By Don Quijones, a freelance writer and translator based in Barcelona, Spain. His blog, Raging Bull-Shit, is a modest attempt to challenge some of the wishful thinking and scrub away the lathers of soft soap peddled by our political and business leaders and their loyal mainstream media.
Thanks to Edward Snowden’s recent disclosures, it’s now common knowledge that the National Security Agency (NSA), the U.S. government’s state-within-a-state, is now intercepting and storing as much of the world’s communications as it can get its grubby hands on — including those of supposed allied nations, such as European countries like Spain.
As the Spanish daily Publico has reported, European intelligence sources have already confirmed that communications from Spain had been “intercepted”.
Less well known — at least until recently — was the leading role played by British secret services in Anglo-American spying on European nations. According to Snowden, now a political refugee in Russia after revealing the magnitude of the NSA’s spying program, “they (the spies of Britain’s General Communications Headquarters [GCHQ]) are worse than the U.S.’s.”
To wit, from Publico (original article in Spanish):
At the end of last year, the British program, code-named “Tempora”, based in Bude (Cornwall), was registering 600 million communications per day, after tapping more than 200 international fibre-optic cables.
Although it shares its information with the NSA, as part of the so-called ‘special relationship’ between London and Washington, it is becoming abundantly clear that GCHQ has become the true global superpower of information espionage, having set up what Snowden described as ‘the biggest surveillance program in the history of mankind.’
A Conspicuous Silence
While countries such as Germany and Turkey have publicly demanded explanations from both the U.S. and U.K. governments regarding their surveillance and wire-tapping program, the Rajoy regime has remained conspicuously silent on the issue — despite the fact that the NSA and GCHQ’s surveillance represent a clear infringement of Spain’s domestic and external affairs.
All of which is somewhat hard to fathom, given that just one month ago the exact same government was kicking up a huge diplomatic storm over British foreign enclave Gibraltar’s supposed mistreatment of a handful of Andalusian fisherman — all in the name of Spain’s national interest, of course.
Surely such a government of high-minded patriots would now be fighting tooth and nail to protect its citizens from the prying eyes and ears of the all-seeing, all-knowing Anglo-American surveillance state — especially in light of the fact that one of the most important cables being tapped by London is the FLAG Europe-Asia submarine cable that connects Spain with the Middle East and Asia and which just so happens to pass directly through Gibraltar!
Well, seemingly not! In fact, to date the only action Rajoy’s government has taken is to express its “concern” about the NSA’s wire-tapping program at the UN’s Headquarters in New York. Back at home, seven separate motions have already been tabled by opposition parties to discuss the issue in parliament, all of which have fallen on deaf ears in the halls of government.
If, as they say, silence speaks volumes, then in this case it speaks of the blatant hypocrisy of a government whose only interest is self-preservation. Spain’s national security and the rights to privacy of its people are clearly of far lesser concern than the rights of a few fisherman.
As Publico pundit Carlos Enrique Bayo argues:
That the government is still yet to react to the incontrovertible fact that the British and North Americans have us completely under their surveillance and control through their all-encompassing electronic espionage programs, shows that the patriotic protests mounted by the executive (over Gibtaltar) this summer were nothing but a smoke screen to cover up its own shameful deeds.
The Empire That Must Not Be Named
In Rajoy’s defence (a three-word combo I never thought I’d use), his is not the only European government playing deaf and dumb on NSA-GCHQ wiretapping. In fact, most of them are at it, despite the German newspaper Der Spiegel’s recent disclosure that ”the NSA defines its intelligence priorities by employing a scale of 1 (of high interest) to 5 (of low interest)” and that most European nations don’t qualify for number-5 status.
Occupying the top spot are non-aligned, non-western nations such as China, Russia, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan, while Germany and France occupy intermediate levels, “above both Spain and Italy”.
That the Anglo-American alliance — or otherwise put, the empire that must not be named — feels compelled to accumulate as much dirt and comprising information as possible on all of the world’s nations and their peoples should come as little surprise to those who pay the slightest interest to modern history.
Since it began “ruling the waves” in the 17th century, the U.K. has invaded or violated the territorial integrity of nine-tenths of the world’s sovereign nations (for a map, see the The Daily Telegraph). As for the U.S., since taking on the role of the world’s “policeman” (or perhaps better put, prison governor) in 1945, it has had its tentacles in most of the world’s bloodiest wars and coup d’états and is responsible, both directly and indirectly, for the deaths of millions of innocent civilians, in places as far-flung as Vietnam, Chile, Nicaragua, Indonesia, Palestine, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Libya and now Serbia.
And that’s not to mention the hundreds of millions of forgotten victims of the financial war currently being waged by U.K., U.S. and key client-nation banks — banks such as Deutsche Bank, Credit Agricole and Societé Generale — against the global poor and middle classes.
Big Brother vs. Little Sister
Given that they now amount to little more than colonial outposts of the Anglo-American Empire, is it any wonder that nations such as Spain, Italy or Japan have made only the most token of protests about their internal and external communications being intercepted and monitored en masse by Washington and London?
Even Germany, Europe’s supposed economic powerhouse and one of the few European coutries to actually raise a stink about Snowden’s revelations, still remains, to all intents and purposes, a militarily occupied country, with as many as 21,500 British soldiers and 50,000 troops still stationed on its soil. As such, while the Merkel government may kick and squeal as much as it likes about the NSA-GCHQ’s joint surveillance operations (mostly, of course, for political consumption), its actual room for manoeuver is probably very limited.
Indeed, as Snowden himself recently asserted in an interview with Der Spiegel, “the German intelligence services were fully aware of the NSA’s surveillance program” and actively benefitted from it. They just forgot, it seems, to inform the political authorities.
Even the EU, itself a target of NSA and GCHQ snooping, has failed to respond in an appropriate manner to the Snowden revelations. While outwardly it may “condemn” Washington’s actions, its own actions speak much louder than its words. The fact that it is reluctant to put a halt, even temporarily, to the looming free trade agreement with Washington — an agreement that critics have decried as “Nafta on steroids” and which many fear will lead to a further rollback of key business regulations as well as put multinational companies on the same political plane as sovereign nations” — tells us all we need to know about the EU’s main priorities.
Perhaps the greatest scandal of all is that it has not threatened more punitive sanctions against the UK for its role in pilfering vital personal and business data from all of its EU fellow members states. After all, how can there possibly be unity in Europe when the four basic pillars of unity — mutual trust, respect, solidarity and cooperation — have been fatally undermined by one of its most prominent members?
The only conclusion that one can draw is that when it comes to EU-U.S (and by default, UK) relations, the US-UK axis is clearly the big brother in the relationship and the EU, the little sister. What’s more, it’s an imbalance of power that seems set to widen even further should, as is almost certain, the EU sign the upcoming free trade agreement with its much more senior partner, the U.S. By Don Quijones.