13 July 2013

We know that electronic spying has completely run amok when tiny Luxembourg’s prime minister, Jean-Claude Juncker, just resigned over a nasty scandal involving his nation’s tiny intelligence service.

According to some reports, Luxembourg’s ruler, Grand Duke Henri, was bugged by means of a Dick Tracy-style watch. All this recalls the late comic Peter Sellers’s delightfully silly film, “The Mouse that Roared.”

Europe, however, is not laughing. Recent revelations of massive, ultra-intrusive US electronic spying in Europe by fugitive National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden have ignited a firestorm of outrage – and hypocrisy – across the European Union.

Germany, with sinister memories of the Gestapo and East German Stasi, is particularly incensed. The magazine “Der Spiegel” says documents shown it by Snowden show that NSA read half a billion phone calls, emails, faxes and bank communications in Germany alone – in a month. German officials called this spying “disgusting” and “intolerable.”

France’s foreign minister, Alain Juppé, denounced the US for spying on a close ally. Russia and China rubbed their hands in glee over Washington’s acute embarrassment.

Two points to keep in mind. First, dear old Uncle Sam indeed spies on everybody and everyone. His big electronic ears, and those of his very close allies, hoover up all electronic communications – and have done so for decades. Every foreign embassy in Washington is bugged; most secret codes are broken by NSA’s giant computers and math wizards.

Now we learn that even our personal computers, cell phones and keyboards are bugged. It’s clear that surveillance technology has far outdistanced the restraints of law or good government. The giant security bureaucracy is out of control.

One wonders just how much useful information Big Brother can distill from the sea of data he acquires? In East Germany and the Soviet Union, a “listener” was always eves dropping and taking notes.

But that was so Cold War. Today, computers filter and parse every word, looking for key phrases, red-flagged words, or patterns.

Second, Europe’s politicians are loudly denouncing the US for spying on their people. But Britain, Germany, Italy, Holland, Spain and Belgium signed secret pacts with the US decades ago allowing NSA and CIA to spy on their citizens, and to share intelligence with Washington. The largest NSA listening post in Europe is inside NATO HQ at Brussels.

France’s intelligence agencies, notably, DGSE and predecessor SDECE, were notorious for bugging their citizens, politicians and foreign targets. Most French assumed everything said on the phone was recorded. Even pillow talk with one’s mistress was risky. DGSE even went so far as the bug the First Class seats on Air France’s flights.

Britain’s hush-hush GCHQ listening agency was almost a subsidiary of NSA and CIA. Ditto for electronic listening agencies in Australia, New Zealand, Denmark and Canada. The Soviet-run Warsaw Pact had a similar structure: the East bloc’s security agencies became “little brothers” of KGB. Bulgaria’s spy agency was used for “wet affairs:” the Czechs for sophisticated operations; the East Germans for infiltrating West Germany. US intelligence uses the same subsidiary structure in Europe and parts of Asia.

The recent refusal by France, Spain, Italy and Portugal to allow the president of Bolivia’s aircraft to transit their air space because of an erroneous CIA report Ed Snowden was aboard shocked most Europeans and made them wonder just how strong American influence really is over their governments.

France, the self-proclaimed champion of human rights and asylum for political refugees covered itself with shame and dishonor in the “affaire Snowdon.”

Even so, Washington’s lame excuse “everyone does it” or blaming “terrorism” is clearly bogus. No other nation mounts such an intensive worldwide electronic spying operation. Spying on EU trade negotiators discussing banana quotas has nothing to do with so-called terrorism.

Bureaucrats and politicians hate whistleblowers. Not so much because these brave, public-spirited people reveal deep dark secrets of state, but because they cause sharp political embarrassment and identify all sorts of dirty business concealed from voters. That’s why lynchings are planned for both US Army whistleblower Bradley Manning and Ed Snowdon.

