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Snowden’s Ride, Part 9: Catherine Ashton, EU Defense and Intelligence Structure and the Muslim Brotherhood

Catherine Ashton

Enforcing austerity for the EU?

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COMMENT: Before doing summary posts (or, perhaps, broadcasts in lieu of that) we highlight some interesting developmets in connection with L’Affaire Snowden.

We have done numerous posts since the beginning of this dance macabre, and emphatically encourage users of this website to study them at length and in detail:  Part IPart IIPart IIIPart IVPart VPart VIPart VII, Part VIIIPart IXPart X, Part XI, Part XIIPart XIIIPart XIV, Part XV. It is well beyond the scope of this article to sum up the information presented in them. Users of this website are emphatically encouraged to examine them at length and detail.

In this post, we note an interesting development in EU defense and intelligence posture, justified as an outgrowth of the Snowden “disclosures” (note the quotes.)

The EU is planning to develop its own military and intelligence structure, including ” . . .  new spy drones and satellites for “internal and external security policies”, which will include police intelligence, the internet, protection of external borders and maritime surveillance . . . .”

This is being rationalized as necessary because: “. . . . The Edward Snowden scandal shows us that Europe needs its own autonomous security capabilities . . . .”

Critics have expressed concerns ” . . . . that the EU is creating its own version of the US National Security Agency. . . . ” 

Several aspects of this are striking:

  • As we have stressed so often, the information “disclosed” by Snowden is NOT new. Among the points we have highlighted in our coverage of L’Affaire Snowden is the fact that there was a major international controversy over the NSA/GCHQ Echelon operation years ago, which produced a report by the European Parliament. That report noted that several European countries operated in similar ways. So why is the revamp of European military and intelligence structure being done now? (See text excerpts below.)
  • As discussed in FTR #700, Catherine Ashton was seen as being a useful tool for the realization of German interests within the EU. (See text excerpts below.)
  • Ashton has also been active in ameliorating the situation of imprisoned Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi of Egypt. (See text excerpts below.)
  • Germany has been very active on behalf of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.  (See text excerpts below.) This comes as no surprise. In FTR #343–among other programs–we examined the Muslim Brotherhood’s heritage as an Islamic fascist organization, allied with the Axis in World War II. That program was subtitled: “Old Complicities That Go Back to the 1930’s.” 
  • Once in power following “The Muslim Brotherhood Spring,” as we called The Arab Spring, Morsi and the Brotherhood acted true to form and history.

Among the things that come to mind in connection with this:

  • Is Ashton’s minting of a new, EU intelligence/military structure being done at Germany’s instigation?
  • Will the drone force be used to help keep dissident EU states, institutions, populations and individuals in line?
  • Will the new EU military force be used in a similar fashion?
  • Will the collaboration between NSA and BND be decoupled, “by popular request” and “in keeping with democratic principle,” after the disclosures by Snowden?
  • Will the decoupling be used to allow greater operational latitude to Muslim Brotherhood and/or Nazi terrorists to act? 

Stay tuned!

“World Briefing | Europe: Report On U.S. Spy System” by Suzanne Daley; The New York Times; 9/6/2001.

EXCERPT: [Notice when this was published–9/6/2001.–D.E.] . . . The United States-led spying system known as Echelon can monitor virtually every communication in the world — by e-mail, phone or fax — that bounces off a satellite, the European Parliament was told. But in reporting on a yearlong study of the system that was prompted by concern that American companies were using data from the system to gain a competitive edge, Gerhard Schmid, a German member of the Parliament, said that many European countries had similar abilities . . .

“EU Planning to ‘Own and Operate’ Spy Drones and an Air Force” by Bruno Waterfield; The Telegraph [UK]; 7/26/2013.

EXCERPT: The European Union is planning to “own and operate” spy drones, surveillance satellites and aircraft as part of a new intelligence and security agency under the control of Baroness Ashton.

The controversial proposals are a major move towards creating an independent EU military body with its own equipment and operations, and will be strongly opposed by Britain.

