Read Time:3 Minute, 47 Second

NSA spy row: France and Spain ‘shared phone data’ with US

Raf Sanchez

By , Peter Foster in Washington

8:35PM GMT 29 Oct 2013

European intelligence agencies and not American spies were responsible for the   mass collection of phone records which sparked outrage in France and Spain,   the US has claimed.

General Keith Alexander, the head of the National Security Agency, said   reports that the US   had collected millions of Spanish and French phone records were “absolutely   false”.

“To be perfectly clear, this is not information that we collected on   European citizens,” Gen Alexander said when asked about the reports,   which were based on classified documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the   former NSA contractor.

Shortly before the NSA chief appeared before a Congressional committee, US   officials briefed the   Wall Street Journal that in fact Spain and France’s own intelligence   agencies had carried out the surveillance and then shared their findings   with the NSA.

The anonymous officials claimed that the monitored calls were not even made   within Spanish and French borders and could be surveillance carried on   outside of Europe.

In an aggressive rebuttal of the reports in the French paper Le Monde and the   Spanish El Mundo, Gen Alexander said “they and the person who stole the   classified data [Mr Snowden] do not understand what they were looking at”   when they published slides from an NSA document.

The US push back came as President Barack Obama was said to be on the verge of   ordering a halt to spying on the heads of allied governments.

The White House said it was looking at all US spy activities in the wake of   leaks by Mr Snowden but was putting a “special emphasis on whether we   have the appropriate posture when it comes to heads of state”.

Mr Obama was reported to have already halted eavesdropping at UN’s   headquarters in New York.

German officials said that while the White House’s public statements had   become more conciliatory there remained deep wariness and that little   progress had been made behind closed doors in formalising an American   commitment to curb spying.

“An agreement that you feel might be broken at any time is not worth very   much,” one diplomat told The Telegraph.

“We need to re-establish trust and then come to some kind of   understanding comparable to the [no spy agreement] the US has with other   English speaking countries.”

Despite the relatively close US-German relations, the White House is reluctant   to be drawn into any formal agreement and especially resistant to demands   that a no-spy deal be expanded to cover all 28 EU member states.

Viviane Reding, vice-president of the European Commission and EU justice   commissioner, warned that the spying row could spill over and damage talks   on a free-trade agreement between the EU and US.

“Friends and partners do not spy on each other,” she said in a   speech in Washington. “For ambitious and complex negotiations to   succeed there needs to be trust among the negotiating partners. It is urgent   and essential that our US partners take clear action to rebuild trust.”

A spokesman for the US trade negotiators said it would be “unfortunate to   let these issues – however important – distract us” from   reaching a deal vital to freeing up transatlantic trade worth $3.3 billion   dollars (£2bn) a day.

James Clapper, America’s top national intelligence, told a Congressional   hearing yesterday the US does not “spy indiscriminately on the citizens   of any country”.

“We do not spy on anyone except for valid foreign intelligence purposes,   and we only work within the law,” Mr Clapper said. “To be sure on   occasions we’ve made mistakes, some quite significant, but these are usually   caused by human error or technical problems.”

Pressure from European leaders was added to as some of the US intelligence   community’s key Congressional allies balked at the scale of surveillance on   friendly governments.

Dianne Feinstein, the chair of powerful Senate intelligence committee, said   she was “totally opposed” to tapping allied leaders and called for a   wide-ranging Senate review of the activities of US spy agencies.

“I do not believe the United States should be collecting phone calls or emails   of friendly presidents and prime ministers,” she said.

John Boehner, the Republican speaker of the house and a traditional hawk on   national security, said US spy policy was “imbalanced” and backed calls for   a review.

Mr Boehner has previously been a staunch advocate of the NSA and faced down a   July rebellion by libertarian Republicans who tried to pass a law   significantly curbing the agency’s power.

Average Rating

5 Star
4 Star
3 Star
2 Star
1 Star

Leave a Reply