The French interior minister lectured the US Ambassador on NSA’s breach of France’s privacy – quelle farce! French intelligence agencies operate well-funded surveillance over France’s domestic and trade partner communications, including the US. The minister’s arrogant, camera-seeking epistle was just well-crafted political theater for consumption by French voters. The same day, Le Monde published a summary of France’s surveillance. If French voters don’t know France scrutinizes domestic communications they’ve swallowed too much of Hollande’s leftist Kool aid. The feigned moral outrage also created a convenient excuse to slow down negotiations over a US-EU trade deal that France dislikes. France wants special exemptions on “cultural programming” (translation: they don’t want English language TV and films to have better access to the French TV market, where such non-French programs are already embarrassingly popular).
The Brits and the Germans also feel compelled to go through the motions of public objection to NSA’s spying on domestic communications – particularly in their embassies and trade delegations. If they did not object, their political foes would label them weak in defense of the national honor.
But, back in the real world of signals intelligence and foreign relations, the UK and Germany are skillful spies. The massive Internet data center in Frankfurt provides a convenient hub from which to “inspect” traffic from many corners of the globe. German law allows the state to monitor only 20% of the total traffic at any one time, and Germany’s intelligence budget evidently funds surveillance for even less than that.
Britain has gone far beyond Bletchley Park. British police have fake cell towers that monitor or shut down cell traffic in small areas (e.g. in riot or rally areas). And, Britain’s GCHQ spy agency proudly harvests voice and data traffic from sub-sea fiber optic cables.
Sleazy widespread communications surveillance by French, German, and British intelligence agencies provides no excuse for America’s coverage (mail, phone, Internet and eye-in-the-sky). There is especially no excuse for intentionally deceiving the American public. Instead of competing with the US on its scale advantage, each intel service owes its public an effort to preserve the shreds of citizen privacy that can still be safeguarded.
Alan Daley is a retired businessman who lives in Florida and who writes for The American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research