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EU demands clarification of US bugging allegations

By Fu Jing in Brussels and Li Xiang in Paris (China Daily)

08:15, July 02, 2013

Brussels has again demanded the United States address allegations it bugged European Union premises, which has met with mounting rage in Europe and could block the allies' plan to set up a free trade bloc.

According to former US intelligence employee Edward Snowden, the US eavesdropped on millions of private calls. Snowden, who fled the US and is seeking political asylum, also revealed that the US attacked China's computer networks.

"Lady Ashton did indeed raise it (the bugging) with me today," US Secretary of State John Kerry said in Brunei on Monday.

Allegations that the US bugged EU premises may change Brussels' stance on cooperation with Washington.

Ashton said on Sunday that her European External Action Service has made contact with the US authorities both in Washington and Brussels seeking clarification of the claims that EU premises have been under US surveillance.

On Monday, while saying that every country that is engaged in international affairs undertakes activities to protect its national security and all kinds of information contributes to that, Kerry asserted that clandestine information gathering is "not unusual" for lots of nations.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that his country had never extradited anyone before and added that Snowden could remain in Moscow if he stopped issuing his leaks, AFP reported.

US allies bugged

Meanwhile, Germany, France and the European Parliament demanded US explanations on reports of the National Security Agency bugging its European allies.

Following disclosures that the NSA spied on EU computer networks at its offices in New York and Washington and that it also bugged the premises, Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament, demanded "full clarification" from the US and said if the disclosures proved true, they would have a severe impact on US-EU ties.

Germany's Der Spiegel magazine said the NSA's German phone and Internet surveillance operation was the biggest in the EU. On Jan 7, it allegedly tapped some 60 million German phone calls in a single day. The magazine also said Canada, Australia, Britain and New Zealand were exempt from NSA surveillance but Germany was regarded as a country vulnerable to "spy attacks".

French President Franois Hollande told the US on Monday to "immediately stop" spying on European institutions. "We cannot accept this kind of behavior between partners and allies."

Francois Godement, a professor at the Paris Institute of Political Studies, said it will be hard for US diplomacy to maintain that its targets were only strategic or political and not oriented towards economic and trade issues if the spying is proven. "The Obama administration's distinction between US national security spying, which all states would practice, and economic spying, which hits at intellectual property rights, seems difficult to maintain."

"But European citizens will be more concerned with the breach of privacy implied by the NSA's access to millions of telephone and e-mail accounts in Europe."

Godement said it is these aspects that will hurt most regulatory negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which both sides agreed to launch days ago. "Data protection will become an issue of these negotiations."

Contact the writers at [email protected] and [email protected]

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