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]