U.S. Defends Surveillance on European Allies

Mike O'Brien

U.S. intelligence officials have defended its surveillance programs following allegations that it monitored European allies.

An official from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence played down the allegations, saying that the U.S. programs are similar to what other countries do.

He said the charges of spying, which were reported in Sunday’s German newsweekly Der Spiegel, will be discussed directly with European officials.

Some leaders reacted angrily to the reports, saying that allegations, if proven true, could threaten that ambitious EU-US trade talks scheduled to open next week.

The German chancellor Angela Merkel, (pictured), and French president, Franèois Hollande, described the disclosures of U.S. spying in Europe as unacceptable.

Ms. Merkel’s spokesman said: "We are no longer in the cold war. If it is confirmed that diplomatic representations of the European Union and individual European countries have been spied upon, we will clearly say that bugging friends is unacceptable.

"Mutual trust is necessary in order to come to an agreement."

Responding to allegations that U.S. agencies were secretly bugging the French embassy in Washington and France's office at the UN in New York, Mr. Hollande said: "We cannot accept this kind of behaviour between partners and allies. We ask that this stop immediately."

According to Der Spiegel, the National Security Agency planted bugs in the EU's diplomatic offices in Washington and infiltrated the building's computer network.

Similar measures were taken at the EU's mission to the United Nations in New York, the magazine said.

It also reported that the NSA used secure facilities at NATO headquarters in Brussels to dial into telephone maintenance systems that would have allowed it to intercept senior officials' calls and Internet traffic at a key EU office nearby.

In response, a NSA statement read: ""As a matter of policy, we have made clear that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations."

The statement added that U.S. officials planned to respond to the concerns with their EU counterparts and through diplomatic channels with specific nations.