You clearly stated that it changed, it became more extremist and in your own words more libertarian and more religious. However you did not point to actions that show either was not present already.

          • bpuharic

            I also referenced Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann, as well as this:


            And many voter ID fraud laws have not yet gone into effect. Certainly here in PA they haven’t.

            What evidence is there about voter suppression in the south??

            Uh…its history perhaps? I know that, to conservatives, the actual use of facts and history is anathema, but it’s a fact poll taxes were targeted at blacks. But I guess we’re supposed to all sing “Kumbya” and forget all that nasty stuff…

            So let’s see…we have

            Robert Reich
            Norman Ornstein
            Thomas Mann
            Richard Posner
            The chart cited above

            But I’m sure you’ll find reason to dismiss all the evidence. Which is itself evidence of how radical the US right really is.

          • ojfl

            If the issue is the sins of the past bpuharic, should we not then say the Court is giving Democrats in the South the benefit of the doubt? After all the egregious behaviors you comment and the history you cite were perpetrated by Democrats in the South. Again, just because the voter ID laws in PA were not yet enacted it does not mean there is no evidence for us to judge. Indiana and Georgia have voter ID laws and the evidence minorities were disenfranchised is non existent. And again I say that if this evidence arises, the decision of the Court does not change the fact the federal government can still sue the states for disenfranchisement. The VRA is still in effect. Just the pre-clearance requirements were invalidated. As the Court highlighted in oral arguments, if voter registration and turnout are to be the judges of disenfranchisement and suppression, than Massachusetts is the state that should be targeted. And it appears they do not have voter ID requirements. It is also not exactly a conservative state.

          • bpuharic

            Yes, the conservatives…who USED to be Democrats in the south…are being given a free pass. There are few democrats left in power in the south, however, Nixon’s ‘Southern Strategy’ having been successful at luring white racists of the Jacksonian mold into the GOP.

            As to voter ID fraud what IS apparent is there is none. PA is spending $4M to cure a non existent problem that even its adherents could not defend in court.

          • ojfl

            Whatever happened after that date, does it change the history that Democrats were the racists back then? And if history changed since then, as you seem to acknowledge, why should we not revisit the requirements for pre-clearance to reflect the new history? That is basically what the Court said, the country has changed. Now if I get what you are saying is that “conservatives” left the Democratic party. Is that not what I said initially when you said president Obama was a moderate and I said he was not? Is that not what I said that the Democratic party moved leftward and you said it had not? Do you recall what happened with the Blue Dog coalition? And that was not in the 60s. Where are they now? As for the evidence of racism in the Republican party, what can you offer as proof?

          • bpuharic

            Hmmm is it PARTY LABEL or IDEOLOGY that creates racism? If I call myself the Religion of Peace then do horrible things, does that make me the religion of peace?

            What I SAID was the dems did not move anywhere NEAR as far to the left as the GOP did to the right. And I provided the data to back up that claim.

            Where’s the Court’s proof that racism is no longer an issue? What they actually said was the VRA was successful so it should be killed. Kind of like saying chemo isn’t needed for cancer, isn’t it?

            I don’t think racism is as endemic among conservatives as it was when William F Buckley and James J Kilpatrick were writing racist screeds in “National Review” (surely you admit THEY were conservatives) but it still exists unless you think EVERY racist conservative has had a change of heart.

            Go ahead. Prove THAT.

          • ojfl

            Again bpuharic, when those conservatives were writing “racism” Democrats were being racist and yet you give them a pass because somehow you think, with no evidence, the racists left the party and joined the Republicans. The Court did not prove there was no racism. And they did not have to prove that. What the Court said is that the evidence that had been shown to justify targeting some states and not others no longer applies. As I stated in my comment and was clearly shown during oral arguments, if registration and turnout are evidence of racism then the Northeast is the new racist area of the country, not the South, where the registration and turnout percentages among blacks in higher than whites. Your example of chemo is very adapt. Chemo is prescribed when the cancer is found but it is not a permanent solution. After a few sessions it is withdrawn and only prescribed again if the cancer returns. That is precisely the remedy the Court prescribed. They never said such a remedy of requiring pre-approval was never to be applied again. They just said the existing formula for selecting which states were to be targeted was outdated and no longer valid. Congress is free to find another one but if they use the same formula again the Southern states will skate while the Northern states will not. That will never happen. So for now we are left with the situation that all states are to be treated equally, which is the original intent of the federation.

            As for the GOP moving to the right I am still waiting for specific examples of where you find that the GOP is more conservative now than say when they selected Barry Goldwater for president. Or when Ronald Reagan was president.

          • bpuharic

            No one knows how I’m giving anyone a ‘pass’ simply because they were conservative racists, like William F Buckley.

