‘US 4th-class allies France, Germany should cipher everything they have’
The latest documents published by WikiLeaks suggest that America's snooping activities in France are far more extensive than previously thought. Not only did the NSA eavesdrop on the country's presidents, it’s also been keeping tabs on top French corporations, tracking deals worth over $200 million.
RT:The NSA justifies its activities by citing national security concerns. How does snooping on French businesses fall under that remit?
Ray McGovern: It’s hard to be surprised by any revelations of this kind. The snooping is conducted because it’s possible to conduct this snooping. … And the President of the US has said “just because we can collect this material doesn’t mean we always should.” The thing has a momentum, inertia of its own. And since about 10 years ago it’s become possible to collect everything and that’s precisely what we are doing disregarding the sensitivities that may be involved.
RT:Talking about sensitivities, how will the latest revelations affect relations between the two allies?
RM: That’s the question. Now that is out in the open, it acquires a political dimension…I continue to be surprised by the servile attitude adopted by France and even Germany towards the US and its foreign policy. I think a lot of this has to do with collection capabilities against ‘terrorism’. They judged that they need to not upset the collection arrangements; liaison and they are able to put up with all manner of things. Whether Airbus of the Elysee [Palace] knew or suspected those things and the economic things would be monitored that’s another question. But I’m sure they don’t say “Mon Dieu” or “Um Gottes willen!” (Oh my god!) They should have expected all this. And repercussions for you as businesses are going to be bad because we sell a lot of this technology or we used to.
RT:Germany recently closed its probe into alleged NSA spying on Angela Merkel without reaching a conclusion. France is looking into the WikiLeaks revelations too. Will anything come out of this investigation?
RM: No. … If the French didn’t suspect that this was going on until now - well they haven’t been reading newspapers since Edward Snowden made all those revelations. Besides, there seems to be this inhibition. Seventy years after WWII there seems to be this strong inhibition to put Washington’s nose out of joint so to speak. Why? One reason is because they too depend on these collection mechanisms to protect them against ‘terrorism’, now of course that’s come to the fore again. The other thing is that you look at the four classes of allies: there is the US’s chief ally – Great Britain, and there are the other three eyes – Australia, Canada and New Zealand – and this is the second class. The third class is our ‘sacred ally’ Israel and God knows how much we share with them. And then there are the old Europeans like the French and the Germans and those folks that come fourth. I would expect that if there were adults in Germany and France and they had their druthers they would object in a meaningful way and of course at the same time encipher everything they have. If you have a lot of extra money I would suggest they you invest in ciphering mechanisms because that clearly will be the technology of the future.
‘Geopolitical alliance with US doesn’t protect from economic spying’
Zhang Xin, Research Fellow at the East China Normal University, suggests that if the recent revelation concerning US spying on French companies is true it would only add more to tense Washington-Paris relations.
RT:The NSA justifies what’s it’s doing in the name of national security, but these are French firms, how can that protect US national security?
ZX: In principle when war or use of coercion becomes less relevant for protecting national security, economic interests are much more important these days for national security. I agree with that part of the story. But given the information we get from WikiLeaks, the net cast is quite wide from the US side. For example it seems to be way too much to intercept all information about all the contracts and the transactions from the French side that goes beyond 200 million. Just use that criterion to collect economic information from another country or another country’ economic agencies seem to be way too much.
RT:France is a friend of the US and vice versa. How is this being viewed diplomatically in France?
ZX: … France has always had tricky relations with the US. Just last year there were some stories about the US accusing French banks of doing business with Iran, which is under US sanctions. That has caused a lot of unpleasant responses from French politicians and French businessmen. I think this new revelation - if it is true - would only add more to these ongoing France-US unpleasant relations.
RT:Should other American allies worry about their economic secrets or France was just unfortunate here?
ZX: I believe all countries - not only the US allies - should be worried about their economic secrets ... We’ve seen similar spying activity from the US side on another major ally – Germany, on the German Chancellor. So all US allies should be worried that a geopolitical or political alliance with the US doesn’t prevent them from being excluded from any economic espionage from the US.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.