The real “national security” issue involved here is the security of hypocritical politicians and career bureaucrats.

copyright Eric S. Margolis 2013

This post is in: China, Europe, Intelligence, USA

6 Responses to “SPYING RUN AMOK”

  1. philmar says:

    Great article. As always you write an incredible well informed article. At the end of it all I could think of was “Where will I turn for information and perspective when you stop writing?”
    Thanks for years of proper journalism.

  2. If ‘big brother’ characterized in Aldous Huxley`s ‘Brave new world’ as the world leader, was a democratically elected representative of a world-government, it could be of great benefit to mankind, but I have this sneaky suspicion, that like the banks, a private nefarious entity is manipulating the strongest military force ever to have come into being in history, is directing the world affairs today, to enable it, to make the entirety of mankind enslaved to it.
    Take the printing of money and the world of credit out of the private hands and put it where it belongs, in public hands and this whole house of cards is going to collapse.
    The potential of the biggest banks collapsing and them being bailed in, not out, like they did on Cyprus and everybody but a handful of the big boys, who control the world of finance, would be a slave. If our hero Edward Snowden did not have some very explosive world-shaking information, then uncle Sam would not have been ordered to go to the lengths he did, by trying to capture our hero, who some day will be recognized in the history books as being instrumental in saving the world from total slavery.
    And the European Union, via that obsolete body called NATO, is in the same clutches as Uncle Sam, who sold its soul just like Dr. Faust did. And the devil is on his way to collect on his contract.

  3. Mike Smith says:

    I think the ” real “national security” issue involved here ” is what they were doing with this information.
    Insider trading, making stacks of cash… I think is likely
    Selling Insider trading secrets… seems as likely
    Undermining and interference in foreign governments… they do have a history of that, don’t they
    Undermining and interference in their own elections… why not suspect this
    A reckoning is coming, and the backlash may will be aimed at Americans in general instead of the American government, if Americans in general fail to do ( or at least try to do ) something about their manipulative overlords.
    I for one am always angered when I meet US tourists wearing Canadian flags on their clothing.
    Own it, leave it , or change it. But do not ignore it.

  4. This is largely a matter of ‘smoke and mirrors’, and political posturing. The righteous indignation drips from the politicians, and nothing will happen.
    None of them have immediately stepped forward and introduced sweeping legislation to keep the security agencies, aka ‘spy guys’ in check and the work will continue. There has be no criticism of the ‘oversight’ groups to keep these guys in check. There has been no restraint by the ‘secret judges’ to keep these guys in check… and, it is unlikely that this will happen. The strawmen safeguards have failed, dismally. It’s ‘them’ and ‘us’; the shepherds and the sheep. Governments have ignored the people for so long… it’s taken for granted and almost expected.
    Even the large internet groups and telecom companies have fallen in line with the government agenda without a whimper.
    With the Snowden affair, the Americans have shown themselves to be World Class Bullies, in addition to the data boogymen! And, all but a few countries has somewhat shown their distain.
    The Americans have prompted the EU to become international pirates by diverting a diplomatic flight and searching it. Too bad the world court doesn’t step in and charge someone, but it won’t happen. They prefer to act on world class drug dealers and dictators that are out of favour. A justice system is only as good as the integrity of it’s officers.
    The Chinese and the Russians have used it for a little propaganda, but, for the most part they are quiet. Maybe to appease their own political ‘spy’ agencies and don’t want the rest of the world to know that they have been complicit with the Americans.
    The only action seems to be by the internet group to try to safeguard what little security they have. For an idea of the ‘vulnerabilities’ of the various OS and browsers, google or better ‘duckduckgo’ the site “prism-break’.

    As long as the status quo is maintained, there is little whimpering from the masses…

  5. Eric puts his finger on the nub of the issue:”The real “national security” issue involved here is the security of hypocritical politicians and career bureaucrats.”
    The rulers are embarrassed for having been found spying on their trusting national subjects and their international friends. If cooperation is based on trust then clearly the government is the untrusting member of our civil partnership. We, in turn would be wise not to trust our rulers. Sadly,the heads of state, will not roll in spite of the heroic revelations of Manning and Snowdon but rather it will be their heads who will be served on a plate as a warning to other would be whistle blowers!

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