EU leaders kicked off a two-day summit yesterday in Brussels, where the hot topic was the NSA's alleged spying activities on their European allies. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, clearly not appeased by President Obama's promise that the NSA isn't listening in on her cell phone calls right now at this very second, was the loudest voice calling for a "no-spying" deal with Washington. Here's Reuters with the details:
[T]he chancellor said she wanted action from President Barack Obama, not just apologetic words. Germany and France would seek a "mutual understanding" with the United States on cooperation between their intelligence agencies, and other EU member states could eventually take part.
"That means a framework for cooperation between the relevant (intelligence) services. Germany and France have taken the initiative and other member states will join," she said. In a statement issued after the first day of the summit, the EU's 28 leaders said they supported the Franco-German plan. ...
The United States has a "no-spying" deal with Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, an alliance known as "Five Eyes" that was struck in the aftermath of World War Two. But there has traditionally been a reluctance to make similar arrangements with other allies, despite the close relations that the United States and Germany now enjoy.
Perhaps "reluctance" is a bit overly kind there. According to a Snowden-fueled report in the Guardian yesterday, the NSA has monitored the calls of more than 35 world leaders. While the leaders in question weren't named in the leak, other revelations from this week suggest at least some of the surveillance targets were allies.
On Wednesday Obama called Merkel to assure her that the United States is not currently monitoring her cell phone, a noticeably present-tense denial of Merkel's suspicions that the U.S. government has listened in on her calls in the past. That call came two days after Obama phoned French President François Hollande in an attempt to smooth things over after Le Monde published its own Snowden-fueled report claiming that the NSA had been engaged in widespread spying on French citizens on "a massive scale." Meanwhile on this side of the Atlantic, Mexico learned this past weekend that America has been systematically eavesdropping on the Mexican government for years.
Elsewhere in Slate: Joshua Keating explains why the Snowden Leaks will end up having a bigger impact than WikiLeaks.