EU Officials Furious Over Latest Snowden Revelations
(CN) - European Union officials expressed outrage anew over Edward Snowden's latest revelations that U.K. intelligence agencies helped the NSA target European charities and the EU's competition commissioner.
Top-secret documents leaked by the National Security Agency whistleblower over the weekend show that British intelligence agency GCHQ collaborated with the NSA to spy on aid agencies, including the United Nations development program, UNICEF and Medecins du Monde, a French organization that provides volunteer doctors and medical personnel to the world's conflict zones.
Additionally, the spy agencies targeted several high-ranking Israeli officials, including former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and then-Defense Minister Ehud Barak. But most difficult for EU officials to swallow has been the surveillance of the European Commission's Joaquin Almunia, who heads all antitrust and business practices investigations at the EU level.
"This piece of news follows a series of other revelations which, as we clearly stated in the past, if proven true, are unacceptable and deserve our strongest condemnation," said European Commission spokesperson Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen on Friday. "This is not the type of behavior that we expect from strategic partners, let alone from our own member states."
She noted that EU lawmakers have already fast-tracked a continentwide data-protection scheme, after revelations that the NSA targeted German Chancellor Angela Merkel and recorded more than 70 million telephone calls made by French citizens in a single month last December.
And the surveillance of government buildings in Berlin -- conducted by GCHQ -- has German lawmaker Hans-Christian Strobele seething.
"It's become increasingly clear that Britain has been more than the U.S.'s stooge in this surveillance scandal," Strobele told the Guardian newspaper. "Great Britain is not just any country. It is a country that we are supposed to be in a union with. It's incredible for one member of the European Union to spy on another -- it's like members of a family spying on each other."
Britain's intelligence agency said it is authorized to intercept communications "for the purpose of safeguarding the economic wellbeing of the U.K."
For its part, the NSA denied any specifics of its surveillance program while again claiming that everybody does it.
"As we have previously said, we do not use our foreign intelligence capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies on behalf of -- or give intelligence we collect to -- U.S. companies to enhance their international competitiveness or increase their bottom line," the agency said in a statement to the Guardian. "The United States collects foreign intelligence just as many other governments do."