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Originally published October 28, 2013 at 3:51 PM | Page modified October 29, 2013 at 5:21 PM

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Editorial: Classified arrogance revealed in spying on U.S. allies

The United States will pay a yet to-be-determined price for its glib use of technology to spy on friends and allies at the highest levels.


Seattle Times Editorial

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AWKWARD revelations about the U.S. listening in on the conversations of leaders in Germany, France, Mexico, Brazil, and now, officials in Spain, are compounded by another secret revealed:

The U.S. has an agreement with Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand not to spy on one another. You could call it the “English Language Pact.”

President Obama’s team got caught, and in the world of intelligence gathering that stirs the most embarrassment.

Congress needs to step forward and hold the administration accountable. Regain some credibility with the public by asking hard questions.

Obama’s White House must decide if the information gathered from German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ubiquitous phone calls was worth what comes next: Germany and France are headed to the U.S to try and reinvigorate a technologically ancient set of guidelines on personal privacy.

The caution ignored by the White House is as old as a finger-wagging from moms and dads: Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it.

Germany is, or was, a reliable source of intelligence on global terrorist activities. Has that valuable conduit been put in jeopardy by listening into Merkel’s cellphone traffic? Indeed, the likelihood for the near term is that other nations will not share information to make their outrage known.

U.S. officials were asked to pass on the phone numbers they had for foreign leaders. At least 35 world leaders are said to have been under close electronic monitoring.

On one level, these tales of surveillance invite a wry smile, and a shoulder shrug that such behavior is routine, by all sides. It’s a smug version of “trust, but verify.”

What that sentiment does not account for is consequences. In a world of fleeting allegiances, intense trade competition and sensitivity to displays of national disrespect, this will haunt the Obama administration and the United States.




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