I have not blogged about the reports that German chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone was tapped by the National Security Agency since, I have recently commented on similar situations in which the NSA has been caught spying on three Mexican Presidents and most Frenchmen.
But now the Guardian has released more on the NSA spying on foreign leaders:
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 NSA memo obtained by the Guardian suggests that such surveillance was not isolated, as the agency routinely monitors the phone numbers of world leaders – and even asks for the assistance of other US officials to do so.
The memo, dated October 2006 and which was issued to staff in the agency’s Signals Intelligence Directorate (SID), was titled “Customers Can Help SID Obtain Targetable Phone Numbers”…
But the memo acknowledges that eavesdropping on the numbers had produced “little reportable intelligence”. In the wake of the Merkel row, the US is facing growing international criticism that any intelligence benefit from spying on friendly governments is far outweighed by the potential diplomatic damage.
So this was all done under the Presidency of George W. Bush. Perhaps Obama will claim that he ended this program. But since he allowed the NSA to continue or to start spying in other ways, this doesn’t seem likely and it certainly doesn’t justify him. Whether or not he changed the targets, Obama simply continued the spying, including the illegal spying, even though he campaigned as a civil libertarian opposed to Bush’s programs.
This also helps us understand why Bush, blind to the irony, accused Snowden of damaging the country. He probably knew his name would come up.
How did Bush. in his own mind. justify all this? Germany, France, and many others countries were partners in the “war on terror.” Spying on these people didn’t make us safer. Even in 2006, in the memo trying to encourage the expansion of the program, it is admitted that not much of value was gained by the snooping. They had not much to gain and a great deal to lose but they did it anyway!
My theory is that the NSA did it because they were able to. Once the realized the technological advantage they had, the temptation to treat others as a subservient class became too tempting. It is an incredible ego rush to violate the privacy of others. I suspect the delusions of power reached the point that they thought that they would never get caught.
What world leader is going to share his phone number with an American diplomat now? We have now proven ourselves to be a nation without honor.
As I’ve said before, our best hope is to convince the nations that we, as a people, despise the treacherous actions of our government.