Obama To Angry Europeans: Hey, Come On, You Guys Spy On Us Too, Right? Right?

from the what's-a-little-spying-among-friends dept

When the news of the US spying on EU embassies and various other official buildings came out over the weekend, we noted that this really wasn't that surprising, as it appeared to be very typical espionage -- the kind that has happened for decades, if not centuries. Still, it's not entirely clear that President Obama's response to this controversy is particularly tactful. He basically uses the "hey, come on guys, we're all doing this to each other, right?" excuse:
"We should stipulate that every intelligence service – not just ours, but every European intelligence service, every Asian intelligence service, wherever there's an intelligence service … here's one thing that they're going to be doing: they're going to be trying to understand the world better and what's going on in world capitals," he told a press conference during a long-scheduled trip Tanzania. "If that weren't the case, then there'd be no use for an intelligence service."

"And I guarantee you that in European capitals, there are people who are interested in, if not what I had for breakfast, at least what my talking points might be should I end up meeting with their leaders. That's how intelligence services operate," Obama added.
While I still think that this particular revelation is hardly that surprising, and agree that it's almost certain that various European countries are doing the same sort of thing to the US, I do wonder if that's the most tactful response to the growing controversy. Still, I do wonder if the focus on this will take away from the much larger issue of using intelligence services not to spy on other governments, but on the public via mass dragnet collections of information.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    yaga (profile), Jul 2nd, 2013 @ 11:31am

    Of course it will.

    The comment, and just about all the responses so far, are meant to move the discussion to a different issue.

     

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    Lord Binky, Jul 2nd, 2013 @ 11:38am

    Such a modest statement. Obviously not self-centered.

    Anyways, compairing the desire for information and the gathering of it between a single high profile public figure such as the president of a country to lower profile people is simply stupid as calling Snowden a hacker.

     

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    Lord Binky, Jul 2nd, 2013 @ 11:42am

    Nip it at the bud.

    Why not collapse those intelligence agencies by removing their entire purpose as stated. Open and transparent government thwarts those agencies correct? So you just have to release what you had for breakfast or what your talking points would be if you met their leaders, right?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2013 @ 11:50am

    I know my country, and many other small countries, can't afford these programs (what with all our social healthcare and all) putting us at an even bigger disadvantage against these bigger countries.

     

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      jupiterkansas (profile), Jul 2nd, 2013 @ 11:54am

      Re:

      Nor do you need them. Most of this stuff is a total waste of money. However, you are putting your tax dollars to good work.

      Let's see, spend billions of dollars trying to stop someone from killing Americans, or spend billions of dollars on health care for Americans. Which effort will save more lives?

       

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        Steve R. (profile), Jul 2nd, 2013 @ 12:27pm

        Taliban Retaliation

        Spending billions to "stop" someone from killing Americans will be a never ending cycle. Pakistani Taliban (June 23, 2013) killed nine in "retaliation" for US drone strikes. Will the US now increase the number of drone strikes in retaliation?

         

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          Digger, Jul 2nd, 2013 @ 6:53pm

          Re: Taliban Retaliation

          Nope. Just drop a few tactical nukes, problem solved.

          Anyone else attacks, drop a few more.

          Pretty soon, no more punk-assed-fucking-morons around to whine when we paint images of M on every missile we send over.

           

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            Uriel-238 (profile), Jul 2nd, 2013 @ 9:48pm

            Re: Re: Taliban Retaliation

            Nope. Just drop a few tactical nukes, problem solved.

            Scorched Earth?

            It remains to me a hope for humanity that even when nukes have been in the hands of religious radicals (low-ranking Pakistani and Indian officers, many of whom are quite fanatical) that we still haven't seen one used in hostility even once. (The pre-nuclear atom bombs of WWII notwithstanding; Castle Bravo was the start of the nuclear age.)

            It would be a stupid and terrible mistake for the president to authorize the use of nuclear weapons, even in the case of a retaliatory strike (and yes, I know according to MAD that's what we're supposed to do -- it would still be a mistake.)

            We're not going to nuke the Taliban, no matter how much like a caricature evil overlord they become.

             

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          Xploding_Cobra (profile), Jul 2nd, 2013 @ 7:56pm

          Re: Taliban Retaliation

          Yes.

          There. See how easy that was?

           

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        Anonymous Coward, Jul 3rd, 2013 @ 10:41am

        Re: Re:

        The truth is the state doing either is a waste of money. The difference is if the state didn't do either healthcare would still happen.

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2013 @ 1:37pm

      Re:

      Well, in a lot of cases, there is sharing of data between intelligence services as long as the data do not reveal anything particularly disturbing about their own countries (USA even brags about a specific case concerning a small european country, for why secret services are necessary!).

      The general problem is the extend of surveillance and the lack of rights afforded those being spied on. If USA has specific surveillance on every single non-american, I will bet you that some other countries will have the same data on every single american.

