It’s completely understandable why average Europeans are beginning to turn anti-American:
US intelligence has been operating a global network of 80 eavesdropping centres, including 19 European listening posts in cities such as Paris, Berlin, Rome and Madrid, the German magazine Spiegel has reported.
The new revelations, which Spiegel said were based on leaked American intelligence documents, are certain to fuel international outrage at the sweeping scale of US international surveillance operations.
Spiegel also reported that the telephone number of Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, has been a target of US surveillance since 2002, when she was leader of the opposition.
Mrs Merkel, who telephoned President Barack Obama on Wednesday to express her anger at reports that her phone had been hacked, was still under surveillance until a few weeks before the US leader Berlin in June, Spiegel said.
Even before the latest reports, Germany said that it would send a high-level delegation to the US this week to demand answer s at the White House and National Security Agency (NSA) about the reports that Mrs Merkel’s phone was tapped. The team will include spy chiefs, German media reported.
I had an interesting experience this weekend that exposed how many Europeans feel about the NSA revelations. My team was playing an away game and I got a little lost trying to find a soccer field. Most villages have signs clearly marking where their main field is, but this one didn’t, so I stopped at a small restaurant where several people were hanging out on the deck, smoking and drinking.
They were obviously locals, so I parked the car, got out, and asked them where the field was. I was wearing my team’s jacket, and as we are known to have a few Portuguese players, one of the men asked me if I was Portuguese, most likely because of my accent. The two women both laughed at that and said: “but come on, look at him, he’s clearly not Portuguese.”
When I explained I was originally from America, the man made a face, held his hand up to his ear like a telephone, and said, “USA? Why are you listening to my mobile phone? Why are you listening to my phone calls?” He was joking, of course, as he promptly laughed, slapped me on the shoulder, and provided directions to the field, but it really startled me to discover that in a tiny village in the middle of nowhere, the immediate reaction to an American would be to bring up the NSA.
And the more elite Europeans aren’t blind to the opportunities presented by the scandal either. I spoke to several high-level investment executives over the last few weeks, and to a man, they see the scandal as being a reason for Europe to make a serious effort to break away from the technology chains of Google, Microsoft, Oracle, Twitter, Facebook, and other American companies that have dominated the world. The larger the corporation, the more determined they are to keep the US out of their emails and servers.
As more and more revelations of tech-enabled spying come out, it wouldn’t surprise me to see nations deciding to subsidize national alternatives and perhaps even eventually banning the use of American software. And why shouldn’t they? How can they possibly accept the status quo? It’s not inconceivable that the long-term result of using the NSA to spy on everyone through international business and the consequential shattering of trust may be a factor in the material reduction of transnational trade.
This isn’t merely a diplomatic or political scandal, it is probably an economic one as well.