Oct 25 2013


NSA monitored calls of 35 world leaders after US official handed over contacts

James Ball, The Guardian

Thursday 24 October 2013 14.14 EDT

The National Security Agency monitored the phone conversations of 35 world leaders after being given the numbers by an official in another US government department, according to a classified document provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The confidential memo reveals that the NSA encourages senior officials in its “customer” departments, such the White House, State and the Pentagon, to share their “Rolodexes” so the agency can add the phone numbers of leading foreign politicians to their surveillance systems.

The document notes that one unnamed US official handed over 200 numbers, including those of the 35 world leaders, none of whom is named. These were immediately “tasked” for monitoring by the NSA.

The revelation is set to add to mounting diplomatic tensions between the US and its allies, after the German chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday accused the US of tapping her mobile phone.

After Merkel’s allegations became public, White House press secretary Jay Carney issued a statement that said the US “is not monitoring and will not monitor” the German chancellor’s communications. But that failed to quell the row, as officials in Berlin quickly pointed out that the US did not deny monitoring the phone in the past.

Earlier in the week, Obama called the French president François Hollande in response to reports in Le Monde that the NSA accessed more than 70m phone records of French citizens in a single 30-day period, while earlier reports in Der Spiegel uncovered NSA activity against the offices and communications of senior officials of the European Union.

The European Commission, the executive body of the EU, this week backed proposals that could require US tech companies to seek permission before handing over EU citizens’ data to US intelligence agencies, while the European parliament voted in favour of suspending a transatlantic bank data sharing agreement after Der Spiegel revealed the agency was monitoring the international bank transfer system Swift

Obama left increasingly isolated as anger builds among key US allies

Dan Roberts and Paul Lewis, The Guardian

Thursday 24 October 2013 16.04 EDT

International anger over US government surveillance has combined with a backlash against its current Middle East policy to leave President Obama increasingly isolated from many of his key foreign allies, according to diplomats in Washington.

The furious call that German chancellor Angela Merkel made to the White House on Wednesday to ask if her phone had been tapped was the latest in a string of diplomatic rebukes by allies including France, Brazil and Mexico, all of which have distanced themselves from the US following revelations of spying by the National Security Agency.

But the collapse in trust of the US among its European and South American partners has been matched by an equally rapid deterioration in its relationships with key allies in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia this week joined Israel, Jordan and United Arab Emirates in signalling a shift in its relations with the US over its unhappiness at a perceived policy of rapprochement toward Iran and Syria.

Not that the Saudi’s hands are exactly clean-

If the Saudis Take Their Toys and Go Home, Have They Still Won the Arab Spring?

By: emptywheel

Thursday October 24, 2013 11:41 am

Ignatius depicts the Saudi version here (link added), not reality. US condemnation of Bahrain’s crackdown has been muted, and the US has started shipping arms again. This litany doesn’t mention the Saudi-favored policies the US supported: overthrowing long-time Saudi annoyance Muammar Qaddafi, resolving the Yemeni uprising in such a way that largely maintained the status quo. And it’s not the Brotherhood so much troubles the Saudis (indeed, they’re supporting Islamic extremists elsewhere), but the notion of popular legitimacy (which is not to say Morsi had that when he was overthrown).

But it does reflect what I think is genuinely behind Saudi disengagement. After some setbacks in 2011 – notably, Mubarak’s ouster, but also the need to increase its bribes to its own people to ensure stability – the Saudis found a way to use the rhetoric of popular uprising selectively to pursue their own hegemonic interests. They believed they were on their way to do so in Syria, as well.

With the coup in Egypt and Obama’s tepid response to it, however, the cost of popular legitimacy started to rise again. And with the US backing out of its efforts to use “rebels” (including foreign fighters) to oust Assad, Saudi’s feigned support for popular legitimacy disappeared. That notion reverted to being just another force that might endanger the throne. And as the US gets closer to a deal with Iran – a development that significantly threatens Saudi leverage in our “special relationship” in any case – I suspect the Saudis decided a temper tantrum was necessary. More importantly, I worry they disengaged from the UN because they are considering alternative means of pursuing their interests, means that would be loudly condemned in that body.

The Saudis are running out of money and oil to ensure their own stability, and asserting greater hegemony over the Middle East presented a way to retain it. I assume they intend to keep pursuing that greater hegemony with us or against us.

Nor is this without economic consequences-

U.S. Tech Giants May Pay the Price, as Europe Seethes Over NSA Snooping

By Carol Matlack, BusinessWeek

October 24, 2013

The timing couldn’t have been worse for the likes of Google (GOOG), Facebook (FB), Microsoft (MSFT), and Yahoo! (YHOO) As Europe was reacting with outrage to fresh allegations of U.S. National Security Agency eavesdropping on its leaders and citizens, a European Parliament panel this week approved a draft of a new electronic-privacy law.

The law’s biggest impact, however, won’t be on spy agencies. It takes aim at Internet companies, who will face stiff penalties if found to have violated the privacy rights of European Union citizens in storing and handling their personal data. Fines could total €100 million ($137 million) or 5 percent of a company’s annual sales, whichever is greater.

Disclosures of U.S. spying in Europe could produce other economic fallout, Fran Burwell, a vice president at the Washington-based Atlantic Council, told Bloomberg News. For example, she says EU lawmakers have signaled that a proposed U.S.-European free trade pact “won’t be approved unless there’s an agreement between the U.S. and EU on the handling of personal data.”

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