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

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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, North America editor Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell North America editor

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 142.

    What are the Europeans hiding they don't want America to find out about.I think we already have them pretty well figured out.The only question is which of them will try to stab us in the back next and how do they plan to do it.Come to think of it they do have something to hide.Well Uncle Sam isn't going to let them get away with it just because they whine about it.Certainly not the axis of Weasel.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 141.

    Everybody spies on everybody else, from govts down to married couples - none of this should come as a surprise.However much we may want the laws to embrace our morality, it can't - one man's moral code is another's unreasonable restriction (eg - gay marriage). However, the US continues to think it bestrides the globe as its universal saviour, & the ends justifies the means - it isn't & they don't.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 140.

    136"It would appear that you don't think the French are friends but you seem to have very little knowledge"

    It's you who have very little knowledge.Example; do you know the US almost went to war with France in the late 18th century over the XYZ Affair?We still have vestiges of the Alien and Sedition laws on our books passed in response to it.Short answer, US doesn't have allies, only interests.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 139.

    One part of this topic I do not seem to see being discussed here is the security of individuals personal data and the potential for theft, identity theft and all sorts of financial mayhem. If one of Mr Snowden's colleagues with a more mercenary frame of mind were to troll his way through data gathered from Amazon, Google and Facebook he could make him/herself very rich very quickly.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 138.

    134 Annie

    "Russia and Ecuador have a far worse record on freedom of speech than the US or Britain (just ask Pussy Riot!)"

    What's happened to the "Occupy Wall Street" movement?

    It's industrial spying that is really at stake here and US's fears on losing out on more advanced developments in the world.

    The patents stolen from Germany after WW2 must have run out

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 137.

    136.
    sieuarlu
    5 Minutes ago
    It would appear I only have to go back 5 minutes to find silly American behaviour, so no change there then.
    Mr Mardell's comments were about the advisability and morality of spying on those who are ostensibly one's friends perhaps you could stick to discussing that. It would appear that you don't think the French are friends but you seem to have very little knowledge

  • Comment number 136.

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

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 135.

    134.Annie-Lou
    I just love the weird logic employed by yourself and sieuarlu No logic at all really, just dig up something from ages back like the stupid French behaviour in 1985, nearly 30 years ago and then try to use it to distract us from current bad behaviour by the US of A.
    You really must try harder when trying to justify the unjustifiable

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 134.

    He can pass the time watching the Tom Hanks film, The Terminal!! It will be even cosier than the Ecuadorean embassy! I think we can judge messers Snowden and Assange by the company they keep. Russia and Ecuador have a far worse record on freedom of speech than the US or Britain (just ask Pussy Riot!)

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 133.

    Where's your analysis now Mr. Snowden? What do the tea leaves tell you is next. We learned Britain does it. Today we learned France does it. We knew China did it. It will eventually comes out that EVERYBODY ELSE does it too. So what will a stupid naïve young man do now that no country wants him? Live out his life on a sofa in the Moscow airport international arrivals lounge?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 132.

    Isnt it also a point that there are increased incidents of employees taking proprietary information when they believe they will be, or are, searching for a new job. Isnt it a legitimate act therefore to spy on employees, friends, or allies - otherwise how do you find traitors in the first place. And doesnt the fact they are employees, friends, or allies constitute a bigger threat than "outsiders"

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 131.

    Comment 128, don't worry Geoff, the "game" will go on, what makes you think they ever trusted each other? French agents snuck into Auckland harbour, blew up a peaceful protest ship and murdered a member of Greenpeace on NZ soil. A scandal that makes reading a few emails look tame by comparison. And yet guess what? We all still deal with the French!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 130.

    Here is a more detailed description of what Governments are capable of in criminalizing citizens.
    Read: Why Child abuse will never be eliminated -#YouAreDeath http://wp.me/pgAur-4o

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 129.

    123powermeerkat
    1 Hour ago
    Fair comment. How this gentleman got past vetting procedures in the first place is also something that should be examined. I could understand a commercial organisation making such a failure but the NSA.....mmmm - maybe its a double spoof to bring it all into the open and let the storm blow over.... or is that too fanciful

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 128.

    Sorry Mr. Mardell:- Looking at your poker buddies' cards means there is no game any more. Games: good faith vs. Cheating: bad faith.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 127.

    Spies spy! Who knew? And they spy on their own people and friends as well as enemies, hardly news. It beggars belief that the FRENCH of all people should be having a hissy fit about this given the reputation of their own intelligence services.
    Two words: RAINBOW WARRIOR. (If you are too young to remember, google it)

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 126.

    125.margaret howard
    Fair point Margaret but Mr Snowden chose to work for the NSA and then was surprised he was involved in spying - isnt that the same as saying I joined the Waffen SS but I didnt know I would have to eradicate people ( A defence not accepted by the Nuremberg Tribunal).If he was morally compelled to do something why didnt he do it at the beginning and not later.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 125.

    121 Bill

    "I wonder what a glimpse at Mr Snowdens other experience in the military and NSA would reveal"

    Do you mean he has yet more horrors to reveal?

    If your firm does something illegal wouldn't you feel morally compelled to do something or do you believe in the tired old slogan:

    "I was only following orders"?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 124.

    Morals amongst mercenaries.....what ever next....morals when it suits us and expediency when it does not. Would the existence of Prism be common knowledge if had not been for the fact the US has been caught with its pants down.....hmmmm

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 123.

    111 Bill
    "I think Mr Snowdens personal morals are also a real question here"

    Not that it excuses Booz Allen Hamilton's lax security check the fact remains that Snowden lied to it about his education. (Johns Hopkins, UoM,etc.

    "he studied computing at Anne Arundel Community College to gain the credits necessary to obtain a high-school diploma, but he did not complete the coursework" (Wiki)

 

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