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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Read full article


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  • Comment number 112.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    81 Blues

    "Obama lies. He’s a chronic liar & a moral coward. Nothing is ever his fault"

    The US is no longer a democracy but an oligarchy at best.
    The role of president is that of a figurehead

    You cannot blame American decline on Obama - the US became discredited under the Bushes, especially Bush 2. No modern country sank lower with lies told and pretexts found to abuse its power

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    ´UK press regulation: papers get last-ditch chance to prevent royal charter

    Industry granted emergency high court hearing just hours before press regulation charter due before privy council set to go before the privy council for sealing by the Queen on Wednesday afternoon.´

    --that´s the way the Cookie Crumbles.

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    102. MagicKirin

    Nothing illegal about drones. they have done the world a great deal of good fighting terrorism.


    There is something insidious about accepting the deaths of innocent women and children from several hundreds of miles away whilst "keeping your hands clean." A campaign of terror.

    Congratulations, you now have something in common with Hitler and his V1 and V2 rockets.

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    102. MagicKirin
    Nothing illegal about drones. they have done the world a great deal of good fighting terrorism.

    we should increase their use
    There's one over your house as we speak.

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    The Americans only really get annoyed at sanctimonious Europeans when we point out the vast difference between their Governments' claimed ideals and its behaviour. We're the same in the UK, we attack our Government but get a bit stroppy if another country does, that's human nature.

    Problem is, 'The American Way' is, apparently, only there for Americans. The ideal has failed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    I would love to hear a transcript of Merkel and the French President discussing the UK now that would be an eye opener, any country who intercepted Cameron's calls trying to find out British policy would need hundreds of analysts too try understand him. Anyway, its always happened and will continue by all countries thats why we have spies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.


    Agreed - but don't tell me or the British Press.

    Tell it to the Yanks!


    4. BSintolerant

    "I despise what the USA has become / is becoming."

    Amen. Amen. Amen.

  • Comment number 104.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    The International bloggers should now be in the

    ´Spycatcher´and ´One Girl´s War´ mode of yesteryear ?

    -- Sell foreign newspapers on British streets ?

    --Some American students made a small fortune selling ´Spycatcher´ in London at the traffic lights.

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    ref #98

    Nothing illegal about drones. they have done the world a great deal of good fighting terrorism.

    we should increase their use

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    Anybody wonder why with all this mindblowing US spy technology they still get their intelligence wrong?

    WMD's in Iraq? Syrian gas attack suspects wrong? or just an excuse to invade other countries to steal their raw materials and force them to house US military bases so they can spy on and hope to control the world

    56 Magic

    "world wide web"

    Ever heard of CERN or Berners-Lee?

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.


    We have a press who are suppressing the truth of matters of great public interest. This is not real democracy.

    Mass surveillance is deeply corrosive to civilised society in so many ways. Civilised society cannot function properly and realise its potential under such draconian measures, in terms of individuals and groups - political, social and economic structures.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    93. Dun Geonson

    About 6 hours ago. Managed to get the bottom four places in 'least rated'. Quite an achievement for the first six posts on a new subject - although the posts weren't new of course.

    at least sieuarlu doesn't need to spied on, all his views are open for all to read!


    96. MagicKirin

    "BTW it was Obama and the Dems who refused to negotiate"

    There was nothing to negotiate about

  • Comment number 98.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    To all Bloggers concerned.

    "Defence officials issued a confidential D notice to the BBC and other media groups in an attempt to censor coverage of surveillance tactics employed by intelligence agencies in the UK and US."

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    ref #92
    But you would let the Teabaggers shut down your government?
    Its interesting how liberals always complain about hate speech use it so frequently. BTW it was Obama and the Dems who refused to negoiate. something Mark refused to point out in earlier threads.

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    I just find it amazing that the USA works this way about "freedom", hates big government, especially the Republician/Tea Party and wants more for "safety"
    Do I smell hypocrisy in the air?

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.


    We also have a lying Prime Minister - yesterday he said he didn't want to have to use D-Notices regarding Snowden. This is a blatant lie because the press is already subject to a D-Notice regarding Snowden (most people don't realise this):

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    Sierlau been in yet?


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