Mardell: US spies act the injured innocent


There are few things Americans dislike as much as Europeans being sanctimonious.

After weeks of being accused of snooping on European citizens, the US intelligence agencies can no longer restrain themselves.

They've hit back with the less-than-elevating message that all spies are as bad as each other.

Some of National Security Agency (NSA) director General Keith Alexander's words to a Congressional committee are clear enough.

Gen Keith Alexander Gen Alexander: European media claims "false"

He said: "The assertions by reporters in France, Le Monde - Spain, El Mundo - Italy, L'espresso - that NSA collected tens of millions of phone calls are completely false."

So, first up, they were the innocent victims, wrongly accused.

The rest of the sentence probably needs running through the modern equivalent of the Enigma machine for some decoding.

He continued, those European newspapers he'd just mentioned "cite as evidence screenshots of the results of a web tool used for data management purposes but both they and the person who stole the classified data did not understand what they were looking at. To be perfectly clear - this is not information that we collected on European citizens. It represents information that we and our Nato allies have collected in defence of our countries and in support of military operations".

It seems he is saying European intelligence agencies collected the data on their own citizens who were operating outside their own countries and then shared it with NSA. In other words, not America's fault.

If this was the "we didn't do it" gambit, he and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper swiftly followed with "and everybody does it anyway".

For the spy chiefs did rather brazenly admit that tapping Angela Merkel's phone was pretty much par for the course.

Ignoring the fact that they had earlier claimed all their efforts were aimed at keeping America safe, they stated that gathering information on friendly leaders' intentions was a pretty basic duty.

They made no distinction between counter-terrorism and more humdrum but terribly useful information about foreign politicians' positions on anything from agricultural subsidies to inter-party factional fighting.

That sort of information is the ammo that allows diplomats to hit the target.

But they were eager to say that the Europeans "absolutely" did it to America.

Perhaps the difference is that the US security services were cautious enough to make sure Barack Obama, the first smart-phone wielding president in history, had a very special ultra-secure Blackberry.

They obviously knew how easy it was to crack. Mrs Merkel's people apparently did not.

This is still hideously embarrassing for the White House, and European outrage is not about to die away.

But the US hates being preached at and needs little encouragement to act as an injured innocent.

Mark Mardell Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell Presenter, The World This Weekend

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  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    The indignation of the EU is really a bit much. Or are we to believe that the massive intelligence services the UK,France, Germany and the Netherlands maintain all sit about twiddling their thumbs and playing patty-cake?

    At the end of the day they'll have their official whine then everyone will move forward with the Free Trade negotiations.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    I am a US citizen - working in UK, recent events in US domestic politics and foreign policy are highly embarrassing. Yet there are a not-so-small minority in my country think nothing is wrong, and they are doing the right thing - spy because we can, shut down even it is damaging. The world needs a responsible United States who do not think they are always right.

  • Comment number 30.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    If my PM's mobile were spied on I'd be wanting to know how the powers that be allowed it to happen rather than crying foul on the opposition. Perhaps that's the problem though, Europe perceives of itself as a friend of the US rather than an opponent when it suits, as in this for instance. Europe could wake up to being competition any time it wants and just stop booing like a baby.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    23. Rudigar
    Would China be all that bad really, other than not being Anglo-Saxon?
    Well, they seem to be doing pretty much everything they complain China is doing (human rights record, hacking, growing military budget, etc).

    Now they only need the "Great American Firewall" to complete the set!

  • Comment number 27.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Merkel and the "EU" are dangerous. One of the driving forces behind the "EU" is primitive anti-Americanism. Merkel has been prepared to see massive suffering throughout the "EU" just to save her precious Euro. That because "EU"ism is not about serving the so-called citizens. It is about a sick phantasy of a Greater European Reich

    43 million "Europeans" do not have enough to eat. Youth unem

  • Comment number 25.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    The sequence of appalling "justifications" continues.

    It's like finding a house guest rooting through your underwear draw, only to have them say "Oh, come on, everyone does this if they can. Anyway, you should be grateful I have such high standards: I was only looking, you have no proof I sniffed anything."

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    So the USA spies on everyone, they use torture (waterboarding or simple send people to be tortured by allies using extraordinary rendition), they invade countries preemptively resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians (Iraq). So remind me why the USA are the good guys again and they need to be in charge? Would China be all that bad really, other than not being Anglo-Saxon?

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    "But the US hates being preached at and needs little encouragement to act as an injured innocent."

    That's not an excuse, the US has no right to do the level of spying it has. It's hasn't stopped any wars but it has started plenty.

    I thought "Enemy of the State" was a film, not a documentary.

  • Comment number 21.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    It's hard to determine how much genuine outrage there is, and how much is just a show put on by diplomats for the public. If Europeans are serious about doing something about this, then there must be consequences for the Americans, How about EU politicians acting in the EU's best interests for once. For example, lifting sanctions on Iran & imposing sanctions on Israel comes immediately to mind.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    ref #5

    Not to mention, unlike say France we would never allow a union to shut down the U.S transportation system

    Reagan did a great thing we he stood up to the air traffic controllers and fired them

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    It is amusing tio see the difference between a politican being happy to spy on people and their reaction when they find they are being spied on

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    I Am highly amused by th fact that everybody is forgetting that the UK is doing the exact same thing in collusion with the US. In fact in some cases wiretapping by the GCHQ is even more pronounced.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Snowden, the NSA fugitive, is releasing intel, exposing widespread misconduct by that agency, much to the consternation of the White House.
    Creatively, they claim Obama knew nothing about this; in common with the other scandals involving his administration, which have floated to the surface, since his re-election.
    Doubtless, Mardell will give soul mate Obama the usual benefit of the doubt.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    America say it doesn't directly spy on it's own people, which would be illegal.

    So it has European spy agencies collect the information on Americans and then pass it on.

    Oh, so that's OK then?

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Fine, so no one trusts each other any more, the Americans being the worst of all of them. Easy solution, kick the ambassadors and diplomatic staff out of the countries concerned, break off all links with each other and then you will have a reason to spy on each other.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Your first sentance states the situation.

    we don't like the hypocricy of much of the european left including several BBC media members (you included) not to mention anti U.S publications like the Guardian and Der Spiegel

    the spying is done by all sides and you have no problem with traitors revealing U.S procedures and methods


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