            The court simply engaged in judicial activism, subverting a democratically enacted law. Ironically enough the VERY NEXT DAY, Scalia said he couldn’t do that in re Prop 8. So he’s a homophobe, but not a racist.

      • Ellie K

        Hmm, President Obama is a moderate, “of course”? I don’t see that. Nor is the U.S. right extremist, radical.

        I don’t recall any recent Republican president or lawmaker acting against the Associated Press.

        Democrats, not Republicans, are pro-labor, union-friendly. Yet under this administration, both the teacher’s unions (at a national level) and other unions e.g. Engineers in Alabama, are undermined by Federal policy. Ironically, the supposedly extremist right has been actively supportive of unions, in the case of Alabama.

        Also, programs such as Job Corps thrived during every GOP and Democrat administration, from Nixon through Bush. Jobs Corp was shut down earlier this year, with no replacement, and certainly not because of unemployment levels (which remain high).

        • bpuharic

          National labor policy is set by congress and it’s been unrelentingly hostile to the middle class for decades. Labor law, bankruptcy law, etc have all been rewritten to ensure the middle class has virtually no power at all.

          The right has tried to gut SNAP, TANF, and unemployment insurance, and the minimum wage, believing, as right wing economist Casey Mulligan has said, that the middle class is overpaid and therefore the poor should have THEIR paychecks docked. Conservative Harvard economist and Bush adviser Greg Mankiw wrote an article recently saying the rich are genetically superior to the middle class

          There’s little evidence on the right of ANY respect for the middle class at all. None.

          • Ellie K

            This isn’t fair, as I’m not presenting a counter-argument, but I’ll plead a severely restricted, 4th level Disqus nesting as excuse.

            Didn’t know that Mankiw wrote that. I read his blog occasionally. Perhaps he’s mellowed? He is arrogant, but so are many others with less reason. That sort of horrid talk more closely resembles Tyler Cowen, who champions the odious Steve Sailor. Latter says that Jews are genetically inferior, distinctly mediocre in math, only get their way by exploiting trusting white men and Asians due to Jews’ superior talent of glib speech. Big brouhaha in Dec 2012, Amer. Conservative’s Ron Unz (online ed.) and Cowen’s Marginal Revolution blog. I LOATHE that man! Cowen hates Jews, ridicules unemployed, wants to cut DME (durable med equip) from Medicare. Why does he and other presumably erudite academicians e.g. Andrew Gelman of Columbia, pander to Steve Sailor (Sailer?), might you happen to know? Anonymous doesn’t even like him! But other than Anon, w/whom I’m not on conversational terms/ familiarity, whenever I ask anyone about Sailer and Cowen, whether right, left or Libertarian, I am met with silence. If this is disruptive, I’ll edit it out, as I don’t want to be IP blocked from commenting here!

          • Kavanna

            Who IS this hack?

          • Southwestern SongDog

            Somebody from MoveOn. Nobody could actually believe what he wrote. They have an operation to disrupt conservative website commentary.

          • bpuharic

            The more the right talks

            the more proof we have of epistemic closure

            Res ipsa loquitur.

          • Ritchie The Riveter

            The more you talk, the more my own assertion is reinforced … that the anti-war Left of the last decade was really an anti-conservative movement, whose only real concern about the wars was how they could be used as a convenient club to beat the opposition with … so their mellow would never be threatened with harshing.

          • bpuharic

            2 trillion and 4400 dead

            What else need be said?

            Your failure is complete, young Skywalker.

          • Ritchie The Riveter

            Saddam and sons, dead.
            Iraq no longer the loose cannon it was under Saddam.
            No more rape rooms, plastic shredders, or state-sponsored gassings of Kurds.

            There is a lot more that can be said … but you don’t want it said, for it might lead to the harshing of your mellow about your own choices in life, if those saying it gain credibility.

            You failed before you ever said it, for you have failed to learn from history. Name one expansionist tyrant that ever turned away from expansionism on their own, as opposed to turning away by being confronted with either exhaustion of resources or the credible threat of force.

          • bpuharic

            So what? Remind me why WE had to spend 2 trillion and 4400 dead for that? Perhaps you’re saying this was the war to end all war?

            That your claim?

          • Ritchie The Riveter

            Because pretty much the rest of the world shares your myopia, so we had to do the job.

            It had to be done, precisely because Saddam was an expansionist tyrant and would not be forever dissuaded from expansion – directly, or through terrorist proxies – by Progressive diplomacy and their corrupt UN.

            It would have been done quicker, and with a lower cost in blood and treasure, had we not listened to the Progressives and adopted their approaches to the problem. To the degree we succeeded, we succeeded when we ignored the “minimize the footprint” and “realist” advice of Progressives and pressed on to more decisive actions.

