Over the past week, leaks from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden have led to diplomatic tensions between the United States and some of its closest allies overseas, including France and Germany.
The leaks have revealed that the NSA gathered some 70.3 million French telephone calls and emails over a month. And Der Spiegel reported Wednesday that the NSA has monitored the personal communications of Chancellor Angela Merkel. The revelations have led to “reassuring” calls from President Barack Obama to both Merkel and French President Francois Hollande. And today, the Guardian reported that the NSA has monitored the communications of 35 world leaders.
The detractors of this sudden outrage from world leaders is best exemplified by this piece in The Week from Marc Ambinder. In short, Ambinder argues, it’s the NSA’s job — not just to monitor the communications of terrorists, but to also to “provide policymakers with a decision advantage.”
This has led to a case of espionage envy. Here’s a quote from former French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner to France Info radio that explains a lot:
“The magnitude of the eavesdropping is what shocked us,” Kouchner told France Info radio. “Let’s be honest, we eavesdrop too. Everyone is listening to everyone else.”
The difference, he added, is that “we don’t have the same means as the United States — which makes us jealous.”
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