Oct 25, 2013

    Anger grows among US allies

    THE diplomatic fallout from the documents harvested by former United States National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden intensified on Wednesday, with one of the US' closest allies, Germany, announcing that its leader had angrily called President Barack Obama.

    Washington hastily pledged that Chancellor Angela Merkel, leader of Europe's most powerful economy, was not the target of current surveillance, and would not be in the future, while conspicuously saying nothing about the past.

    The call - which followed a similar furore with France - was the second time in 48 hours that the President found himself on the phone with a close European ally to argue that the unceasing revelations about invasive US intelligence gathering should not undermine decades of hard-won trans-Atlantic trust.

    Both episodes highlighted the diplomatic challenge posed to the US by the cache of documents that Mr Snowden handed to journalist Glenn Greenwald.

    The damage to core US relationships continues to mount.

    Last month, President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil postponed a state visit to the US following Brazilian news-media reports - fed by material from Mr Greenwald - that the NSA had intercepted messages from Ms Rousseff, her aides and the state oil company, Petrobras.

    Last weekend, the German news magazine Der Spiegel, which has said it has a stack of Snowden documents, suggested that US intelligence had gained access to communications to and from president Felipe Calderon of Mexico when he was in office.

    US Secretary of State John Kerry had just landed in France on Monday when the newspaper Le Monde disclosed what it said was the mass surveillance of French citizens, as well as spying on French diplomats.

    Senior intelligence officials have made plain that cooperation between the US and Germany in the field is essential to tracking what they view as potential terrorist threats.

    But, if indeed US intelligence was listening to Dr Merkel's phone, or registering calls made and received, the trust between Berlin and Washington could be severely damaged.

    Since June, even senior officials in the German government have voiced more caution about cooperating with the US, and wondered in private about the extent to which any information gleaned was shared with, say, the business rivals of German companies.

    The German government said it had been assured that German laws were not broken, but the issue remains politically fragile.

    The alarm of Americans - and, indeed, their allies - after the attacks of Sept 11, 2001, was understandable, Dr Merkel said in July, but "the aim does not justify the means. Not everything which is technically doable should be done".