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Conflicted Europe Must Defend Citizen Liberties (El Pais, Spain)


"Europe is caught between the dilemma of preserving transatlantic relations and containing espionage against its own interests. ... One cannot live in a democracy without guarantees of citizen rights, and without counterweights to the extraordinary power of the secret services. Yet E.U. countries need the protective shield of the U.S. intelligence services - a fact that checks any desire to retaliate and cushions the crisis of confidence. ... European governments must ensure, to the limits of their capabilities, that the liberties of their citizens don't become a dead letter."




Translated By Halszka Czarnocka


October 29, 2013


Spain - El Pais - Original Article (Spanish)

A bemused U.S. ambassador to Spain, James Costos, leaves Spain's Foreign Ministry in Madrid, after being summoned to answer to charges that Washington monitored 60 million phone calls in Spain within a one-month period, October 28.

AFP NEWS VIDEO: Inaki Gill, deputy director of Spain's El Mundo newspaper, calls for action against NSA spying, Oct. 28, 00:00:51RealVideo

Europe is trapped between the necessity of preserving its relationship with the United States and its reaction to the scandal


Suspicions that Europe is being subjected to a gigantic data sweep by the American secret services is not new. What is new are reports that some of its political leaders have suffered direct eavesdropping. The unusually harsh reaction from a pro-American like Angela Merkel is eloquent testimony of the resulting resentment. Similarly, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, although interested in preserving relations with Washington, hasn't hesitated to demand an explanation from the U.S. ambassador about the espionage being carried out in Spain.


Summoning its ambassadors to express displeasure - Berlin has already done so - will do nothing to end the disinformation by the governments in question, but does clearly illustrate the current state of relations. The scandal that coincided with the European Summit gave countries a broader platform to express the irritation triggered by the latest revelations - even if this isn't a new Cold War.


Europe is caught between the dilemma of preserving transatlantic relations and containing espionage against its own interests. It remains to be seen whether Europe's pounding of fists on the table amounts to pure gesticulation (most likely), or if suspicion insinuates itself into ongoing talks taking place on both sides of the Atlantic. At the moment, no head of state or government has agreed to a suspension of Free Trade negotiations.


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For its part, the European Parliament wants to condition talks on the protection of personal data. It voted in favor of placing limits on the amount of data Google or Facebook collect in Europe, and a small majority proposes suspending the agreement by which Brussels and Washington recognize the right to access of information on financial transactions - with the object, officially, of monitoring those made by terrorists. The possibility that this channel has been used to obtain data on citizens, businesses and banks endangers them all. One cannot live in a democracy without guarantees of citizen rights, and without counterweights to the extraordinary power of the secret services.


Yet E.U. countries need the protective shield of the American intelligence services, with which they closely collaborate - a fact that checks any desire to retaliate and cushions the crisis of confidence.

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On the other hand, Europeans should also ask themselves whether the technological, economic and political gap is already so great that their own spying and intelligence services are so seemingly - clueless. It is quite unlikely that such is the case. European governments would do well to investigate their own weaknesses and loopholes in guarding sensitive information, and to ensure, to the limits of their capabilities, that the liberties of their citizens don't become a dead letter.


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Posted By Worldmeets.US Oct. 29, 2013, 011:39pm