Officials told the Daily Telegraph that the European Commission and Lady Ashton’s European External Action Service want to create military command and communication systems to be used by the EU for internal security and defence purposes. Under the proposals, purchasing plans will be drawn up by autumn.

The use of the new spy drones and satellites for “internal and external security policies”, which will include police intelligence, the internet, protection of external borders and maritime surveillance, will raise concerns that the EU is creating its own version of the US National Security Agency.

Senior European officials regard the plan as an urgent response to the recent scandal over American and British communications surveillance by creating EU’s own security and spying agency.

“The Edward Snowden scandal shows us that Europe needs its own autonomous security capabilities, this proposal is one step further towards European defence integration,” said a senior EU official. . . .

“Assertiveness”; German-Foreign-Policy.com; 8/12/2009.

EXCERPT: Berlin is insisting on access to essential posts in the European External Action Service (EEAS). According to news reports, the German government is demanding that the post of EEAS General Secretary be given to a German. Leading personnel from the Chancellery and the Foreign Ministry are being suggested. The general secretary heads the administration and is second only to the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, who is considered to be very weak, meaning that a German EEAS general secretary would have a free hand. The structuring of the EEAS is one of Berlin’s most essential objectives since the Lisbon Treaty took effect, reinforcing the EU on its path toward becoming a world power. As was expressed in Berlin’s foreign ministry, the basic features of the new administration must be institutionalized by April 2010, so that the British Conservatives, expected to be the victors of the next parliamentary elections in the spring of 2010, will not be able to have any influence. They are capable of putting up serious resistance to German hegemonic policy. . . .

“Morsi’s Visitors Leave a Mystery On Where He Is” by Kareem Fahim and Mayy  El Sheikh; 7/31/2013.

EXCERPT: Mohamed Morsi, deposed as president by the Egyptian military on July 3, is in good health, a trickle of visitors allowed access to him and his aides in recent days has revealed. Where he is, however, remains a mystery that has enraged his family and supporters, and aggravated Egypt’s crisis.

The most recent person to visit him, Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s top foreign policy official, was not blindfolded on Monday when she was taken to him, aides said. But she was flown by helicopter in the dark of night on the condition that she not reveal anything about Mr. Morsi’s whereabouts. . . .

“Egypt’s Future Should Include Broth­er­hood: Merkel” [AP]; Ahramonline; 7/14/2013.

EXCERPT: Ger­man Chan­cel­lor Angela Merkel is urg­ing Egypt’s new rulers not to exclude the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood from the polit­i­cal process as they work on plans for the future.

In an inter­view with ARD tele­vi­sion Sun­day, Merkel reit­er­ated Germany’s call for the release of Mohammed Morsi, a Broth­er­hood leader who was ousted as Egypt’s pres­i­dent by the mil­i­tary nearly two weeks ago. The U.S. has backed that call. . . .

“Updated: Ger­many calls for Morsi release in Egypt” [AFP]; Ahramonline; 7/12/2013.

EXCERPT: Ger­many on Fri­day called for the release of ousted Egypt­ian pres­i­dent Mohamed Morsi amid mount­ing ten­sions between sup­port­ers and oppo­nents over his overthrow.

“We call for an end to the restric­tions on Mr Morsi’s where­abouts,” a for­eign min­istry spokesman told reporters. . . .

“Broth­er­hood Must Play Role in Egypt Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion: Ger­man FM”; Ahramonline; 7/25/2013.

EXCERPT: Ger­man For­eign Min­is­ter Guido West­er­welle has urged all par­ties in Egypt to find a prompt solu­tion to the country’s polit­i­cal cri­sis, Al-Ahram Ara­bic news web­site reported.

West­er­welle issued a state­ment on Thurs­day stress­ing that Egypt’s future can­not be decided by “confrontations.”

Egypt’s demo­c­ra­tic tran­si­tion requires the Mus­lim Brotherhood’s inclu­sion in the polit­i­cal scene, he added. “Paving the way for a sta­ble future will not be achieved unless the demo­c­ra­tic tran­si­tion includes all civil­ian leaders.” . . .