          • bpuharic

            Foreign dragons are your specialty….no matter how much blood and treasure.

            Just think. 1 down 170 countries to go. The conservative recipe for America

            Perpetual war. Perpetual bankruptcy. Perpetual funerals.

            Nice. What a success story.

            By the way…neither Bush nor Rumsfeld were ‘progressives’, no matter what Rush and the dittoheads tell you.

          • Ritchie The Riveter

            Even the principled sometimes buy into nicely-sounding falsehoods … like the proper way to conduct a war is to “minimize the footprint”.

            No the conservative recipe for the world is 170 rights-respecting nations, so we DON’T have perpetual war/bankruptcy/funerals. And the vast majority of those are already most of the way there.

            We shouldn’t have to carry the entire burden … but the myopia of Progressive moral equivalence and their hatred of American success through the exercise of personal initiative has been spread around the world to distort the view, here and elsewhere, and create the conditions for the very perpetual warfare you decry.

            You want REAL, sustainable peace? Then work to replace tyranny with rights-respecting governance for others, so that tyranny does not get a chance to expand and threaten your peace.

            No excuses – we are talking about HUMAN rights, HUMAN values here. Those who hold tyrannical worldviews MUST change, or be removed from ANY ability to impose their will upon others, if we are to have peace.

            Regardless of their belief system.

            And let me tell you this, specifically … the vast majority of those living within dar-al-Islam are NOT tyrants, and embrace those values once the tyrants are removed from their midst. We saw this in al-Anbar, and the rest of Iraq as well.

            The price of admission to this highly-interconnected, global civilization we have today is rights-respecting governance, if we are interested in sustainable peace. NO ONE gets a pass on this, for any reason, if peace is our objective.

            And keep in mind, we took a $1 Trillion economic hit on 9/11 … a few more of those, mixed with Progressive attempts to micromanage the lives of 300 million people, and you are on the superhighway to bankruptcy.

            Let alone if you let the tyrants emulate 1930’s Germany by us emulating Chamberlain, and let them grow to the point they can actually start a world war.

          • ojfl

            Even non conservative websites Southwestern. Via Meadia is not exactly conservative. It is an excellent site but it is not conservative.

          • Ritchie The Riveter

            At least the Right doesn’t LIE to the middle class about what it takes to successfully pursue happiness:


          • bpuharic

            The right tells us the middle class is all moochers and that the rich are ‘genetically superior’.

            You were saying about lies…

          • Ritchie The Riveter

            Unlike your fringe example, a central tenet of Progressive ideology is that the credentials and connections of an elite few render them sufficiently omniscient to be trusted to make decision after decision for 300 million citizens – even decisions that are highly specific to the individual.

            That takes more BLIND faith in human capability, than I have in my God. See what I mean about secularists like you operating from a basis of faith and getting away with it?

            And that isn’t just one fringe character saying it – my assessment is based upon observing what MANY Progressives in positions of authority and influence have been DOING in those positions, over the years.

            And from that basis, Progressives have led millions to forsake the responsible exercise of personal initiative, and instead wait upon these allegedly Best and Brightest at the top to solve their problems FOR them.

            Even when, with a little foresight and initiative, these millions could have solved those problems in more effective and efficient ways … while maintaining their ability to work around the errors, mendacity, and greed that the Best and Brightest are just as susceptible to as anyone else.

            That is the Biggest Lie of All, friend.

          • bpuharic

            Guess he didn’t see that the new right wing party line, from Greg Mankiw, Prof of Economics at Harvard and former adviser to Bush is that the 1% are an elite who are genetically superior to the middle class

            Let’s see…Harvard…1%…genetically superior

            Uh…you were saying about ‘elites’.

            And god still doesn’t exist. Sorry

          • Ritchie The Riveter

            You don’t have the perceptual ability to conclusively prove that God does not exist … sorry, but thanks for illustrating how Progressives have such blind faith in their own omniscience.

            As for Mr. Mankiw … he is the ONLY one I have heard express that opinion.

            Strain at gnats much?

  • wigwag

    Jonathan Pollard was convicted of espionage for spying on the United States on behalf of Israel. The fact that Israel and the United States were close allies made no difference whatsoever; many observers at the time actually said it made Pollard’s crime even more odious.

    Pollard received a life sentence (a far harsher sentence than other people convicted of similar offences) and every president for the past few decades has refuses to grant Pollard a pardon or commute his sentence.

    Now that we know that both President Obama and President Bush approved spying on American allies which parallels almost exactly what Jonathan Pollard did, is Obama more likely to commute Pollard’s sentence.

    If what Pollard did was heinous, wasn’t the spying on allies approved by Bush and Obama equally heinous?

