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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  • Comment number 72.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    It is curious that trust in government is breaking down to the point where governments don't trust each other.

    There seems to me an immense irony in the way big data has shaped the modern political world. At the same time as it gives governments unprecedented abilities to catch official enemies like Osama, big data also allows the plebs to learn, and remember, everythinhg about their leaders.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    If the Americans got anything wrong, it still does not compare with what the "EU"-Monster gets wrong all day every day e.g. ramming the LisbonTreaty down out throats without a referendum knowing full well that we were promised a referendum, that 82%ish wanted a referendum and that 70% wanted to vote NO!


  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    "its to protect the privacy of US citizens..." so we hear from the NSA.

    In other words, we don't care about anyone else, just our own.

    So, what law is there, internationally, that says such practices are acceptable? We all know the US makes laws reactively to justify their actions as "legal". That may be considered "acceptable" in the US, but not in the real world out side the Communist US state

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    Give me an L , give me an R, give me a Clapper, Give me a crapper. He should seriously think of changing his name?

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    The BBC are only reporting on foreign entities (not our own security services) regarding the Snowden revelations because they are subject to a D-Notice to toe the government line.

    We are not getting the full news - the debate is intentionally being manipulated and suppressed.

    We don't have a free press.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    Your remarks suggest that you are as brainwashed as most of your countrymen. What this affair does once again is to expose the utter imcompetence of the USA. You say you can't be pushed around? Lets see what happens when your creditor (China) decides to pull the plug and brings your dysfunctional, bankrupt fantasy land crashing down around your ears.

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    "solely by born and bred USA citizens, and not by scientists poached from abroad."

    This is America, a country whose population consists of first and second generation immigrants in unprecedented numbers. By your standards I am not American.Nor are a fair number of my friends and absolutely none of my family members save one. Ethnicity means nothing to citizenship in America.

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    March/01, NSA + British GCHQ denied symbiotic sisterhood = Echelon. EU Parliament confirmed Echelon & encouraged govts to adopt privacy regulations. British politicians discussed Echelon’s impacts on civil liberties; EU considered privacy implications; French urged EU to embrace protections against eavesdropping.
    Upshot: Echelon Frankensteined into NSA & the worst spying monster was hatched.

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    These people make me sick!!! The stupid government starts interfering around the world, terrorists are people that don't like the fact we are in there country then we all get turned in the terrorists by default to find them so we all loose rights, and then they say everyone is as bad as one another, I say if we were not lording it around the world, we would be SAFE! The government is the terrorist

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    Such articles and discussions will soon be prevented in British media.

    Cameron and his cohorts wish to muzzle the UK media and public even more.

    Is ´The Island of the Uninformed Uninformed´ possible ?

    -- That is the aim.

  • Comment number 61.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    All Superpowers eventually come to an end and like all previous empires, they implode from the inside first.

    I don't think they mind snooping on others, but detest being snooped upon themselves. The coming debt timebomb will be the fuse but Americans' anger at how THEY are being treated will be what eventually pushes them over the edge.

    All empires eventually pay for their sins

    - The Mandarin

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    @56 - world wide web? Developed by Tim Berners Lee, British scientist working in Switzerland.
    PC? The first real computers were built by the UK during the second world war to crack Nazi encryption.
    iPhone? The first 'smartphones' were built by Nokia and in wide use in Europe well before the US convulsions over the iPhone.

    But keep going, I enjoy watching you display your knowedhe.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    56mk"And no most of the advances come from here, including the world wide web..."
    Hahahahahahaha. Thanks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    Why is privacy important?

    • Intrinsic fundamental human right.

    • Essential component for successful personal development and mental well-being.

    • Large databases, potential national identifiers and wide-scale surveillance can pose a significant threat to individual rights and interests, as well as the overall nature of society.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    ref #43
    I know you American bashers have short memories (convenients for your lack of knowledhe) but who was the major aid doner in money and material for the Tsuanmi a few years gfo, Aids in Africa? And no most of the advances come from here, including the world wide web, pc, I phone must I go on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    Lets put things into perspective for the blind, the ignorant, and the willfully ignorant...

    Essentially, Snowden took some 'trade secrets' from one actor.

    The US Administration and cohorts (our own security services) are taking all the 'trade secrets' from everyone.

    ...and people say Snowden is the traitor.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    47. The incident did not happen! See Robert McNamara's 'Fog of War': Also, Vietnam was a civil war not the Communist expansion straw man propaganda popular in the US at the time, and Castro would have nuked the US - all according to McNamara who was-there!

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    US not innocent. For 50 yrs., US power to monitor/manipulate information has been the NSA. Its original task was to gather intelligence on intentions of enemies. After World War II, its focus was Soviet Union. BUT IT NEVER DID CRACK ANY HIGH-LEVEL SOVIET CYPHER SYSTEM.
    Lost in do-nothingness, NSA used every means to eavesdrop - not only on enemies but also allies - even US citizens.


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