“Morsi Release Would Aid Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, Asserts Ger­man Ambas­sador” by Sarah El-Rashidi; Ahramonline; 7/2013.

EXCERPT: Ger­man Ambas­sador to Egypt Michael Bock has clar­i­fied his country’s posi­tion dur­ing a small press meet­ing attended by Ahram Online Wednes­day at the Ger­man Embassy in Cairo fol­low­ing a con­tentious state­ment made by the Ger­man for­eign min­istry call­ing for the release of deposed pres­i­dent Mohamed Morsi.

The state­ment was widely con­demned among Egyp­tians amidst ongo­ing polit­i­cal upheaval between sup­port­ers and oppo­nents of Morsi’s removal.

“We call for an end to the restric­tions on Mr Morsi’s where­abouts and sug­gest a trusted insti­tu­tion be granted access to Morsi,” stated a Ger­man for­eign min­istry spokesman Fri­day, iden­ti­fy­ing the Inter­na­tional Com­mit­tee of the Red Cross as a cred­i­ble body for the task. . . .



10 comments for “Snowden’s Ride, Part 9: Catherine Ashton, EU Defense and Intelligence Structure and the Muslim Brotherhood”

  1. Here’s a story that highlights one of the biggest long-term risks that the global response to the NSA-scandal: the balkanization of the internet into national/regional networks:

    Why NSA Surveillance Will Be More Damaging Than You Think
    The real threat from terrorism is not the harm it inflicts directly but the over-reaction it provokes. We saw that with the invasion of Iraq. We’re seeing it with security-state overreach.
    James Fallows Jul 30 2013, 4:39 AM ET

    This column over the weekend, by the British academic John Naughton in the Guardian, takes us one more step in assessing the damage to American interests in the broadest sense– commercial, strategic, ideological – from the panopticon approach to “security” brought to us by NSA-style monitoring programs.

    Naughton’s essay doesn’t technically tell us anything new. For instance, see earlier reports like this, this, and this. But it does sharpen the focus in a useful way. Whoever wrote the headline and especially the subhead did a great job of capturing the gist:

    Edward Snowden’s not the story. The fate of the internet is
    The press has lost the plot over the Snowden revelations. The fact is that the net is finished as a global network and that US firms’ cloud services cannot be trusted

    In short: because of what the U.S. government assumed it could do with information it had the technological ability to intercept, American companies and American interests are sure to suffer in their efforts to shape and benefit from the Internet’s continued growth.

    * American companies, because no foreigners will believe these firms can guarantee security from U.S. government surveillance;
    * American interests, because the United States has gravely compromised its plausibility as world-wide administrator of the Internet’s standards and advocate for its open, above-politics goals.

    Why were U.S. authorities in a position to get at so much of the world’s digital data in the first place? Because so many of the world’s customers have trusted* U.S.-based firms like Google, Yahoo, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, etc with their data; and because so many of the world’s nations have tolerated an info-infrastructure in which an outsized share of data flows at some point through U.S. systems. Those are the conditions of trust and toleration that likely will change.

    The problem for the companies, it’s worth emphasizing, is not that they were so unduly eager to cooperate with U.S. government surveillance. Many seem to have done what they could to resist. The problem is what the U.S. government — first under Bush and Cheney, now under Obama and Biden — asked them to do. As long as they operate in U.S. territory and under U.S. laws, companies like Google or Facebook had no choice but to comply. But people around the world who have a choice about where to store their data, may understandably choose to avoid leaving it with companies subject to the way America now defines its security interests.

    Here’s Naughton’s version of the implications:

    The first is that the days of the internet as a truly global network are numbered. It was always a possibility that the system would eventually be Balkanised, ie divided into a number of geographical or jurisdiction-determined subnets as societies such as China, Russia, Iran and other Islamic states decided that they needed to control how their citizens communicated. Now, Balkanisation is a certainty….

    Second, the issue of internet governance is about to become very contentious. Given what we now know about how the US and its satraps have been abusing their privileged position in the global infrastructure, the idea that the western powers can be allowed to continue to control it has become untenable…. Nothing, but nothing, that is stored in their [ie, US-based companies] “cloud” services can be guaranteed to be safe from surveillance or from illicit downloading by employees of the consultancies employed by the NSA.

