News / USA

US Allies Remain Skeptical of Obama’s Surveillance Reforms

Henry Ridgwell
There has been a muted response from U.S. allies to President Obama’s plans to curb the surveillance activities of the  National Security Agency. Documents leaked by fugitive intelligence analyst Edward Snowden suggested the agency has been collecting electronic data on millions of American and foreign civilians, and had tapped the phones of foreign leaders.  

The leaked documents revealed the National Security Agency had harvested data on the phone calls, emails and SMS messages of millions of people across the globe.

The president sought to quell anger among U.S. allies by extending some privacy protections enjoyed by U.S. nationals to foreign citizens.

The changes are unlikely to change global opinion, however, according to London School of Economics International Relations Professor Chris Brown. “The people who were fairly relaxed about it beforehand will be quite reassured by these words. But the people who were not relaxed will not be.”

Monitoring Merkel

The leaked documents revealed last year that the United States had tapped the cell phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel - prompting a furious response from Berlin.

In his speech Friday, Obama pledged to tighten the protocol for decisions on spying on foreign leaders.

“Obama has apologized for that, he has said it will not happen again," said Brown. "He has gone out of his way to go on German television to try to reassure. But I do not think he has.”

German Green Party lawmaker Hans-Christian Stroebele, who sits on a parliamentary intelligence committee, remains unsatisfied with the reforms and wants Europe to demand more answers from Washington.

Stroebele said the debate gives the German Bundestag and parliaments in other European countries the opportunity to talk openly on the topic of surveillance with colleagues in the U.S. Congress, and to ask what it all means for Germany, and the steps that must now be taken.

Diplomatic dance

Spying on foreign leaders is not legally problematic, but rather a diplomatic issue, said Professor Stephen Vladeck of the American University College of Law.

“What is the best way for the president to at once preserve our capabilities to know what our friends and enemies are up to overseas, while not provoking these very uncomfortable conversations with Germany, with France, with China over the extent to which we are criticizing their governments for doing the exact same intelligence gathering that it now seems we are doing to them," he said.

Many European leaders would like to move on from the mass surveillance revelations, which have engulfed their own intelligence agencies, said Brown. “If they are a major European country, they know that they have agencies that do this themselves. The trouble is their public opinion is very upset about this, and if you are a democratic leader you have to listen.”

Analysts say that as long as fugitive intelligence analyst Edward Snowden continues to leak information on NSA activities, global anger over the extent of U.S. surveillance likely will remain high.

You May Like

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

Report: US to Sail Warships Near Disputed S. China Sea Islands

Move will signal nonrecognition of Chinese territorial claims over area, Financial Times reports, citing senior US official More

Study Describes Ancient Deltas, Lakes on Mars

Research builds on recent NASA announcement that water flows on red planet today More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Gloria from: USA
January 21, 2014 3:23 AM
we have got to understand that these guys are not "extremists Muslims" these guys are not "militant Muslims" these guys are not the psychotic Iranians chanting death to America and death to Israel... these suicide Muslim are ordinary Muslims... the type of scumbags you would find anywhere... the tsarnaev brothers could have easily enlisted into our military and could have caused far worse disaster to our nation... these scumbags are ordinary everyday Muslims... remember that... this evil is far more insidious than you imagine

by: Nina from: New York
January 20, 2014 6:32 PM
Nobody really cares about their privacy. They just say they do because deep down they know they are supposed to. But in reality they couldn't care less, as evidenced by their use of Google and Facebook. These sites are the real violators of our privacy, much more than the NSA. People that really, truly care about their privacy don't used those sites. Instead, they use sites like Ravetree, DuckDuckGo, HushMail, etc. Don't be a fake privacy advocate - be a real one.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs