Have you ever noticed those large, oddly branded, windowless cargo vans around Embassy Row? It turns out that they’re the National Security Agency spying on our European allies. According to the German newspaperDer Spiegel, the NSA has been spying on 38 embassies and diplomatic missions in Washington and New York. While you almost expect to see them outside of the Iranian Embassy (doesn’t exist) or the North Korean Embassy (doesn’t exist), these trucks are parked in front of long-time U.S. allies and NATO member countries’ embassies like the French, the Italians, the South Koreans and the Japanese.
The document procured by Der Spiegel goes into depth on the methods used on at least one of the embassies and it sounds pretty much like you’d find in a movie. Apparently there are sophisticated bugging devices placed on electronic communication devices and specialized antennas used to intercept communications out of the air. So, if you work in a U.S. ally’s embassy in Washington or in New York, I highly recommend going to Best Buy and buying a burner phone or a flock of homing pigeons.
This comes at a particularly bad time for EU-US relations, as both sides consider the potentially groundbreaking and hugely profitable prospect of a North Atlantic Free Trade Zone. Alas, it’s hard to see the Europeans being comfortable with entering any sort of agreement with a country that is behaving like the Chinese on a cranky day.
When I was younger, and less jaded, I remember buying into the storyline of the United States valiantly coming to our allies aid during WWII, and when victorious, bankrolling the rebuilding of a decimated continent. Then at great expense and personal peril the United States placed the European Union under its military umbrella, shielding them from the great, existential threat of Soviet advance. I guess my children will buy into the story line of a shifty, untrustworthy empire on the decline, paranoid at its impending irrelevance and constantly embroiled in scandal.
America’s had a good 236 year run, maybe 237 is too much to ask.