France, Mexico outraged over espionage agency’s espionage … again
posted at 10:01 am on October 21, 2013 by Ed Morrissey
The U.S. National Security Agency swept up 70.3 million French telephone records in a 30-day period, according to a newspaper report that offered new details of the massive scope of a surveillance operation that has angered some of the country’s closest allies. The French government on Monday summoned the U.S. ambassador for an explanation.
The report in Le Monde, co-written by Glenn Greenwald who originally revealed the NSA surveillance program, found that when certain numbers were used, the conversations were automatically recorded. The surveillance operation also swept up text messages based on key words, Le Monde reported, based on records from Dec. 10 to Jan 7. …
“This sort of practice between partners that invades privacy is totally unacceptable and we have to make sure, very quickly, that this no longer happens,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said during a meeting in Luxembourg with his European counterparts. Fabius said the U.S. ambassador had been summoned to the Foreign Ministry.
CBS Radio News correspondent Elaine Cobbe reported that France has asked Ambassador Charles Rivkin for assurances that the activity has stopped. Kerry was to meet Fabius on Tuesday morning in Paris. The meeting was expected to focus on the ongoing crisis in Syria, but French officials have confirmed the NSA spying will now be on the agenda, too.
France and Mexico have angrily demanded prompt explanations from Washington following fresh, “shocking” spying allegations leaked by former US security contractor Edward Snowden. …
Mexican authorities said they would be seeking answers from US officials “as soon as possible” following the allegations.
“The Mexican government reiterates its categorical condemnation of the violation of privacy of institutional communications and Mexican citizens,” Mexico’s foreign ministry said in a statement Sunday.
“This practice is unacceptable, illegitimate and contrary to Mexican law and international law,” the statement read.
If this sounds familiar, well … it should. Greenwald released similar information in July, which prompted the same kind of short-lived diplomatic row as this. It was short-lived because France does the same thing. In fact, they may be even worse about it in terms of stealing technological data:
Back in 2001, European leaders accused the United States government of operating a vast industrial espionage network that was eavesdropping on European businesses and giving trade secrets to American companies.
According to the latest WikiLeaks cable release, they should have been looking internally.
France is the country that conducts the most industrial espionage on other European countries, even ahead of China and Russia, according to leaked U.S. diplomatic cables, reported in a translation by Agence France Presse of Norwegian daily Aftenposten’s reporting.
“French espionage is so widespread that the damages (it causes) the German economy are larger as a whole than those caused by China or Russia,” an undated note from the U.S. embassy in Berlin said.
The Mexico part of the story isn’t really breaking news, either. John Harwood puts this in perspective:
BREAKiNG: NSA sparks largest outbreak of faux diplomatic outrage in world history http://t.co/X4SLl8sGck
— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) October 21, 2013
Joshua Foust has a suggestion, too:
I nominate a new headline for every story about the NSA collecting SIGINT overseas: "Documents reveal NSA doing its legally stipulated job."
— joshuafoust (@joshuafoust) October 21, 2013
The NSA’s mission on SIGINT isn’t just well known to our allies, it’s a mission in which a number of them share in the results. No one can honestly be shocked that the NSA is listening in on massive numbers of phone calls made outside our borders, because that’s practically the agency’s raison d’être, to borrow a phrase from our French partners. The purpose in revealing this is hardly to blow the whistle, but merely to embarrass everyone involved. Mission accomplished in that sense, I suppose, but it’s not going to stop the NSA from listening in on phone calls overseas, not unless Congress decides to shutter the agency — and that’s simply never going to happen.