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Latest Snowden Leaks: Everyone Is Spying On Everyone and Sharing It

November 2, 2013
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Source: Motherboard

Surprise, surprise: Many European countries are also involved in mass surveillance of citizens, sidestep civil liberty laws, and share information with each other.

Sound familiar?

The news was revealed as part of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s latest leaks and was reported by The Guardian. According to the report, Germany, France, Spain, and Sweden have been engaging in mass wiretapping of Internet communications and telephone calls over the past five years and have been passing that information to the United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). 

According to the report, the countries have created a “loose but growing eavesdropping alliance,” and that the information is retrieved through “direct taps into fiber optic cables and the development of covert relationships with telecommunications companies.”

The timing of the leaks are particularly comical: Last week, after news that the NSA spied on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone, the Chancellor said in a statement that she “views such practices … as completely unacceptable,” adding that she deserved “an immediate and comprehensive explanation” from the U.S. government. Spanish and French leaders have also expressed concern about NSA spying, but recent reports suggest that those governments were complicit in the surveillance.

The leaks lend some credibility to the claims the NSA has been making since this whole thing started that American allies also engage in spying (and help the U.S. do it). Earlier this week, National Intelligence Director James Clapper told Congress that it’s a “basic tenet” of spying to foreign leaders, and said that other countries “absolutely” conduct the same type of spying on U.S. leaders.

For now, it seems safe to say that (nearly) everyone is spying on everyone, and that mass surveillance is certainly not a strictly American endeavor. 

James Lewis, a policy specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told the Wall Street Journal as much on Tuesday, saying that there’s a far-reaching web of sharing between countries.

“That the evil NSA and the wicked U.S. were the only ones engaged in this gross violation of international norms—that was the fairy tale,” he said. “It was never true. The U.S.’s behavior wasn’t outside the norm. It is the norm.”

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