Snowden leaks: Snooping on friends morally questionable

EU and US flags Spying on China's military is one thing - but snooping on your mates ahead of trade talks is another

Related Stories

The diplomatic fallout from the spying leaks continues. Snowden snowballs, if you like.

The latest is that the French are calling for a temporary delay in important US-EU trade talks, after reports America spied on EU officials.

According Le Monde, the French government's spokesman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem says they don't want to stop the negotiations. But they do want to suspend them for 15 days to give time to get more details.

It is a gesture and probably won't happen - the free trade talks are seen as a big prize, worth 157bn euros (£133bn) to the European economy and $125bn to America. The Germans and the EU commission want the talks to go ahead. So they probably will. But no one is happy.

The French strop is more than a fit of pique - it raises important questions.

I suspect most people accept that it is the intelligence services' job to spy on potential terrorists.

Many would accept they will try to uncover the military secrets of countries like Russia and China.

But snooping on friends to find out their negotiating positions?

It certainly is in the nation's interest - it gives your country an advantage, just as industrial espionage helps companies. Just as looking at your poker buddies' cards helps your game. Just as listening in to your friend's phone might give you a greater insight into his life.

But all these examples are morally, if not legally, questionable.

Perhaps not quite the same as ordering a break-in to spy on a rival political party. This isn't an international Watergate. Not quite. But it is a fair way down a sliding scale.

It will create disquiet among allies who may feel the US has learnt no lessons from the recent past. They may feel the most powerful country in the world always does whatever it wants, sees no boundaries to its behaviour, and is not to be trusted.

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

Is Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy about to bring back Blairism?

Those on the left think new Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy could be about to take the party back to the days of Tony Blair, says the BBC's Mark Mardell.

Read full article

More on This Story

Related Stories


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    With friends like France, it is little wonder that the US seeks to supplement public knowledge with awareness of what dodgy Euro-politicians are up to.

    The EU is largely run by low calibre demagogues. The US is simply protecting its interests by finding out what these third-rate politicians are saying. (I wish the UK was on the ball when it comes to its own interests.)

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    The French government are a bunch of hypocrites. They have been caught spying on America numerous times. There is a reason the F-22 and the B-2 bombers never appear in a French air show and that's because they tried to spy on the F-117 when it appeared at a French air show many years ago.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    This makes me ashamed to be an American. It also sickens me because this isn't even making most of the news channels in the USA. Almost no one knows about the US snooping in Europe, only the US spying on us citizens.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    What are we going to write about next to keep the readers happy?

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    My, my we dost protest too much. What drives the yanks' spying upon Europeans is that over the last 64 years they have paid the lion's share of NATO funding. When you have Big Brother paying for our security for over half a century then you lose a certain amount of freedom. Though it's reprehensible to have NSA monitoring our phone calls and Internet correspondence, it's to be expected.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    The US is now the naked emperor, but we haven't all gotten around to pointing our fingers in unison yet and calling it what it is. Whatever moral high ground they ever claim to have had it has now become an immoral swamp, each revelation draggs them down further. The US will remain on top by whatever means it takes, and the moral posturing and bluster is increasingly dangerous and embarrassing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    As it happens, American citizens are none too happy about being spied on either, and we have constitutional protections. Get in line.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    US politics used to be more all-inclusive. It started changing around late 1970s. Dynasties, money & connections are now more important here. Breaking of ceiling by 'common' people are becoming rarer. So advertised grandly.

    'Greed is always good' for such dynasties. Common americans r forced to believe it's good for them too- w/o much education, job, even 'hope'. Else u r surely 'communist'!

  • Comment number 54.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    .Sometimes, I like to Mail myself a business envelope with a copy of the Constitution the Hope that they might actually Open it up and Read it.

  • Comment number 52.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    Obama had unique opportunities to recover US standing in the world after neoCon failings. Legacies left behind by Bush & his self-serving gang such as Cheney, Rove, Paulison, Shulman etc. (& before that Clinton's clumsy far east policies), should have been the impetus to give US a fresh start.

    but no.

    Obama turns out to be no different. His hubris & pretention alienated sympathetic observers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    @ Sacawa (46)- Lawyers r not governed by the same laws you & I are

    Many think that many of the structural problems in all 'successful' democracies are due to historic and, probably, increasing dominance of lawyers in almost all political parties.

    They r trained to talk lies, support double-speak, crime & corruption. It's very hard to know their personal convictions, needed for a true leader.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    Even the US has finite resources so this spying on allies takes away resources from spying on terrorists. The evidence to date suggests that the US tax payer's money is not being well spent for example the Russia requested the US for an interview with the Boston bomber and the US did not follow this up. Spying on the EU, which is not a particularly effective organization, well spent taxes?

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    ref #43 The U.N should be ignored until they learn their place or stop demanding we fund it
    ref #44 No one care what some beaurcrats from Brussles think. Importantce in Europe: Germany, U.K than everyone else

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    At least Snowdon is alive & expected to remain alive to face justice, being a US citizen.

    What are the human rights record of many of the countries that are now supporting Snowden, yet reluctant to give him asylum? #@!!

    Americans, like many others, need to be more concerned about its 'public representatives' who conceal programs (they authorize) without any open debate &/or judicial oversight.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    27. Doc of Innisfail AB Canada
    "The Senate Intelligence Committee governs US spying. They asked for the policy in March /13, was told there was none. LIES! "

    Lawyers are not govern d by the same laws you and I are. They are allowed to lie, twist or make up the truth as they see fit and can only be judged by a judge (lawyer). Just look at today's lawyer politicians including the president!

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    People who like to watch spy movies and entertain conspiracy theories are All shouting from the roof " I told you so! " Shares in Tin -Foil stock options has skyrocketed. Survival kooks in the woods are signing up new members like never before.Retail stores that sell Surveillance gear ... can't get enough stock to fill the shelf.People are starting to look at their neighbor sideways! duck&cover

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    Most of the hue & cry against US, mainly by EU, is nothing but for public consumption and to pacify its angry citizens (for different issues).

    Can any country, particularly if one has the ability, swear that it doesn't indulge in any such activities? NO.

    It's a totally different issue if such leaks are good for democracy to enforce transparency of our own elected, 'democratic' governments!

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    33 Doc

    The US is ignoring UN & Nato treaties to gain advantage at trade negotiations

    They ignore or refuse to ratify many more treaties:

    Anti Ballistic Missile

    Comprehensive Test Ban

    Climate Control + Kyoto

    Discrimination ag women (along with Iran and Sudan) !

    Biological + Toxic weapons

    Chemical weapons

    International Criminal Court

    Law of the sea etc


Page 5 of 8



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.