Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Top Secrets We All Know

Scoop! The US has spied on the private communications of French presidents Chirac, Sarkozy, and Hollande. And what did they learn? That Sarkozy is an egomaniac who believed he alone could save the world and that Hollande, having got nowhere in discussions with Angela Merkel on Greece, went behind her back and met with leaders of the SPD, with whom his discussions proved equally inconsequential. As DSK might have said, tout ça pour ça?

La première de ces notes date du 22 mai 2012. Intitulée « Le président français accepte des consultations secrètes sur la zone euro, rencontre avec l’opposition allemande », elle relate une conversation entre François Hollande et son premier ministre Jean-Marc Ayrault à propos de la crise de la zone euro et de la Grèce, le 18 mai 2012. Soit trois jours seulement après son investiture officielle comme président de la République.
François Hollande et Jean-Marc Ayrault discutent de l’organisation, à Paris, d’une réunion « secrète » avec les responsables du parti social-démocrate allemand, le SPD. Après sa rencontre avec Angela Merkel, le jour de son investiture le 15 mai 2012, « Hollande s’est plaint que rien de substantiel n’ait abouti : c’était simplement pour le show. Hollande a trouvé la chancelière obnubilée par le “Pacte budgétaire” et surtout par la Grèce qu’elle a laissée tomber, selon lui, et n’en bougera plus. Résultat : Hollande est très inquiet pour la Grèce », écrit également la NSA.


bert said...

Tout ça pour ça? Well said.
Now, some indiscreet talk about the Germans - that would be worth overhearing.
I remember that nothingburger of a Sarko EU presidency referred to in your linked piece. It was the clearest test case of european influence / power / leadership / etc.
And the immovable object was more than a match for the irresistible force.

Mitch Guthman said...

I think this is more serious than many people seem to believe. I had always understood that there was a very strong taboo against conducting operations (bugging, wiretapping and recruitment of spies) against allies or even friendly governments. There's a real difference between vacuuming up gossip at embassy parties and conducting hostile operations against ostensible allies. After all, if friends don't spy on friends, maybe the Americans are telling the Germans and the French that we no longer view them as friends.

Every so often, the US needs the trust and goodwill of the people it calls its allies. Conservatives don't believe that, of course---for them, America says jump as the rest of the world asks how high. But I can't help but believe that being actively spied upon is very corrosive of these relationships, even if the French and Germans are not in a position to do anything about it. It's difficult to see the point of spying on France and Germany but it's very easy to see there might somebody be a time when America will need genuine allies.

The other point is that this a very questionable use of supposedly scarce intelligence resources. These operations likely involved dozens, maybe even hundreds of agents and techies who could and should have been targeting people who are trying to attack the United States. I wonder if, right now today, there's a terrorist plot that won't be detected because resources were diverted to spy on our allies (and, presumably, dozens of other friendly nations)?

Apart from which, they appear to have spent millions of dollars to obtain less than was readily available on blogs like French Politics and far, far less than the treasure trove of intelligence that Edwy Plenel would have been happy to sell the Americans for less than $12 per month.