    The real threat from terrorism has never been the damage it does directly, even through attacks as horrific as those on 9/11. The more serious threat comes from the over-reaction, the collective insanity or the simple loss of perspective, that an attack evokes. Our government’s ambition to do everything possible to keep us “safe” has put us at jeopardy in other ways.

    The true balkanization of the internet seems unlikely at this point (easier said than done), but it will be very interesting to see if we begin seeing real long-range plans for something like national intranets (remember Minitel?). The idea sounds absurd at this point for just about any nation to sort of blackout the rest of the world, but, as Fallows points out in the above article, the threat of a government going crazy after an attack is very real. And while the era of major nation-threatening cyber-attacks has yet to emerge, we’re getting close:

    CSO Online
    Iran to shield itself from cyberattack using secure intranet
    Talks up plans for anti-Internet

    By John E Dunn

    August 07, 2012 — Techworld — Iran appears to be pressing ahead with its promise to establish a “national information network” that could unhitch some of the country’s most vulnerable government systems from the Internet as part of an experiment in digital isolation.

    According to an unsourced report in the Daily Telegraph, the country’s telecommunications minister Reza Taghipour used a conference at Amir Kabir University at the weekend to firm up plans for what amounts to huge national Intranet. But what is its purpose?

    “The establishment of the national intelligence network will create a situation where the precious intelligence of the country won’t be accessible to these powers,” Taghipour reportedly said, making reference to attempts by the country’s enemies to hack into its national systems.

    For anyone familiar with Stuxnet, Duqu and the more recent Flame malware, Iran’s paranoia about cyberattack is far from misplaced. It is no secret that the country is smack in the firing line of foreign intelligence agencies.

    From the plans alluded to by the Iranians in the past, the system being proposed sounds like a version of China’s great firewall with fewer points of ingress. That won’t remotely shield protect the country’s infrastructure from prying by the country’s enemies; intranets are just as prone to hacking if that can be launched from within.

    Not coincidentally, the creation of a sort of decoupled Intranet will also make it easier to control dissident communication within the country, forcing them to traverse infrastructure that can be monitored by the state. Some will see this as the main motivation.

    Blissful isolation is a theme that Iran’s technocrats touch on with notable frequency. In the past, the country has proposed creating its own PC operating system in order to escape the clutches of Western software and even its own antivirus software programme.

    Much of this sounds aspirational – some of the threat to the country comes from people who dislike the regime within Iran itself – but what the country did reportedly start blocking sites that use SSL security such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as banning Gmail.

    National intranets for specific critical infrastructure might make a lot of sense, especially as cyberwarfare capabilities progress. Cyberwarfare is going to make national internet security a national security issue everywhere. It’s just a matter of time. And that could make things like domestic and foreign spying quite messy because the best cyber defense is having the best cyber offense and that will include enhanced foreign and domestic spying capabilities. A massive expansion of global surveillance capabilities by nations around the world has been a global trend for years. So let’s hope national intranets or new militarized Chinese-Firewalls or worse don’t become part of that trend:

    Montreal Gazette
    U.S. surveillance puts Internet governance at risk

    Americans now face issue of lost trust

    By Michael Geist, Ottawa Citizen July 30, 2013

    One year ago, many users were engaged in a contentious debate over the question of who should govern the Internet. The debate pitted the current model led by a U.S.-based organization known as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN, supported by the U.S.) against a government-led, United Nations-style model under which countries such as China and Russia could assert greater control over Internet governance. The differences between the two approaches were never as stark as some portrayed since the current model grants the U.S. considerable contractual power over ICANN, but the fear of greater foreign government control over the Internet led to strong political opposition to UN involvement.

    While supporters of the current model ultimately prevailed at a UN conference in Dubai last December where most Western democracies, including Canada, strongly rejected major Internet governance reforms, the issue was fundamentally about trust. Given that all governments have become more vocal about Internet matters, the debate was never over whether government would be involved, but rather about who the global Internet community trusted to lead on governance matters.

