U.S. surveillance causes problems with alliesPosted on October 24, 2013 | by WSN Editorial Board
United States espionage programs are compromising foreign relations with our allies. According to a White House statement released Wednesday, President Obama spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel by phone, vehemently denying allegations that the United States has been monitoring her phone calls. Obama did not reveal whether the United States has done so in the past.
Merkel is not the first leader to voice concerns about the U.S. surveillance program needlessly monitoring foreign nations, including allies. French President François Hollande contacted Obama earlier this week to complain about the NSA probe in France, prompting director of national intelligence James Clapper to rebuke the incriminating reports.
Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta challenged Secretary of State John Kerry about intelligence services’ interception of Italian telecommunications data, just as the Mexican government recently announced its intention to investigate claims that the United States spied on President Enrique Peña Nieto’s emails.
Most strikingly, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff canceled her visit to the White House last month after The Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald reported that the NSA had been intercepting her communications, as well as those of Brazilian civilians, for over a decade.
The consecutive grievances reflect the international community’s overwhelming dissatisfaction with the extensive reach of U.S. surveillance, casting doubt on U.S. claims that these reports are unfounded. Tensions with foreign allies have risen significantly within the past few weeks, and the invasion of privacy is hardly representative of appropriate conduct between allies.
Although President George W. Bush controversially asserted the United States as the international sheriff, the Bush administration was ironically honest about its agenda, whereas the Obama administration disingenuously invokes the moral high ground.
If Obama is to maintain some semblance of trust, he needs to reassess the octopus-like reach of the NSA and other intelligence programs to ensure that this backlash does not damage our relationships with our allies beyond repair.
The standard reasoning used to justify extensive surveillance of American citizens — to protect the nation from terrorism within its borders — hardly applies to world leaders of friendly nations.
In his September address on Syria, Obama assured the public that “America is not the world’s policeman.” While it seems the president has persuaded the American people of this by supplementing conventional military tactics with secret surveillance programs, these practices demonstrate that his philosophy is more similar to his predecessor’s than most believe.
A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, Oct. 24 print edition. Email the WSN Editorial Board at email@example.com.