Recent allegations of U.S. spying reflect the complicated nature
of the relationship between the intelligence services of the United
States and its allies.
When Edward J. Snowden disclosed the extent of U.S. data-mining
operations in Germany, monitoring as many as 60 million of the
country's telephone and Internet connections, politicians here, like
others in Europe, were by turns appalled and indignant. But like the
French before them, this week they found themselves backpedaling.
In an interview released this week, Mr. Snowden said that
Germany's intelligence services were "in bed" with the National
Security Agency, "the same as with most other Western countries."
The assertion has added to fresh scrutiny in the European news media
of Berlin and other European governments that may have benefited
from the enormous U.S. snooping program known as Prism, or conducted
wide-ranging surveillance operations of their own.
The outrage of European leaders notwithstanding, intelligence
experts and historians say the most recent disclosures reflect the
complicated nature of the relationship between the intelligence
services of the United States and its allies, which have long
quietly swapped information on each others' citizens.
"The other services don't ask us where our information is from,
and we don't ask them," Mr. Snowden said in the interview, conducted
by the documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras and Jacob Appelbaum, a
computer security researcher, and published this week in the German
magazine Der Spiegel. "This way they can protect their political
leaders from backlash, if it should become public how massively the
private spheres of people around the globe are being violated."
Britain, which has the closest intelligence relationship with the
United States of any European country, has been implicated in
several of the data operations described by Mr. Snowden, including
claims that Britain's agencies had access to the Prism computer
network, which monitors data from a range of Internet companies in
the United States. Such sharing would have allowed British
intelligence agencies to sidestep British legal restrictions on
electronic snooping. Prime Minister David Cameron has insisted that
its intelligence services operate within the law.
Another allegation, reported by The Guardian, a British
newspaper, is that the Government Communications Headquarters, the
British surveillance center, tapped fiber optic cables carrying
international telephone and Internet traffic, then shared the
information with the N.S.A. This program, known as Tempora, involved
attaching intercept probes to trans-Atlantic cables when they land
on British shores from North America, the report said.
President Francois Hollande of France was among the first
European leaders to express outrage at the revelations of U.S.
spying, and especially at accusations that the Americans had spied
on French diplomatic posts in Washington and New York.
There is no evidence to date that French intelligence services
were granted access to information from the N.S.A. However, Le Monde
reported last week that France's external intelligence agency
maintained a broad telecommunications data collection system of its
own, amassing metadata on most, if not all, telephone calls, e-
mails and Internet activity coming in and out of France.
Mr. Hollande and other officials have been notably less vocal
regarding the claims advanced by Le Monde, which the authorities in
France have neither confirmed nor denied.
Given their grim experiences with domestic spying, first under
the Nazis and then with the East German secret police, Germans are
sensitive when it comes to issues of personal privacy and protection
of their personal data. …