    Not only do the surveillance programs themselves raise enormous privacy and civil liberties concerns, but oversight and review is conducted almost entirely in secret with little or no ability to guard against misuse. In fact, U.S. officials have now acknowledged providing inaccurate information on the programs to elected politicians, raising further questions about who is watching the watchers.

    The surveillance programs have emerged as a contentious political issue in the U.S., and there are several reasons why the reverberations are likely to extend to the global Internet governance community. First, the element of trust has been severely compromised. Supporters of the current Internet governance model frequently pointed to Internet surveillance and the lack of accountability within countries such as China and Russia as evidence of the danger of a UN-led model. With the public now aware of the creation of a massive, secret U.S.-backed Internet surveillance program, the U.S. has ceded the moral high ground on the issue.

    Second, as the scope of the surveillance becomes increasingly clear, many countries are likely to opt for a balkanized Internet in which they do not trust other countries with the security or privacy of their networked communications. This could lead to new laws requiring companies to store their information domestically to counter surveillance of the data as it crosses borders or resides on computer servers located in the U.S. In fact, some may go further by resisting the interoperability of the Internet that we now take for granted.

    Third, some of those same countries may demand similar levels of access to personal information from the Internet giants. This could create a “privacy race to the bottom,” where governments around the world create parallel surveillance programs, ensuring that online privacy and co-operative Internet governance is a thing of the past.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 1, 2013, 9:05 pm
  2. Down we go…


    Aug 2, 9:51 AM EDT

    Germany nixes surveillance pact with US, Britain

    Associated Press

    BERLIN (AP) — Germany canceled a Cold War-era surveillance pact with the United States and Britain on Friday in response to revelations by National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden about those countries’ alleged electronic eavesdropping operations.

    Chancellor Angela Merkel had raised the issue of alleged National Security Agency spying with President Barack Obama when he visited Berlin in June. But with weeks to go before national elections, opposition parties had demanded clarity about the extent to which her government knew of the intelligence gathering operations directed at Germany and German citizens.

    Government officials have insisted that U.S. and British intelligence were never given permission to break Germany’s strict privacy laws. But they conceded that an agreement dating back to the late 1960s gave the U.S., Britain and France the right to request German authorities to conduct surveillance operations within Germany to protect their troops stationed there.

    “The cancellation of the administrative agreements, which we have pushed for in recent weeks, is a necessary and proper consequence of the recent debate about protecting personal privacy,” Germany’s Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said in a statement.

    Posted by participo | August 2, 2013, 7:04 am
  3. @Pterrafractyl–

    A similar column in the Guardian by James Naughton makes this same point.


    I added it to “Snowden’s Ride,” Part 5.

    Keep up the Great Work!

    Dave Emory

    Posted by Dave Emory | August 2, 2013, 4:12 pm
  4. @Participo–

    This happened the very day on which I posted Snowden’s Ride, Part 9.

    Right on time!

    Stay vigilant and keep up the great work!



    Posted by Dave Emory | August 2, 2013, 4:14 pm
  5. http://www.egyptindependent.com/news/exclusive-obama-agrees-meeting-brotherhood-sources-say
    Exclusive: Obama agrees to meeting with Brotherhood, sources say

    Tue, 06/08/2013 – 01:12
    Moner Adib
    Egypt Independent

    U.S. President Barack Obama has agreed to meet with Muslim Brotherhood representatives at the White House, sources told Egypt Independent.

    Obama would reportedly meet with Brotherhood officials to “hear their opinion” on developments in Egypt, in the presence of Turkish diplomats.

    Egypt Independent heard from sources inside the Muslim Brotherhood that Islamist-linked billionaire Hassen Malek requested a meeting through Obama’s office manager.

    The meeting with Turkish officials is expected to take place this month.

    Turkish diplomats are expected to push for Mohamed Morsy’s reinstatement as Egyptian president, sources said, if not that the Muslim Brotherhood would be assured of political survival following a month-long violent stand-off with the armed forces in the wake of Morsy’s overthrow.