    • bpuharic

      Pollard, of course, also sold US secrets to South Africa and attempted to sell them to Pakistan…the latter hardly a US ally. There’s no reason for his sentence to be commuted more than any other traitor.

      • wigwag

        The claim that Pollard sold secrets to South Africa or attempted to do so with Pakistan are mere allegations. They may or may not be true and the people who have made these allegations may or may not have their own axes to grind. One thing is certain, in the case that the United States brought against Pollard, neither of the allegations that you bring up were mentioned.

        In fact, Pollard pled guilty believing that this would result in a sentence less than life imprisonment;’ it didn’t.

        Pollard spied for an American ally and has been punished for it. Now we are presented with the spectacle of two presidents, George W. Bush and Barack Obama ordering American intelligence agents to spy on NATO allies.

        My point is that if Pollard’s behavior was venal enough to justify

      • wigwag

        The claim that Pollard sold secrets to South Africa or attempted to do so with Pakistan are mere allegations. They may or may not be true and the people who have made these allegations may or may not have their own axes to grind. One thing is certain, in the case that the United States brought against Pollard, neither of the allegations that you bring up were mentioned.

        In fact, Pollard pled guilty believing that this would result in a sentence less than life imprisonment;’ it didn’t.

        Pollard spied for an American ally and has been punished for it. Now we are presented with the spectacle of two presidents, George W. Bush and Barack Obama ordering American intelligence agents to spy on NATO allies.

        My point is that if Pollard’s behavior was venal enough to justify a life sentence, what can we say about the venality of two presidents who ordered Americans to do exactly what Pollard did?

        Obviously the two situations are not exactly alike; Pollard was an American spying on behalf of a foreign nation no matter how friendly that foreign nation may have been. Americans spying on NATO allies are acting on behalf of their own nation. Still, by any reasonable definition of ethics, spying on your friends is spying on your friends.

        Now, we see the same horrendous behavior by the Obama Administration in the Snowden case. Again, there is a clear analogy between Pollard and Snowden. What Pollard did was illegal and

        should have been punished but life in prison is a sentence that was way over the top. Snowden’s behavior was also wrong and should be punished. But the Obama Administration’s decision to charge Snowden under the Espionage Act is repulsive. Obama’s desire to throw the young man in prison for decades is such an overreaction that it’s hard to understand how decent people can feel anything but disgust.

        Every terrorist in the world knew that the NSA was interested in their phone calls and emails and that they were probably being watched. Snowden’s real crime was embarrassing Obama in front of his friends; Obama’s claim to be a civil libertarian was shown to be a lie by Snowden’s revelations. Snowden proved that Obama was little more than a more polished version of Dick Cheney. That’s why Obama wants to throw the book at Snowden.

        Neither Pollard nor Snowden are the heroes their allies make them out to be, but neither of them are the heinous criminals their detractors claim they are. The idea that either of them should be punished for decades is ignorant.

        Obama (and Bush before him) ordered Americans to do exactly what Pollard confessed to doing. Surely back in his college days, Daniel Ellsberg was one of President Obama’s heroes. Now Obama wants Snowden, a modern day Ellsberg locked up and the key tossed.

        That’s because our narcissistic president believes that nothing is more important than his self-image. He just doesn’t like it when the facts come out that prove the emperor has no clothes.

        • bpuharic

          The charges were made by an NCIS investigator. Given the choice of believing him, or a traitor, I’ll go with the NCIS.

          I don’t feel sorry when a traitor goes to jail. Imagine that.

          I suggest you read Walter Lacquer’s “Crystal Palace” to see how the US has been spying on allies, and allies have been spying on us for decades. Spare me your violins and crocodile tears for a traitor.

          Your hatred of Obama is merely irrational disgust with a guy all the talk radio bobbleheads tell you you should hate. And you take your orders like a good little foot soldier.

          • Ritchie The Riveter

            And I see you still haven’t gotten that jerking knee taken care of …

  • MrJest

    These stories always smack of hypocrisy. I mean, you have to be seriously naive to not understand that every European nation from Great Britain to Germany to friggin’ GREECE has their own intercept and spy programs, and focus on the US just as much as we do on them… and that goes for the entire rest of the planet as well. To the best of their ability, everybody spies on everyone else, without exception. Duh… To pretend otherwise is either idiocy or posturing.

  • GHCro

    Europeans have
    every right to be outraged. So do Americans. It’s obvious that
    we need to find ways to protect ourselves from the agencies
    that are supposedly protecting us from terrorists. The one thing that is clear
    is that, if we want to retain
    the full rights of ownership and privacy, we have to keep
    them in our own

    There’s a new device being crowdfunded on Indiegogo that does
    just that, at

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