As the United States scrambles to cover up the contradictory web if lies it has woven over the NSA spying, the Europeans have expressed their displeasure and threatened to scuttle talks on the trade agreement with the US. This left President Barack Obama, who has been touring Africa, trying to mend fences:
After the Guardian’s disclosure that US agencies were secretly bugging the French embassy in Washington and France’s office at the UN in New York, (French president, François) Hollande called for an immediate halt to the alleged spying.
“We cannot accept this kind of behaviour between partners and allies,” he said. “We ask that this stop immediately … There can be no negotiations or transactions in all areas until we have obtained these guarantees, for France but also for all of the European Union … We know well that there are systems that have to be checked, especially to fight terrorism, but I don’t think that it is in our embassies or in the European Union that this threat exists.”
(German chancellor, Angela) Merkel delivered her severest warning yet on the NSA debacle. “We are no longer in the cold war,” her spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said. “If it is confirmed that diplomatic representations of the European Union and individual European countries have been spied upon, we will clearly say that bugging friends is unacceptable.”
Seibert said Berlin was keen on the trade talks with Washington, but qualified that support: “Mutual trust is necessary in order to come to an agreement.” [..]
Martin Schulz, the president of the European parliament, likened the NSA to the Soviet-era KGB and indirectly suggested a delay in the talks. Greens in the European parliament, as well as in France and Germany, called for the conference to be postponed pending an investigation of the allegations. They also called for the freezing of other data-sharing deals between the EU and the US, on air transport passengers and banking transactions, for example, and called for the NSA whistleblower, Edward Snowden, to be granted political asylum in Europe. French Greens asked Hollande to grant Snowden asylum in France.
Back in the US, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper is still in hot water despite for his halfhearted letter of apology to Congress for “erroneous” responses to questions he was given days before.
But Clapper did not say in the letter why he had taken him until June to correct the mistake. Senator Wyden’s spokesman made it clear on Monday that the senator had made attempts to get Clapper to correct the record before the revelations in the Guardian, but was rebuffed. “Senator Wyden had a staff member contact the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on a secure phone line soon after the March hearing to address the inaccurate statement regarding bulk collection on Americans.
“The ODNI acknowledged that the statement was inaccurate but refused to correct the public record when given the opportunity. Senator Wyden’s staff informed the ODNI that this was a serious concern.
“Senator Wyden continued to raise concerns about the government’s reliance on secret law in the weeks following the hearing, prior to the Guardian publishing its first story several weeks later.”
A bipartisan group of senators expressed their displeasure and accused Clapper of intentionally misleading congress to prevent a public discussion of secret interpretations of the Patriot Act thus undermining public trust in government.
A week ago, Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) wrote Gen. Keith Alexander, head of the NSA, that documents on its web site intended to clarify the two surveillance programs, Section 215 of the Patriot Act and Section 702 of FISA, were ” misleading and inaccurate.” The “fact sheet” were scrubbed from the web site shortly after the senators complaint.
Following a complaint from two senators, the National Security Agency has removed from its website two fact sheets designed to shed light on and defend a pair of surveillance programs. Users now trying to access the documents detailing surveillance under legal authorities known as Section 215 and Section 702 receive an error message when they try to load the fact sheets. [..]
The documents, still available here, were published in the wake of revelations about the extent of the NSA’s surveillance programs. They sought to highlight the safeguards the NSA uses to make sure American communications aren’t caught up in its surveillance – or if they are, what the NSA does to remove identifying information about U.S. citizens. Wyden and Udall, both of whom sit on the Senate Intelligence Committee, have long called for more transparency on how the NSA protects Americans’ privacy — but said the NSA’s fact sheets gave the wrong impression.
Meanwhile in Russia Edward Snowden remains at the Moscow airport without a valid passport. With his asylum options shrinking, he has withdarwn his request for asylum with Russia after President Vladimir Putin required he stop leaking information about the US spy programs.
Icelandic investigative journalist and spokesperson for WikiLeaks, Kristinn Hrafnsson appeared with Amy Goodman and Aaron Mate on today’s Democracy Now blasting the United States for leaving Snowden “stateless.”
Transcript can be read here