    Over 300 people have been reported killed since army chief and Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced Morsy’s ouster on 3 July.

    The U.S. has repeatedly supported the Muslim Brotherhood’s ascendancy in Egypt, researcher Mohamed Hasanein Heikahl said.

    While a number of Brotherhood leaders have publicly criticized the U.S. stance, accusing the Obama administration of “playing a role in Morsy’s overthrow,” they are said to be hoping for a shift as tentative talks continue with Egypt’s interim administration.

    Posted by Vanfield | August 6, 2013, 11:17 am
  6. While it’s hard to imagine that built-in back-doors in hardware and software was suddenly a new concern for Russia’s military, here’s a reminder that the massive and pointless global defense-related exports industry might also be vulnerable to a further collapse in cross-border trust:

    Russia should use own electronics in defense industry: deputy PM
    Reuters News | Jul 29, 2013

    By Alexei Anishchuk

    NOVO-OGARYOVO, Russia (Reuters) – Russia’s defense industry is cutting down on its use of foreign electronics as a result of leaks by ex-U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden, a Russian government official said on Monday.

    Snowden’s actions in divulging details of U.S. government intelligence programs had shown the need for arms makers to be careful in importing any equipment that contained software capable of transmitting sensitive data abroad, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said.

    Rogozin specifically referred to foreign-made lathes.

    “Those lathes contain software which can have certain settings. They could either shut down at some point or transmit certain data about the engineering parameters of an assignment (in progress),” Rogozin, who oversees the defense industry, told reporters after a meeting on arms contracts chaired by President Vladimir Putin.

    Russian officials have denied that Snowden has been debriefed by Russian security services.

    “If we talk about electronic components used widely in the navy, air force and armored vehicles, not to mention space … here we will also stick to the necessity of key electronic components being produced in Russia,” Rogozin, Russia’s former ambassador to NATO, said.

    The Russian defense industry has been crippled by under financing after the fall of the Soviet Union and domestic electronic engineering has largely fallen behind, forcing producers to rely on foreign-made electronics.

    And in case anyone is curious about how Russia’s defense industry would catch up technologically in the area of microchips, they’re working on it:

    The New York Times
    F.B.I. Says Russians Smuggled Out U.S. Microchips
    Published: October 4, 2012

    MOSCOW — Russian officials had a muted response on Thursday to a potentially embarrassing revelation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation that it had uncovered a ring of Russian agents that was smuggling microchips out of the United States.

    The scheme focused on chips and other electronic components that are commonplace enough in the United States to circulate freely in the domestic market. But their export still requires a license, lest the electronics wind up in the foreign military equipment of countries unable to manufacture the components themselves.

    For Russia, the unraveling of this Houston-based network of chip buyers, if upheld in court, would signify a second major failure in spycraft since 2010, when federal agents arrested a circle of Russian agents posing as American suburbanites. Within weeks, members of that group — including a young woman, Anna Chapman — were traded for four men imprisoned in Russia.

    The real blow to Russian scientific pride is the suggestion that the country’s military and intelligence agencies are still reduced to stealing commercially available chips from the United States, after years of failing to create a computer industry here.

    The chips, which the F.B.I. said had been bought by a Houston company called Arc Electronics Inc. that falsely presented itself as a manufacturer of traffic lights, reportedly wound up in such vaunted Russian weapons as MIG fighter jets and anti-ship missiles.

    The F.B.I. unsealed the indictment on Wednesday against 11 people, all from the former Soviet Union, some of them naturalized American citizens, including the man accused of being the ringleader Alexander Fishenko, co-owner of Arc Electronics, an electrical engineer from Kazakhstan who studied in St. Petersburg, Russia.

    Eight are in custody; all are accused of various licensing and weapons trading violations punishable with long prison sentences of up to 20 years. Mr. Fishenko is also accused of being a Russian agent. Though the company was in Houston, the case will be heard in the Eastern District of New York because the group shipped microchips to Russia from Kennedy International Airport.

