European officials, especially German officials, are very angry with us for tapping into their phones.
“If all the citizens in Europe believe that America is spying on every individual citizen, then I think that people do not love America anymore,” said one German official.
They have threatened to un-love us – they cannot fathom why, for example, we would eavesdrop on Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is, after all, a friend.
Well, I doubt that we were doing it to learn juicy private tidbits. If we were after that we wouldn’t waste our time with the Germans. We’d tap the Italians.
But why do it at all? Well, I think part of it might have been to find out what other, less-friendly eavesdroppers might have been learning. Because it turns out Angela Merkel, according to German Television, was in the habit of sending numerous text messages using an ordinary cell phone.
“Her cell phone is a run-of-the-mill Nokia, that even lay-persons can crack with software available online,” said one reporter.
Which means every time she sent a text, the bad guys could see it too. And my guess is the NSA wants to know what the bad guys are seeing.
Of course, now that it’s out, the president will have to bend over backwards to promise we will never ever do this again.
But here’s what he’s got to be thinking: Suppose I turn off the bugs, and then a week or a month or a year later, I get a call at 3 a.m. that one of my embassies has been blown up?
Which is why I think, regardless of any public statement, we will keep on bugging even friendly countries – unless we’re pretty darn sure that country is willing and able to thoroughly bug itself.