President Barack Obama brushed aside sharp European criticism on Monday, suggesting that all nations spy on each other as the French and Germans expressed outrage over alleged U.S. eavesdropping on European Union diplomats.
Obama, in an African news conference with Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, said the U.S. would provide allies with information about new reports that the National Security Agency had bugged EU offices in Washington, New York and Brussels. But he also suggested such activity by governments would hardly be unusual.
“We should stipulate that every intelligence service — not just ours, but every European intelligence service, every Asian intelligence service, wherever there’s an intelligence service — here’s one thing that they’re going to be doing: They’re going to be trying to understand the world better, and what’s going on in world capitals around the world,” he said. “If that weren’t the case, then there’d be no use for an intelligence service.”
The latest issue concerns allegations in the German news weekly Der Spiegel of U.S. spying on European officials. French President Francois Hollande Monday demanded the U.S. immediately stop any such eavesdropping and suggested the widening controversy could jeopardize next week’s opening of trans-Atlantic trade talks between the U.S. and Europe.
“We cannot accept this kind of behavior from partners and allies,” Hollande said on French media.
German government spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters in Berlin, “Eavesdropping on friends is unacceptable.” He declared, “We’re not in the Cold War anymore.”