The Edward Snowden files’ revelation that the United States has been tapping the phones of top French, Mexican, Brazilian, and German politicians should not really surprise anyone, but that is not the real story. The “everyone does it” argument is meant to mitigate the offense, but is wrong on two counts. It is incorrect technically, as no other country has our capabilities. It also fails to take into account the political damage that occurs when a nation initiates large scale espionage operations directed against allied countries, such as France and Germany. The German and French public will rightly assume that Washington will engage in reckless behavior whenever it believes—rightly or wrongly—that its own security is somehow at stake, indicating that the transatlantic relationship only runs in one direction.
NSA Director Keith Alexander. DoD photo by Cherie Cullen/Released