Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Isn't Spying On Your Allies A Great Way To Build Trust?

Berlin Eyes a Mysterious "Spying" Tent Atop the British Embassy

The British embassy in Berlin. Photo via Flickr/lergik
Less than two weeks after it emerged that the US had been tapping German chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone, the Independent reports that Britain could have a secret listening post in Berlin too.

According to an article published this morning, the NSA documents leaked by Edward Snowden reveal that the UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ)—along with the US and others—is in the habit of holding electronic “spy posts” in diplomatic buildings across the world.

That information, in addition to aerial photos, has roused suspicion that GCHQ has one such post on the roof of the British embassy in Berlin, not far from Germany’s parliament building, the Reichstag.

The rooftop spying post is thought to be similar to one that was run by CIA and NSA agents on the nearby US embassy rooftop, which is believed to have been shut down following tense discussions between Merkel and President Obama last week.

Over at the British embassy, the Independent reports that aerial photos show “a potential eavesdropping base enclosed inside a white, cylindrical tent-like structure which cannot be easily seen from the streets.”

The Reichstag, Germany's parliament building in Berlin. Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Ralf Roletschek
The article continues, “Equipment within the embassy unit would be capable of intercepting mobile phone calls, wi-fi data and long-distance communications across the German capital, including the adjacent government buildings such as the Reichstag and the Chancellery clustered around the Brandenburg Gate.”

German parliamentarian Wolfgang Bosbach, a member of Merkel's party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), told daily newspaper Der Tagesspiegel that these latest revelations show Germany should ask for a "No Spy" agreement with Britain, and that the situation was completely unacceptable. 

David Cameron backed an EU summit statement about NSA surveillance last month, but has kept quiet about Britain’s intelligence gathering and spoken out against Edward Snowden and newspapers reporting documents leaked by him. Despite this, it's pretty clear at this point that the world's superpowers are all spying on each other.

Earlier this week, an international collection of human rights and free speech organisations wrote an open letter to UK prime minister David Cameron, asking him to reconsider the UK government’s response to revelations of mass surveillance activities uncovered by the press—most notably in investigative reporting by the Guardian. “We call on you to honour the UK's international obligations to defend and protect the right to freedom of expression and media freedom, and to end the UK government's pressure on the Guardian and those who assist them,” the letter stated.