With (Spying) Friends Like US, Who Needs US-EU FTA?

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 7/02/2013 12:02:00 PM
It seems the Yanks have gotten themselves into yet another fine mess with their Internet Unfreedom spying activities. [Hello NSA lackeys, I hope you're enjoying yourselves reading this post in between surfing porn sites.] Over the weekend, Der Spiegel added fuel to the fire over the US National Security Agency spying on Internet communications of American friends and foes alike. (Do the Yanks treat them all that differently?) Alike most everyone else, the Germans have come under massive surveillance:
The documents prove that Germany played a central role in the NSA's global surveillance network -- and how the Germans have also become targets of US attacks. Each month, the US intelligence service saves data from around half a billion communications connections from Germany.
However, linguistic ties being paramount, there is a set of favoured Anglophone nations who are exempt from a thorough covert investigation from the American spooks:
No one is safe from this mass spying -- at least almost no one. Only one handpicked group of nations is excluded -- countries that the NSA has defined as close friends, or "2nd party," as one internal document indicates. They include the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. A document classified as "top secret" states that, "The NSA does NOT target its 2nd party partners, nor request that 2nd parties do anything that is inherently illegal for NSA to do."
The allegations right before US-EU FTA are scheduled to start. European responses thus differ based on the amount of spying each nation is purportedly subject to. The French are obviously up in arms over the idea that they should ink a free trade agreement with those stealing sensitive information from Europeans:
The spying allegations come just days before trade negotiations between the U.S. and the EU are scheduled to start on July 8. But [French President Francois] Hollande raised doubts about the talks, saying there should be no negotiations with the U.S. on any matter until it guarantees that it is not spying on its European allies. "We cannot have any negotiations or deals in any domain unless we've gotten these guarantees for France, and that goes for the EU as well," Mr. Hollande said.
However, the Brits who have not been targeted as much are more relaxed about the issue, saying the trade talks should continue anyway according to a UK spokesperson. Still, particularly alarming to the Europeans are claims that spying on the European Council building is widespread and unabated in their own lands:
The EU security experts managed to pinpoint the [spying] line's exact location -- a building complex separated from the rest of the headquarters. From the street, it looks like a flat-roofed building with a brick facade and a large antenna on top. The structure is separated from the street by a high fence and a privacy shield, with security cameras placed all around. NATO telecommunications experts -- and a whole troop of NSA agents -- work inside. Within the intelligence community, this place is known as a sort of European headquarters for the NSA.

A review of calls made to the remote servicing line showed that it was reached several times from exactly this NATO complex -- with potentially serious consequences. Every EU member state has rooms at the Justus Lipsius building for use by ministers, complete with telephone and Internet connections.
Ultimately, if serious objections are raised to the US-EU FTA over American espionage, they will likely come from the European Parliament instead of the European Council despite the latter coming under more direct American data attacks. Post-Lisbon Agenda, the European Parliament has expanded powers to turn down free trade deals--especially over human rights violations such as violating the privacy of Europeans. While the Americans can probably gain the acquiescence of European leaders through the time-tested way of buying them off in any number of ways, such a trick is harder to do with the more heterogeneous and newly assertive European Parliament given its increased discretion.

The EU Parliament used to be pretty lame, but it has since gained authority in certain respects. Unfortunately for the Yanks, these include again basing FTAs on human rights criteria. Martin Schulz, the current [German Social Democrat] president of that body, is certainly annoyed by the spying:
The head of the European Parliament has demanded that the United States provide full clarification over a report disclosed by American whistleblower Edward Snowden alleging that Washington spied on EU offices. Martin Schulz said on Saturday that the revelation would have severe impacts on the ties between the EU and the US if proven true.  

“On behalf of the European Parliament, I demand full clarification and require further information speedily from the US authorities with regard to these allegations,” Schulz stated.
At the very least, expect greater European Parliament scrutiny of these so-called "friends" of theirs in trade negotiations. After all, with lying and spying friends like the US, who needs enemies? 

UPDATE: France is suggesting that the US be given a "time out" by delaying US-EU FTA negotiations by two weeks. However, the European Commission does not agree. As I said earlier, the most likely source of disapproval will come from the European Parliament. That will happen later on assuming that the US and EU come up with something they believe domestic audiences shall sign up to.