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Why spy on a ‘trusted’ ally?
July 3, 2013, 6:07 am

Apparently the National Security Agency does not just spy on its (and other countries’) citizens. Snowden’s latest revelations lay bare an embarrassing truth: the US is spying on the European Union (EU) and its member states.

What progressive organisations long suspected has now been confirmed: the NSA spies on the EU Missions in Washington and New York. Even the EU offices in Brussels are an ‘attack target’.

This should not come as a surprise. The infamous ECHELON (global data collection and analysis) programme monitored the EU for decades starting in the 1960’s, until it was revealed and condemned by the European Parliament.

Only a few years ago, the EU’s security services discovered that the offices in the Justus Lipsius Building (which has housed the headquarters of the Council of the European Union since 1995) in Brussels were being monitored from the US delegation at NATO Headquarters just a few blocks away.

The American trump card for justifying its massive campaigns of surveillance has always been the so-called fight against terrorism. So the EU and the EU member states are a national security risk according to the US government?

Internet as a military tool

It is, of course, about something else entirely.

On the military, logistical and technological level, the US still rules supreme. The internet is after all an American invention. After World War Two, the US government pumped millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money into research and development for a safe communication network for the Pentagon, that would still function after all other classic communication modes had been obliterated (in the event of a nuclear war).

This thing we call the ‘internet’ is nothing but a military communication system that’s gone commercial, once the state payed off the gigantic costs of R&D – something the private sector would never have accomplished. It is just plain logic that the American authorities know best how to bug that system.

After all they have the passwords.

In the meantime, the US keeps losing ground economically and Washington has been trying for years to get things back under control. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) of 1994 between Canada, the US and Mexico was supposed to be the template for a global world wide ‘free market’.

But that was not to be. The Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) was also a total disaster for then-President George W Bush.

Obama has all the trouble in the world standing in the way of reaching a Trans-Pacific Free Trade Agreement (TPFTA). It is too early to tell whether it will succeed, but the facts are there for all to see. The days when the US just imposed its economic agenda on the rest of the world are over.

Several Latin American countries have shrugged of their historical subservience to Big Brother in the North and now pursue an independent path of economic sovereignty.

To top it off, there is the BRICS initiative. Economic forecasts foresee that the total GNP of the BRICS-countries will surpass the combined GNP of the US and the EU within the next 10 to 15 years.

A matter of economics

The US snooping on the EU, its most trusted ally, can therefore only mean one thing – this is about economic spying and about gathering economic information.

Pretty soon negotiations for a far reaching free trade agreement between the EU and the US are about to start. Actually, preliminary negotiations – not to be underestimated – have already been going on for some years.

The US is losing ground not just because of the economic crisis. Its economic power has been shrinking steadfastly long before the crisis started.

It is a sign of its waning predominance that the US now finds itself in the embarassing situation of having to explain why it is bugging its own ‘trusted’ allies in Europe.

Knowing what your opponent really thinks about you when you are not around, is obviously vital information when negotiating economic deals. Where is the opponent planning to give in, where is he going to stay adamant, what is he expecting of the other side, what moves does he foresee, and so on.

However, things are turned upside down if your opponent knows that you know.

All bets are off. The damage is done. Even the stronger proponents of this free trade agreement will get cold feet.

Does this all mean that the EU is now going to be tougher than before the Snowden revelations? Hardly. If history is any lesson, the EU is good at taking stands in the media that have the appearance of being strong.

Behind closed doors certainly some strong language will be uttered. But overall, the planned free trade agreement between the EU and the US will go ahead. There is just too much at stake (at least for those in the one per cent that stand to benefit from it).

This US/EU agreement is a reaction to the emergence of the BRICS countries. Establishing this agreement will cement the EU in the Atlantic mold and prevent it from forming alliances with the like of BRICS.

In the meantime, the US is doing what it can to prevent free trade agreements that are not written on their own terms.

By the way, the BRICS countries do best to assume that they as well are being watched. As a security expert once said: “It would surprise me that they wouldn’t do it.”

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the publisher's editorial policy.