    The Russian inability to make microchips goes back decades and has sapped the confidence of generations of engineers here. In the late Soviet period it bared, dramatically, the ever-widening technological gap with the United States. Russians took to bragging darkly that Soviet microchips here were the biggest in the world.

    The smuggled American chips, the F.B.I. said, could be used in missile guidance systems, radar, police surveillance equipment or bomb triggers.

    Through the day Thursday, Russian military companies came forward to deny that their products contained American chips, not to speak of those apparently first bought under the pretext they would be used in traffic lights.

    One unnamed representative of the MIG fighter airplane company told the Russian Information Agency that there were no American chips in its latest, ostensibly high-tech airplane, the MIG-35. “We certainly don’t steal anything from the United States.”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 6, 2013, 6:59 pm
  7. Ummmm…since this wasn’t exactly a tiny, insignificant contract and the German elections are only months away, just how urgently does Saudi Arabia need those tanks?

    General Dynamics to beat out Germany for Saudi tank deal-report

    FRANKFURT, July 12 | Fri Jul 12, 2013 3:06am EDT

    (Reuters) – U.S. defence firm General Dynamics is in talks to deliver battle tanks to Saudi Arabia, beating out German rival Krauss-Maffei Wegmann for the lucrative deal, a German newspaper reported.

    Handelsblatt daily cited industry sources as saying on Friday that a deal for Saudi Arabia to buy M1 Abrams tanks from General Dynamics was already in sight.

    General Dynamics and Krauss-Maffei Wegmann were not immediately available for comment.

    There has been speculation for months that Saudi Arabia could order more than 200 Leopard 2 tanks from Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, though the company has never confirmed such reports.

    According to other unconfirmed media reports, Germany gave pre-approval for the export of 270 Leopard 2 tanks to Saudi Arabia in 2011.

    Defence sources in Germany have said that the German government wanted to hold off making a decision until after federal elections in September, and Handelsblatt speculated on Friday that Saudi Arabia was no longer willing to wait.

    Arms exports are a sensitive issue in Germany given its Nazi past as well as the role arms makers such as Krupp played in feeding 19th and 20th century wars with exports to both sides of conflicts.

    Peer Steinbrueck, a leader of the opposition Social Democrats running against German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the election, has criticised her government for letting arms exports surge.

    After World War Two, successive West German and later united German governments placed tight restrictions on arms exports, especially to regions where there were armed conflicts or where human rights were poorly respected.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 6, 2013, 7:29 pm
  8. With the latest leak of NSA documents showing internal audits that found 2776 privacy violations from April 2011 to March of 2012 at Fort Meade and the Washington DC area alone and hints that this is just “the tip of the iceberg“, the NSA has pushed back arguing that these were accidental and while 2776 might sound like a lot of violations it’s a tiny fraction of the nearly 20 million queries conducted by the agency each month. This, of course, raises the question of whether or not 20 million queries a month (about 666k per day) is an alarmingly high number of queries to be conducting every month or not? But it ALSO raises the question of whether or not these were all queries conducted on behalf of US agencies. Where all those 20 million queries targeting people within the US? Or did this involve, for instance, the metadata on 500 million calls that the BND sends to the NSA each month and were the queries done on behalf of the BND? That kind of info would put the “20 million queries per month” number in a somewhat different kind of alarming context.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 17, 2013, 5:46 pm
  9. With the latest leak of NSA documents showing internal audits that found 2776 privacy violations from April 2011 to March of 2012 at Fort Meade and the Washington DC area alone and hints that this is just “the tip of the iceberg“, the NSA has pushed back arguing that these were accidental and while 2776 might sound like a lot of violations it’s a tiny fraction of the nearly 20 million queries conducted by the agency each month. This, of course, raises the question of whether or not 20 million queries a month (about 666k per day) is an alarmingly high number of queries to be conducting every month or not? But it ALSO raises the question of whether or not these were all queries conducted on behalf of US agencies. Where all those 20 million queries targeting people within the US? Or did this involve, for instance, the metadata on 500 million calls that the BND sends to the NSA each month and were some of the queries done on behalf of the BND? That kind of info would put the “20 million queries per month” number in a somewhat different kind of alarming context.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 17, 2013, 5:49 pm
  10. It’ll be interesting to see if EU officials decide to pull a ‘Romney’ over the leaked “F*ck the EU” phone call. With Merkel describing it as “absolutely unacceptable” and calls for Victoria Nuland’s resignation already coming from some EU MPs, “F*ck the EU” might become the latest rhetorical Rorschach test for US/EU relations:

