Britain, Sweden block EU investigation of U.S. spying

Talks between the U.S. and the EU will only focus on PRISM, after Britain vetoed a wider conversation about U.S espionage.


Kevin Collier

Internet Culture

Published Jul 15, 2013   Updated Jun 1, 2021, 11:26 am CDT

Britain and Sweden have put a hitch in European plans to investigate American spying.

Monday’s EU investigation on the NSA‘s practice of spying on Europeans will be restricted to just two topics, data collection and the PRISM surveillance program, the Guardian has reported. Britain and Sweden have vetoed a further investigation about U.S. intelligence-gathering practices at large. That means accusations of programs like FAIRVIEW, which former NSA senior executive Thomas Drake has claimed allows the agency to “own the Internet” by tapping the intercontinental cables it travels through.

Much of the world was shocked when the Guardian began releasing whistleblower Edward Snowden‘s leaked documents detailing the NSA’s practices. It didn’t exactly reassure many American allies when President Barack Obama insisted that the NSA wasn’t allowed to listen in on all Americans’ communications, but said nothing about foreigners, and other reports show the NSA has spied on the EU itself. Some of those documents show the NSA actively looks for ways to classify someone as non-American, and therefore fair game to track.

But EU outrage about American spying practices is tempered by the fact that many of their respective government’s’ own spy agencies have partnered with the NSA. Dutch parliamentarian Sophie in ‘t Veld, for instance, has told the Daily Dot she believes surveillance programs like PRISM, which lets the NSA tap companies like Google for users’ communications, violate the EU data protection laws she helped create.

However, a Dutch intelligence officer has blown the whistle on his own country’s practices, claiming it actively works with the NSA, and prompting an internal investigation in the Netherlands.

Similarly, other Guardian documents show that the U.K. has partnered with the NSA to get PRISM data since 2010. But far more severe is evidence of a program called Tempora, which allows British intelligence to tap the very fiber optic cables that Internet data flows through, effectively allowing the country to see and store every bit of data that comes through its shores.

Photo by palindrome6996/Flickr

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*First Published: Jul 15, 2013, 11:24 am CDT