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

Multimedia Brussels Schools, Metro Reopen Under Heavy Guard

City remains under the highest threat alert level due to what authorities have described as a 'serious and imminent' threat of attack

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

Americans Think About Strange Stuff at Thanksgiving

Millions of Americans are celebrating Thanksgiving, but they’re not necessarily thinking about turkey and stuffing

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.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs