NSA spying allegations now threaten lucrative trade agreements between U.S. and Europe
According to new revelations, Germany was under tight scrutiny by the U.S.
Edward Snowden's indiscretions may now cost the United States big time. Prospects for a lucrative trade agreement between the U.S. and Europe worth billions of dollars is now endangered as there are new allegations that Washington bugged key EU offices and intercepted phone calls and emails from top officials.
"If the media reports are true, it is reminiscent of the actions of enemies during the cold war," Germany's Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said.
Der Spiegel magazine in Germany says it has seen documents and slides from the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden which indicates that U.S. agencies bugged the offices of the EU in Washington and at the United Nations in New York.
The NSA is also accused of directing an operation from NATO headquarters in Brussels to infiltrate the telephone and email networks at the EU's Justus Lipsius building in the Belgian capital.
Der Spiegel, without citing specific sources, also reported that more than five years ago security officers at the EU had noticed several missed calls apparently targeting the remote maintenance system in the building that were traced to NSA offices within the NATO compound in Brussels.
These allegations may be felt more keenly in Germany than in Brussels. Der Spiegel says that Germany was the foremost target for the U.S. surveillance programs, categorizing Washington's key European ally alongside China, Iraq or Saudi Arabia in the intensity of the electronic snooping.
"If the media reports are true, it is reminiscent of the actions of enemies during the cold war," Germany's Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said. She also called for an explanation from the U.S. authorities. "It is beyond imagination that our friends in the U.S. view Europeans as the enemy."
France later also asked the U.S. authorities for an explanation. "These acts, if confirmed, would be completely unacceptable," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius says. "We expect the American authorities to answer the legitimate concerns raised by these press revelations as quickly as possible."
Washington and Brussels are scheduled to open free trade talks next week following years of arduous preparation. Senior officials in Brussels are worried that the talks would be overshadowed by the latest disclosures of U.S. spying on its closest allies.
"Obviously we will need to see what is the impact on the trade talks," a senior official in Brussels said. A second senior official said the allegations would cause a furor in the European parliament and could then hamper relations with the U.S.
"We have immediately been in contact with the U.S. authorities in Washington and in Brussels and have confronted them with the press reports. They have told U.S. they are checking on the accuracy of the information released yesterday and will come back to us," a spokesman for the European commission said.
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