      Secret services and their spying on foreigners is a weapon race. If one party is gathering data on another, the opposing countries will look to match that and then some.
      Add to that, the refusal to recognize rights for foreign citizens concerning surveillance and you have got a completely out of control surveillance weapons race with no actual limitation except for a little subset concerning own citizens that they want as close to eliminated as possible...

      This exact case is just politicians posturing. Merkel do not care in the slightest except for the upcoming election. France does care a little, insofar that it can be used in the TAFTA negotiations to push out cultural products from the deal and strenghten IPR. Most other countries do not care at all. Only a few EU parliamentarians really go at it and a few countries with upcoming elections. Mostly this is absolutely nothing major, but a small advantage in TAFTA negotiations. If it isn't they have promised to slaughter the TAFTA negotiation entirely...

       

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    Steve R. (profile), Jul 2nd, 2013 @ 11:54am

    Breeding Paranoia

    Every country spies on every other country. A no brainer. If spying is no big deal, why is the Obama administration promoting a culture of fear? Why the incessant increasing hysterical irrational demands for ever greater "security" to "protect" us from those "attacking" the US?

     

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    Chuck (profile), Jul 2nd, 2013 @ 11:56am

    I believe Obama just justified Tit-for-Tat hacking. Does anyone know how Obama likes his eggs? If not, I think anyone is justified in finding out now. After all, he spied on you, so you can spy on him too.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2013 @ 12:02pm

    "Hey, everyone enjoys a good wine with his meal now and then.", is it? That will fly when people start to suspect you have a little drinking problem. Won't do much good when they find you in the gutter cradling a 2 liter bottle whilst sniffing glue.

     

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    Kiwini, Jul 2nd, 2013 @ 12:06pm

    Did you expect something different?.

    "Hey, Come On, You Guys Spy On Us Too, Right? Right?"

    Evidently our current so-called POTUS thinks that two wrongs makes it all right, especially when he's doing it at a far higher/more expensive level than the rest of the world.

    It's never his fault, and the answer from the White House is always denial. How long before he blames it on a previous president?.

     

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      That One Guy (profile), Jul 2nd, 2013 @ 12:12pm

      Re: Did you expect something different?.

      To be fair a number of these programs did come about under the previous president, though he's just as guilty, as he continued them.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2013 @ 12:07pm

    Come on, even W played Civilization.. he knows how the game is played. Get caught spying: target nation gets upset, remit profuse apologies or extend middle finger. Inverse and repeat.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2013 @ 12:09pm

    It reminds me of that guy in Hill Street Blues that used to say: let's do it to them before they it to us.
    An updated version might go something like:
    Anything they can do, we can do better ('cause we're damn yankees and we doe everything bigger, better, faster).

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2013 @ 12:10pm

    i think a real kicker is the UK. it is spying on US citizens as well as those in the UK and from what i understand, exchanging info with the US. that is a way for the US to say it isn't spying on it's own citizens. however, as a member of the EU, the UK must be exchanging info with the EU as well. talk about covering your options!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2013 @ 12:17pm

    More of the ole "Point the finger rather than accept blame" game.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2013 @ 12:25pm

    "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!"

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2013 @ 12:29pm

    What happened to ...

    all the bogeyman stories about the Chinese? I was told only rogue terrorists and scary east-asian countries do this sort of spying. Wasn't that the whole propaganda behind our cyber-security legislation?
    Now it's no big deal - everyone's doing it.

     

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    Internet Zen Master (profile), Jul 2nd, 2013 @ 12:34pm

    France Doesn't Get to Complain

    The NSA's spying apparatus is focused on national security, the French have been actively engaged in state-sponsored industrial espionage since the 1980s, if not before.

    http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19930418&slug=1696416

    Not only have they spied on the US, they've done it to the UK as well.

    http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Industrial+espionage+incident+revealed+involving+BAe+and+Airb us...-a062833503

    And according to cables released by Wikileaks back in 2011, they're the #1 country when it comes to industrial espionage.

    http://www.france24.com/en/20110104-france-industrial-espionage-economy-germany-russia-china-bus iness

    In other words, the rest of the EU can feel free to tear Obama a new one over the spying scandal, but the French aren't invited to the "shock and outrage" party.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2013 @ 12:48pm

    No, they probably do not

    I haven't heard of any European spy ending up exposed in remotely recent history. Given sheer cumulative odds I'd expect at least one exposure.Either they have elite operatives who make the CIA and KGB at its peek look like rank amateurs without showing any signs of nurturing or recruiting their talent or they're more likely than not spying. If they have any "spies" they're probably more newspaper forwarders. Hell, international news organizations do that job for near free for them.

    Germany in particular has the whole lesson of the Stasi and would likely crucify any party that wanted to start spying. They also most likely don't have the hypocritical and imperialistic "foreign people don't count" attitude.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2013 @ 12:53pm

    Lol USA has sunk so low even when it has an intelligent president he trots the same moronic logic.

    Then again, it's not so funny. The stupidity cancer that has grown untreated so long in the US is spreading to other countries.

