This terrible, horrible, no good very bad alliance

Big brother is watching you

June 1, 2021 - 19:49

TEHRAN – Last year in February, the world was shocked when it came to light that the CIA used Swiss-made encryption machines to spy on governments all over the world for more than half a century. The machines were produced by an ostensibly Swiss company and were sold to more than 120 countries well into the 21st century.

On the surface, the company, Crypto AG, was Swiss but, in reality, it was owned by the CIA in a highly classified partnership with West German intelligence, according to The Washington Post. 

In the Crypto AG scandal, the victims were mostly non-Western governments who trusted the company to send seemingly encrypted messages without knowing that their messages were being decoded in the CIA. Europe was also complicit in the American spying ploy.

Now, things have changed and the Europeans have fallen victim to the U.S. lust for espionage. Danish state broadcaster DR has reported that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) used a partnership with Denmark's foreign intelligence unit to spy on senior officials of neighboring countries, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, according to Reuters. 

The bombshell was a result of a 2015 internal investigation in the Danish Defense Intelligence Service into NSA's role in the partnership.

According to the investigation, which covered the period from 2012 to 2014, the NSA used Danish information cables to spy on senior officials in Sweden, Norway, France and Germany, including former German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and former German opposition leader Peer Steinbruck.

Denmark, a close ally of the United States, hosts several key landing stations for subsea internet cables to and from Sweden, Norway, Germany, Holland and Britain. Through targeted retrievals and the use of NSA-developed analysis software known as Xkeyscore, NSA intercepted both calls, texts and chat messages to and from telephones of officials in the neighboring countries.

Leaders in Europe reacted to the U.S.-Danish collaboration and demanded answers on the spying scandal, which included tapping Angela Merkel's mobile phone. Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday that they expected an explanation about this scandal. 

Following a meeting with Merkel, Macron condemned Denmark’s secret collaboration with the U.S. in spying on European leaders. He said wiretapping “is not acceptable between allies” and asked the United States for clarity. “This is not acceptable between allies, and even less between allies and European partners,” Macron stated. 

In an attempt to encourage the U.S. into giving explanations, the French president said that “there is no room for suspicion between” the U.S. and its European allies. 

“We requested that our Danish and American partners provide all the information on these revelations and on these past facts. We are awaiting these answers,” Macron said after a Franco-German video summit. 

Merkel said she “could only agree” with Macron. In a sign that the trust between the U.S. and Europe was damaged after the Danish revelations, she said, “In this regard, I see a good basis not only for the resolution of the matter, but also to really come to trusted relations.”

Other Scandinavian countries also reacted to the bombshell, demanding answers from Denmark and the U.S. “It's unacceptable if countries which have close allied cooperation feel the need to spy on one another,” Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg told NRK, a public broadcaster that also took part in the investigation.

Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist had also been “in contact with Denmark's defense minister to ask if Danish platforms have been used to spy on Swedish politicians.”

The U.S.-Danish spying scandal revived debates over the necessity for the European countries to stand up to the U.S. spying efforts against Europe, which are estimated to be much more than what’s been revealed. 

In 2013, Edward Snowden, the former NSA worker, released thousands of documents of the U.S.'s vast spying operations against Europe that shook political relations between Washington and its European allies. 

At that time, Merkel called for rebuilding trust between the United States and its European allies. But the U.S., instead of dispelling the mistrust, doubled down on its spying efforts and this time even wiretapped the mobile phone of Merkel. 

James R. Clapper Jr., who was director of the U.S. national intelligence at the time, recalled the diplomatic tensions after the Snowden leak, which included reports that the NSA had collected millions of digital communications in France and the phone calls of the Brazilian and Mexican presidents. 

“We had many uncomfortable and awkward meetings,” Clapper said, according to The Washington Post. “We had our usual venting sessions and went on with business. We acknowledged that nation-states do things in their interest.”

Commenting on the U.S.-Danish scandal, Snowden said U.S. President Joe Biden was deeply involved in spying operations against Europe and that he is prepared to whitewash the issue.

“Biden is well-prepared to answer for this when he soon visits Europe since, of course, he was deeply involved in this scandal the first time around. There should be an explicit requirement for full public disclosure not only from Denmark, but their senior partner as well,” the American whistleblower said on Twitter. 

Russia said the recent revelation is “just the tip of the iceberg” and the U.S. may have involved in wider spying operations. 

“I think this is just the tip of the iceberg, and the situation is even direr for NATO member states themselves,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Tuesday.

The Europeans have treated the U.S. as their closest friend and ally in history but the U.S. continues, from time to time, to remind them that they should remain under American control. With friends like the U.S., who needs enemies?

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