‘HELLO – Ah, it’s you, Frau Merkel, always a pleasure, what can I do for you?”
“You can stop short-changing me for potatoes, for a start, Herr Schmidt. And what was that bratwurst you sent me last week made from – road kill?”
“Ach, Frau Merkel, I apologise. Would you accept a 5 per cent discount?”
“Ten per cent.”
“Done, but don’t let it happen again. Auf wiedersehen…”
“Did ya get that, Hank?”
“You bet. That code could be kinda tough to crack, though. Reckon ‘bratwurst’ is either a new operation or an undercover agent.”
“Yeah, I’ll open a file on ‘bratwurst’. Who’s she talkin’ to now?”
“She’s givin’ some guy a lotta grief ’bout the way he mended her handbag.”
“Oh, yeah. Like we’re gonna believe the most powerful Teuton since Aydolf Hitler is worryin’ about a handbag – I’ll open a file on ‘handbag’. This could be sump’n big, Hank. Patch that call through to Langley…”
The pantomime being enacted between European leaders and the Obama administration over electronic spying is a hypocritical ritual they are obliged to perform, in the full knowledge that all of them – or at least those who have the intelligence capability – are spying relentlessly and comprehensively on one another. Britain is heavily implicated, since the complicity of GCHQ in assisting American covert surveillance in Europe is a given within the intelligence community. Last week it emerged that Britain and the US had intercepted Italian government and commercial communications, targeting three underwater fibre optic cables with terminals in Italy.
That prompted Italian prime minister Enrico Letta to declare: “It is inconceivable and unacceptable that there should be acts of espionage of this type.” Yet apparently it was done with the permission of Italy’s own intelligence apparatus. Here we are in a grey Le Carré world of internal betrayal, firewalls and conflicts of interest. What every red-blooded Italian wants to know is: did they successfully hack into Silvio Berlusconi’s little black book, regarded as a key component of Italy’s cultural patrimony? Another aggrieved EU leader was François Hollande, who demanded a code of conduct to ban spying on allies, ignoring the fact that the French espionage operation in the United States is the most aggressive, after the Chinese, following a tradition of intelligence-driven realpolitik that goes back at least to the days of Cardinal Richelieu.
The supposedly outraged EU leaders had some fun at their summit by standing David Cameron in the naughty corner before making him agree to a code of conduct impossible for Britain to honour without radically dismantling its intelligence co-operation agreements with the United States. In the Land of the Free this scandal has damaged Barack Obama’s carefully cultivated image as the saint who makes Nelson Mandela look morally ambivalent. Messiahs are not supposed to tap telephones. If Obama did not know, the NSA is out of control; if he did know, he plummets off the moral high ground.
As the revelations by Edward Snowden exposed, the NSA is out of control. So are most intelligence agencies around the world; technological developments and arcane skills have lately contributed to putting them even further beyond accountability. Few US citizens are going to be rendered sleepless by the knowledge that taxpayers’ dollars are being used to eavesdrop on Angela Merkel making an appointment with her hairdresser. What is greatly angering them – and should concern us too – is not espionage directed against foreign politicians but surveillance by governments of their own citizens.
The US government is already known to have monitored the cellphones of 1.3 million Americans. Despite Hollande’s recent indignation, France’s General Directorate for External Security has also spied on French citizens. That is almost certainly only the tip of the iceberg. Throughout the West, the 9/11 atrocity has been made a pretext to create a vast web of surveillance of millions of citizens with no connection to jihadism.
This is being done partly because it is now technically feasible, but mainly to enhance the all-seeing power of the state. The real purpose is to create a soft police state in which the tenets of Frankfurt Marxism – now the open agenda of the EU and United States governments – are made unchallengeable.
This is totalitarianism. It is also still illegal. All those involved, on both sides of the Atlantic, must be exposed and prosecuted, the machinery of state control emasculated. The totalitarian aspirations of pseudo-democratic governments are now a more serious threat to freedom than jihadist terrorism. They must be confronted and defeated with equivalent determination. «