     

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      Uriel-238 (profile), Jul 2nd, 2013 @ 2:43pm

      The stupidity cancer

      It's not so funny when you're in the US...or any other country whose politicians suffer from the same affliction.

      As per any societal disease, it isn't cured by electing the right guy back into office. I'm pretty sure Obama was the right guy. I'm pretty sure he believed his promises as a candidate. I think anyone who succeeds him is going to suffer from the same attitude adjustment.

      ...same as the old boss.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2013 @ 12:55pm

    Wait a minute!

    Isn't this about whether or not our government is doing what the public wants them to do, not what the government thinks they should be doing to the public?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2013 @ 1:01pm

    You can tell that Obama wasn't just backed by Hollywood during both his presidential campaigns....I mean look at the Hollywood stance he has on espionage.

    Given that, what European nations would be interested in such chenangins? About the only country we need to worry about in that is North Korea and they are totally incapable of making a standpoint on that.

     

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    Richard (profile), Jul 2nd, 2013 @ 1:07pm

    How we have fallen

    Since the days of Henry Stimson who said:
    "Gentlemen do not read each others mail"

     

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      Internet Zen Master (profile), Jul 2nd, 2013 @ 1:17pm

      Re: How we have fallen

      Name one politician currently in office that even comes close to the Henry Stimson definition of a "gentleman". I can't really think of any ('course, I'm multi-tasking so that's part of the problem).

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2013 @ 1:21pm

    Misdirection and again the idea that we just have to weather the storm and everything will go back to business as usual.

    You hear nothing in this about we screwed up and while it might have been legal given that it passed through congress, it is still unconstitutional.

    Funny how that is being avoided in being mentioned.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2013 @ 1:24pm

    Politeness

    It is impolite for a politician who has been caught out to remind others that they are also guilty as the only crime in politics is being caught,

     

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    Votre (profile), Jul 2nd, 2013 @ 2:37pm

    "Hey, Come On, You Guys Spy On Us Too, Right? Right?"

    ------------------

    Yeah...maybe...but they don't carry it to such an extreme or get caught with all ten of their fingers up their asses when they do.

     

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    Uriel-238 (profile), Jul 2nd, 2013 @ 2:39pm

    And I guarantee you that in European capitals, there are people who are interested in, if not what I had for breakfast, at least what my talking points might be should I end up meeting with their leaders.

    Maybe, Mr. President, but does that mean they have any interest in what I had for breakfast, or whatever I might discuss with their leaders (probably in a local cafe).

    I think not. I think there are millions of lives irrelevant to politics, irrelevant to the war on terror that just want to be left the fuck alone.

    And we have rules against forcing your way into our interests, just so that you can discern whether or not they are your interests too.

    ...well, we did.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2013 @ 4:29pm

    Dear Obama, is not that you spied on the whole world is that you got caught doing it.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2013 @ 5:16pm

    Paranoid

    The US sounds batshit paranoid -- we have to spy on everyone because everyone is spying on us because everyone is out to get us!

    Sure there's some spying, but other nations don't have the same opportunity, money, or interest. Or the insane creeping fear. Land of the brave.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2013 @ 5:21pm

    Obama is a puppet of "the imperialist American elite".

     

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    RubyPanther, Jul 3rd, 2013 @ 5:47am

    We catch our allies spying on us along with everybody else. President Obama is observing obvious fact. Those that complain even about basic facts in the world prove themselves breathless ninnies. Countries spy on each other. Duh.

    I find it hilarious that the freakin' Germans are whining about... being spied on?!? Yeah, they've never done anything as bad as spying... have they???

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jul 3rd, 2013 @ 10:47am

      Re:

      Two wrongs make a right.

      Sins of the father(land).

      Any other brilliant applications of logic you want to employ?

       

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    Spaceman Spiff (profile), Jul 3rd, 2013 @ 7:40am

    Violate the first rule of espionage

    The US has violated the first rule of espionage - just don't get caught! Violating that rule leave you open to all the cruft that we are facing now, and for good effect! To say that "everybody does it" is irrelevant - we know that already. The key is the "getting caught" part... Caveat spy master! The term "just deserts" comes to mind. :-)

     

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    btrussell (profile), Jul 4th, 2013 @ 2:07pm

    So if they jump off of a cliff is he going to as well?

     

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    Robert, Jul 8th, 2013 @ 6:15am

    Proof that the obumer adminstion is a fraud

    The obumer adminstation is nothing more then a group of thives and liers who place themself above the constition. The good news is that people are sueing them but they are not worried about it and when questioned they are playing stupid or acting like its not a big deal.Lets us hope that the courts will force the Obama administration to release its documentation to expose the rat they truely are.

     

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    NaBUru38 (profile), Jul 8th, 2013 @ 4:49pm

    "there are people who are interested in, if not what I had for breakfast"

    Knowing Obama's meals could be useful if someone tried to poison him. That's the point of spying massively, isn't it?

     

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