Wednesday

17th Oct 2018

Obama advisor: Pipeline deals could see US spy on EU leaders

  • US president Obama said the NSA would not spy on the leaders of allied nations unless there is a 'compelling national security purpose' (Photo: Bundesregierung)

Major economic deals, which look as if they could cause “difficulties” for the US, are a legitimate reason to spy on EU leaders, a US intelligence oversight panelist has said.

“If Germany were making an economic deal for a gas pipeline in a way that would cause large international difficulties, that might be a reason to try to prevent a bad outcome,” Peter Swire, a professor of law and ethics at the Georgia Institute of Technology, told journalists in Brussels on Friday (24 January).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

He noted that he was speaking in a personal capacity.

But his remark sheds light on US President Barack Obama’s thinking about the future of the National Security Agency (NSA) in light of Edward Snowden’s revelations.

The professor is one of five authors who recently drafted 46 recommendations on how to reform US intelligence.

The panel’s ideas formed the basis of Obama’s speech and presidential directive of 14 January on NSA regulation.

In his speech, Obama said he would not spy on leaders considered to be close allies "unless there is a compelling national security purpose."

Other members of the review panel include Michael Morell, ex-second in command at the CIA, and Richard Clarke, who was chief counter-terrorism advisor under presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

The Obama directive is said to limit the collection of signals intelligence to counter-intelligence, terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, cyber security, threats to the armed forces, and transnational criminal organisations.

It comes after Snowden revealed last October the NSA bugged German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone, among the phones of 34 other world leaders.

The chancellor later said trust in the US had been “severely shaken.”

Swire noted in his Brussels press briefing that, under the Obama directive, US spies can only target foreign leaders after a due process that weighs up the two sides’ “economic and strategic alliance.”

“There is a much stricter screen on leadership intelligence when it comes to our allies than what existed previously,” he said.

Obama earlier this month also ruled out doing “intelligence to provide a competitive advantage to US companies or US commercial sectors.”

Spire echoed Obama, saying the US government does not conduct industrial espionage.

But here too he underlined that collection of foreign private commercial information or trade secrets can be authorised on national security grounds, either of the US or of its allies.

Earlier Snowden leaks show that the NSA snooped on EU competition commissioner, Joaquin Almunia, responsible for saying Yes or No to multinational mergers, among other economic targets.

The whistleblower, in an interview with Germany's ARD TV channel on Sunday, said the NSA passes on trade secrets and other information to US firms, contradicitng Obama’s claim.

“If there is information at Siemens that they [the NSA] think would be beneficial to the national interests, not the national security, of the United States, they will go after that information and they'll take it,” Snowden said.

For his part, Amnesty International’s secretary general Sahlil Shetty last week told this website he suspects the NSA tapped his phone as well.

“It’s not just the NSA,” he noted, however. “We have friends from China. Amnesty has many friends,” he said of the human rights NGO.

Agenda

Obama in Brussels this WEEK

EU capital Brussels will be pulling out all the diplomatic stops this week as it plays host to US President Barack Obama.

News in Brief

  1. Poland questions supremacy of EU court
  2. Medvedev to meet Juncker and Merkel in Brussels
  3. Italians and Czechs least favourable to remaining in EU
  4. Facebook hack set to be first major test of EU data rules
  5. Barnier open to extending Brexit transition period
  6. Juncker mulls rejection of Italy's 2019 budget
  7. German justice minister to lead SPD in European elections
  8. Tusk: May should come with new Brexit proposals

Opinion

Interpol, China and the EU

China joins a long list of countries - including Russia - accused of abusing Interpol's 'Red Notice' system to harras activists and dissidents.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  8. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  9. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  11. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  12. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All

Latest News

  1. Nordic region's top bank in new Russia funds complaint
  2. Why 'Spitzenkandidat' is probably here to stay
  3. EU ministers struggle to deal with Poland and Hungary
  4. Commission tried to hide details of 'WiFi4EU' glitch
  5. Brexit standoff continues before EU summit
  6. ASEM: Global Partners for Global Challenges
  7. How Juncker's 'do less' group concluded EU should not do less
  8. Cyprus and Russia: Association of Cyprus Banks responds

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us