US foreign policy-the spy in the ointment
Oct 26, 2013 / 7:22 pm
Secretary of State John Kerry landed in Rome and Paris to talk about Mideast peace, Syria and Iran but was confronted by outrage over the sweep and scope of U.S. spying abroad. President Barack Obama already has defended America's surveillance activities to leaders of Russia, Mexico, Brazil, France and Germany and was even questioned about it during his birthday appearance on late-night television.
Obama and Kerry are trying to calm international anger over classified disclosures by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. Snowden's revelations about NSA tactics — that allegedly include tapping as many as 35 world leaders' cellphones — threaten to harm U.S. foreign policy in several areas.
In Washington, demonstrators held up signs reading "Thank you, Edward Snowden!" as they marched near the U.S. Capitol to demand that Congress investigate the NSA's mass surveillance programs.
"The magnitude of the eavesdropping is what shocked us," former French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said in a radio interview. "Let's be honest, we eavesdrop too. Everyone is listening to everyone else. But we don't have the same means as the United States, which makes us jealous."
The British ambassador to Lebanon, Tom Fletcher, tweeted this week: "I work on assumption that 6+ countries tap my phone. Increasingly rare that diplomats say anything sensitive on calls."
Diplomatic relations are built on trust. If America's credibility is in question, the U.S. will find it harder to maintain alliances, influence world opinion and seal trade deals.
Spying among allies is not new. Madeleine Albright, secretary of state during the Clinton administration, recalled being at the United Nations and having the French ambassador ask her why she said something in a private conversation that the French had apparently intercepted. The French government protested revelations this week that the NSA had collected 70.3 million French-based telephone and electronic message records in a 30-day period.
Albright said Snowden's disclosures have been very damaging to U.S. policymakers.
"I think it has made life very difficult for Secretary Kerry," Albright said at a conference hosted by the Center for American Progress in Washington.
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