As the saying goes, keep your friends close and your enemies closer. But what happens when you start treating your friends the same way you treat your enemies? And so it goes with the National Security Administration spying on U.S.-allied world leaders, diplomats assigned to the United Nations.
In May, former CIA employee and NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked classified information to The Guardian newspaper of London, revealing NSA’s international and domestic spying programs. This shocked the American public, dividing us into two camps — those who think Snowden is a traitor for creating a vulnerability by leaking such information and those who believe Snowden is a hero for informing us and the world about the extent to which the NSA (the U.S.) had been spying on its own people and on world leaders in the name of security.
While Americans continue to bicker over which side is right, Germany’s news media outlet Der Spiegel contacted the German government last week to get a comment about the U.S. secretly tapping the cell phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was among 35 other world leaders being secretly monitored. (Germany is a U.S. ally.) Merkel was so shocked by the news that she actually called for a Europewide reconsideration of cooperation with U.S. intelligence agencies.
This sparked outrage, not only with Merkel and other world leaders, but at home as well. U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., responded by calling for a “major review into all intelligence collection programs.”
“Unless the United States is engaged in hostilities against a country or there is an emergency need for this type of surveillance, I do not believe the United States should be collecting phone calls or emails of friendly presidents and prime ministers,” she said. “The president should be required to approve any collection of this sort. … The White House has informed me that collection on our allies will not continue, which I support. But as far as I’m concerned, Congress needs to know exactly what our intelligence community is doing.”
Given our delicate position in the world right now, pulling out of two “unnecessary” wars we started, recovering from greedy and unregulated home loan practices that led to an international recession, and our $17 trillion national debt — a result of both of the aforementioned shameful debacles — whereby we owe countries all over the world trillions of dollars, we ought to be on our best behavior when it comes to keeping peaceful alliances. Further, say what you will about the U.S. being the world leader, we are clearly on shaky ground and should take every step necessary to avoid more pitfalls in our relationships with other world leaders. But what is even more distressing is that our president isn’t aware of these things and, while it must certainly be nearly impossible to know everything in our bloated government, the president should be fully aware of those things that could actually jeopardize our relationships worldwide.
Moving forward, it would seem to be the best idea for our top leaders to scrutinize every available document Snowden leaked, be prepared for damage control, call for major reforms in our intelligence programs and stop acting like deer in the headlights. Nothing is more shameful than those in charge being the last to know about what’s going on in our own backyard.