NSA spying hurts US diplomacy
Updated: 2013-10-27 23:59
British Prime Minister David Cameron and his German counterpart Angela Merkel attend a meeting during the EU Summit of Heads of States in Brussels on Friday. European leaders said they want a new deal with Washington to end a damaging spy row so as to keep an essential alliance and the fight against terrorism on track. YVES HERMAN / Agence France-Prese
Kerry confronted with outrage on his European trip
US Secretary of State John Kerry landed in Rome and Paris to talk about Middle East issues but is confronted by outrage over US spying abroad. US President Barack Obama has defended surveillance activities to leaders of Russia, Mexico, Brazil, France and Germany.
Classified disclosures by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden about NSA tactics — that allegedly include tapping as many as 35 world leaders' cellphones — threaten to harm US foreign policy in several areas.
In Washington on Saturday, demonstrators held up signs reading "Thank you, Edward Snowden!"as they marched near the US Capitol to demand that Congress investigate the NSA's mass surveillance programs.
"The magnitude of the eavesdropping is what shocked us,"former French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner said in a radio interview. "Let's be honest, we eavesdrop too. Everyone is listening to everyone else. But we don't have the same means as the United States, which makes us jealous."
The British ambassador to Lebanon, Tom Fletcher, tweeted this week: "I work on assumption that 6+ countries tap my phone. Increasingly rare that diplomats say anything sensitive on calls."
Diplomatic relations are built on trust. If the credibility of the US is in question, Washington will find it harder to maintain alliances, influence world opinion and seal trade deals.
Spying among allies is not new. Madeleine Albright, secretary of state during the Clinton administration, recalled being at the United Nations and having the French ambassador ask her why she said something in a private conversation that the French had apparently intercepted. The French government protested revelations this week that the NSA had collected 70.3 million French telephone and electronic message records in a 30-day period.
Albright said Snowden's disclosures have been very damaging to US policymakers.
"I think it has made life very difficult for Secretary Kerry,"Albright said at a conference hosted by the Center for American Progress in Washington.
The disclosures could give the Europeans leverage in talks with the US on a free trade agreement, which would bring together nearly half of the global economy. "If we go to the negotiations and we have the feeling those people with whom we negotiate know everything that we want to deal with in advance, how can we trust each other?"Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament, asked.
To Henry Farrell and Martha Finnemore at George Washington University, damage from the NSA disclosures could "undermine Washington's ability to act hypocritically and get away with it".
Writing in the magazine Foreign Affairs, they claim the disclosures forced Washington to abandon its "naming-and-shaming campaign against Chinese hacking".
By Associated Press in Washington