    The Washington Post
    Germans not amused by Nuland gaffe

    By Anthony Faiola, Updated: Friday, February 7, 10:33 AM

    BERLIN – Germans were already smarting from revelations that U.S. intelligence listened in on the phone conversations of Chancellor Angela Merkel. Then came Nulandgate.

    On Thursday, a video was posted on YouTube in which Victoria Nuland, the top U.S. diplomat for Europe, disparagingly dismissed European Union efforts to mediate the ongoing crisis in the Ukraine by bluntly saying “F— the E.U.” On Friday, Merkel, through press attaché Christiane Wirtz, described the gaffe as “absolutely unacceptable,” and defended the efforts of Catherine Ashton, the E.U.’s foreign policy chief.

    “The chancellor finds these remarks absolutely unacceptable and wants to emphasize that Mrs. Ashton is doing an outstanding job,” Wirtz said.

    Still freshly furious over the phone-tapping scandals, Germans took to Twitter and other social media in a litany of bitter comments. “Since we know now that the leadership circles in the USA don’t give a s— about Europe, we should just stop the Free Trade Agreement,” came one Tweet from @kl1lercher, referring to ongoing negations to forge a transatlantic free trade deal. Meanwhile, a spokesman for the German foreign ministry told a media briefing Friday that “this just goes to show once more that wiretapping is stupid.”

    Some German media, however, were quick to warn against overreaction. Der Spiegel online published an opinion column titled “Relax, Europe.”

    “Europe should simply laugh about the American F-word,” the outlet said in an editorial that also offered a critique of the E.U.’s diplomatic efforts in the Ukraine. “Some humor would do no harm to the transatlantic relationship at the moment.”

    In Brussels, E.U. officials remained publicly mum. Though the story played big across the continent, the official response beyond Germany appeared relatively muted. But the Germans were not only ones smarting. Reactions among Austrian members of the European Parliament ranged from outrage to schadenfreude. Joerg Leichtfried, leader of the Austrian Social Democratic delegation in the European Parliament, said: “Victoria Nuland must step down after these remarks, otherwise there has to be a suspension of negotiations about the E.U.-U.S. free trade agreement. Ms. Nuland, with such remarks, is a complete miscast for her office and not able anymore to mediate between the E.U. and the U.S. in a positive manner,” he told the Austrian press agency APA, according to the daily Die Presse.

    Nevertheless, analysts said the unscripted moment served to underscore a serious point: the increasingly strained nature of the U.S. relationship with continental Europe – first and foremost, Germany. In the aftermath of the exposure by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden of U.S. intelligence-gathering efforts in the region, distrust of the American agenda there has markedly jumped.

    Experts say the image of the United States has deeply suffered, with the Nuland gaffe reinforcing perceptions of American heavy-handedness at a highly sensitive time. This week, for instance, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper published fresh allegations that the United States had wiretapped former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. In response, Schroeder gave an interview to the Bild newspaper in which he said, “The U.S. has no respect for a loyal ally and for the sovereignty of our country.”

    Olaf Boehnke, head of the Berlin office of the European Council on Foreign Relations, said the gaffe could not have come at a worst time. To some extent, German officials – particularly Merkel – have sought to put the wiretapping scandal behind them, pragmatically attempting to move forward and mend the transatlantic relationship. Nuland’s comments, he said, had just made that effort more difficult, particularly with the increasingly skeptical German public.

    “It was really the worst thing that could happen; Germans will be going home tonight to discuss this at dinner,” Boehnke said. “It fits into a broader picture that German people have of the U.S. betraying the trust in them.”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 7, 2014, 10:24 am

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