Trade Talks Threatened By Allegations U.S. Spied On E.U.
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
And more fallout from Snowden's leaked documents. Europeans are in an uproar over the claims that the NSA has been spying on EU offices and European embassies in the U.S. European leaders talk of a breach of trust and warn that upcoming negotiations to create a transatlantic free trade zone could be at risk if the spying allegations are true. Eleanor Beardsley sends this report.
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ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: The news that America is spying on its allies has topped broadcasts for the last two days in Europe. German magazine Der Spiegel broke the allegations over the weekend that the U.S. was bugging EU offices in New York and Washington. Then British newspaper the Guardian cited leaked documents detailing spying at 38 embassies and missions in the U.S., describing them as targets. Along with traditional adversaries, like Middle Eastern countries, those targets included the embassies of France, Italy and Greece. French President Francois Hollande was irate.
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BEARDSLEY: We cannot accept this kind of behavior between partners and allies, he said. It must stop immediately. The scandal has brought the French far left and far right together in a show of support for Snowden. Demagogic French politicians are calling for their government to grant asylum to a young man they now say is a hero. Der Spiegel wrote that Snowden's archives are digital snapshots of the world's most powerful intelligence agency's work over the last decade. The magazine said that Germans had been main target, with U.S. intelligence saving data from around half a billion communications connections from Germany. Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman said the affair harkened back to the Cold War.
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BEARDSLEY: Relations are strained between the U.S. and EU, just as the two economic blocs are set to begin negotiations on the world's largest free trade zone. European leaders openly warned that those talks were threatened by the spying allegations.
ANTOINE CHAMPAGNE: The politicians have to react because the citizens are alarmed.
BEARDSLEY: That's Antoine Champagne, a journalist and expert on technology and Internet networks. He says everyone knows everyone is spying on each other, but it's different this time.
CHAMPAGNE: It is something big because it's the first time there are proof of this. The leaks from Snowden, these are proof that these things exist.
BEARDSLEY: Another difference this time, says Champagne, is that it's on a massive industrial scale. Europeans say it goes way beyond the fight against terror and enters private lives. Francois Heisebourg is an intelligence expert.
FRANCOIS HEISEBOURG: (Through translator) When you cast your net that wide, you're obviously going to pull in a lot of information on a country's political life, on its weaknesses, on the habits and morals of its businessmen. You're, in fact, scanning a whole country.
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BEARDSLEY: French television showed President Obama speaking from Africa. Obama downplayed the spying allegations by saying that every country's intelligence agencies try to understand the world a little better. But Europeans are waiting for a better explanation than that. Technology expert Champagne believes all will be forgiven if the U.S. takes a step toward Europe. The two sides need each other too much not to make up, he says, but he believes that spying will continue. Once you have the technology and capacity to do that, he says, why would you ever stop?
Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.