French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault is "deeply shocked" by NSA phone tapping. Image via Wikimedia
If Edward Snowden keeps leaking details of just how far-reaching the NSA's global surveillance activities are, the US is going to end up sitting alone at the lunch table while the rest of the world shoots it dirty looks. The latest news reports informed by America's most-wanted whistleblower shed new light on secret agency's surveillance of France and Mexico, and the countries are fuming.
This morning, Le Monde reported that the US government has been listening in on the phone calls of French citizens "on a massive scale"—by the tens of thousands. France, a longtime friend the US, responded within hours to express its outrage over the news.
Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said he was "deeply shocked" by the revelations, and the foreign minister immediately summoned the US ambassador, who is on his way to France with some 'splainin to do. "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," he said at an EU meeting in Luxembourg, according to Reuters.
Interior Minister Manuel Valls told press in Copenhagen that defense against terrorism is no excuse for the invasion of privacy. "It's incredible that an allied country like the United States at this point goes as far as spying on private communications that have no strategic justification, no justification on the basis of national defense," he said.
Meanwhile, Der Spiegel reported yesterday on a Snowden leak describing the NSA's "Operation Flat Liquid," under which the NSA has access to the online network of the Mexican government, and has hacked into President Felipe Calderon's public email account.
In a statement, Mexico's foreign ministry said "the practice is unacceptable, illegitimate and against Mexican and international law." The country expressed disappointment that this isn't how "neighbors and partners" are supposed to behave, and condemned American snooping as an unacceptable violation of privacy.
This isn’t the first reveal that the NSA's been spying on France and Mexico—nor should it come as much of a shock that even friendly countries spy on each other—but the reports are bound to put even more of a strain on diplomatic relations between the US and the rest of the world. Most immediately, today’s news will make for an awkward meeting between French officials and Secretary of State John Kerry, who has plans to visit France today to prepare for talks with Arab officials tomorrow.
The NSA, for its part, declined to comment on the classified intelligence programs, but did add that the US government will review the surveillance programs to try to balance security and privacy concerns, as President Obama promised.
France and Mexico also aren’t the only countries unhappy about being monitored by the US. Brazil has had a strong reaction to revelations that American intelligence monitors its citizens' online activity (oh, and the internet activity of Brazilian President Dilma Roussef herself), by taking action to create a new internet infrastructure that keeps traffic off US servers.
Now other countries are following suit. The largest telecommunications firm in Germany, another top target for US intelligence gathering, is also pushing to keep all internet traffic local in order to evade US cyber-spies. Just last week, global internet organizations met to discuss severing ties with the US-centric internet because of surveillance concerns.