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US and UK spy agencies must ‘respect democracy and rights of citizens’ – says EU

By Dean Carroll

European Commission officials have warned the United States and Britain that intelligence collection must be “respectful of our democracies and the fundamental rights of citizens” following the latest revelations from whistleblower Edward Snowden. Among a long list of surveillance targets for US and British spies was European Competition Commissioner Joaquín Almunia, who oversees anti-monopoly investigations into large multinational firms including Google and Microsoft.

The highly embarrassing leaks reaffirmed the depth and scale of joint operations between the National Security Agency in the US and the United Kingdom’s Government Communication Headquarters. Addressing the allegations, a commission spokeswoman said: “This piece of news follows a series of other revelations which, as we clearly stated in the past, if proven true are unacceptable and deserve our strongest condemnation. This is not the type of behaviour that we expect from strategic partners, let alone from our own member states.

“These issues are already being dealt with through the working groups created with the US. The commission has also recently adopted a communication with a number of measures, which are needed to restore trust and confidence in the transatlantic relationship. We equally welcome the internal review process that the US administration is conducting on its intelligence activities. We trust that this will lead to intelligence collection, which is respectful of our democracies and the fundamental rights of our citizens. The commission will raise these new allegations with US and UK authorities.”

In response to the accusations of espionage, the British spy agency would only state: “One of the purposes for which GCHQ may be authorized to intercept communications is where it is necessary for the purpose of safeguarding the economic wellbeing of the UK.” In the US, the NSA said: “We do not use our foreign intelligence capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies on behalf – or give intelligence we collect to – US companies to enhance their international competitiveness or increase their bottom line. The US collects foreign intelligence just as many governments do.

“The intelligence community’s efforts to understand economic systems and policies, and monitor anomalous economic activities, are critical to providing policy-makers with the information they need to make informed decisions that are in the best interest of our national security. As the administration also announced several months ago, the US government is undertaking a review of our activities around the world – looking at, among other issues, how we co-ordinate with our closest allies and partners.”

Dean Carroll is editor of Policy Review. Follow him on Twitter @poljourno

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