US President Barack Obama has come under growing criticism over the country’s massive electronic surveillance bids across America and Europe as European leaders demand more details on the spying efforts from the US government.
Describing themselves as “stunned” over recent revelations of an extensive US surveillance program that included European citizens, top officials in Europe said Monday they would ask Washington for more information on the issue and discuss measures to further boost their already rigorous privacy laws,The Washington Postreports Tuesday.
The disappointment expressed by European authorities, the report says, pointed to the extent of the “fallout from the affair and to the potential for fresh strains between the United States and allies wary of American intrusiveness. ”
According to the report, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has vowed through a spokesman to raise the issue when she meets Obama in Berlin next week. This is while other German officials have expressed concerns about the evident monitoring of their citizens by the huge American electronic surveillance measures that extends to Europe and other countries. Senior European Union authorities have further vowed to express their concerns over the issue during their bilateral meeting with US officials this week. Meanwhile, in Britain, where the nation’s intelligence agencies have long maintained strong cooperation with their US counterparts, “a top official tried Monday to limit potential uproar, telling Parliament that the partnership had not been used to circumvent British laws, ” the daily adds. Furthermore, Viviane Reding, a European Commission vice president, plans to raise issues related to the NSA surveillance program during her Thursday meetings with US authorities, a spokeswoman is cited as saying. “A clear legal framework for the protection of personal data is not a luxury or constraint but a fundamental right, ” Reding reportedly said in a statement.
Despite the rising concerns, US officials continue to defend the massive surveillance bid on ordinary citizens. Asked Monday about concerns raised by European leaders, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Obama “believes when it comes to Section 702, which the director of national intelligence has discussed in some detail, that it’s entirely appropriate for a program to exist to look at, you know, foreign data and potential foreign terrorists. ”
Carney was referring to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, requiring the US government “to seek approval from a secret national security court to obtain the records of private citizens from communications companies, ” the report notes. The PRISM surveillance program, parts of which were described in the past week byThe Washington Postand UK - basedGuardiannewspaper, demonstrates that US spy agencies now have the power “to vacuum up data about telecommunications traffic across the world. ” An apparent snapshot from an NSA “Boundless Informant database” published on theGuardian’s Web site showed that in March 2013, foreign intelligence gathering by the US was primarily focused on the Middle East. For that month, more pieces of intelligence were gathered in Germany than anywhere else in Europe. Meanwhile, a group of American rights activists have staged a protest rally in Washington, calling for an end to US government’s surveillance programs and expressing support for former CIA computer technician Edward Snowden who recently exposed the expansive spying measures on tens of millions US citizens.