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Obama's NSA pledges slammed in Europe

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European officials say limited pledges made by US President Barack Obama to change Washington’s espionage practices did not go far enough to address their concerns.

“It is not sufficient at all,” Jan-Philipp Albrecht, a German Member of the European Parliament (MEP), said on Friday.

“The collection of foreigners’ data will go on. There is almost nothing here for the Europeans. I see no further limitations in scope. There is nothing here that leads to a change of the situation,” he added.

During a major policy speech earlier in the day, Obama ordered modest changes to US intelligence gathering practices, but said Washington will not apologize for the National Security Agency (NSA)’s controversial spying programs at home and abroad.

He announced a ban on eavesdropping on leaders of close friends, a practice that has ignited a diplomatic firestorm with US allies like Germany.

However, a former German minister, who now advises the government on foreign policy, said that Obama had failed to meet his low expectations for the speech.

“The changes offered by President Obama were more of technical nature and sadly failed to tackle the basic problem: we have a transatlantic disagreement over the weighing-up between security and freedom,” Norbert Röttgen said.

A British Labour MEP, who authored a report by the European Parliament on the NSA issue, said that “there is substantial acknowledgment that the NSA has caused the deepest concern and anxiety in Europe.”

“He didn’t actually give any substantial proposals in the foreign area,” Claude Moraes said.

In October 2013, Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower, leaked top secret US government spying programs under which the NSA and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are eavesdropping on millions of American and European phone records and the Internet data from major Internet companies such as Facebook, Yahoo, Google, Apple, and Microsoft.

The NSA scandal took even broader dimensions when Snowden revealed information about its espionage activities targeting friendly countries and their leaders, which included bugging Chancellor Merkel’s mobile phone for a decade.

Documents leaked by Snowden showed Britain has also been operating a covert listening post within a stone’s throw of Germany’s parliament, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s offices in the Chancellery, using hi-tech equipment housed on the embassy roof.

The revelations prompted Brazil and Germany to draft a UN General Assembly resolution aimed at restraining the NSA’s surveillance programs against other nations.


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