Fugitive former US national security contractor Edward J Snowden, believed to be cloistered in a transit area of the Moscow airport, is becoming an increasing headache for the US administration. While US vice-president Joseph R Biden makes telephonic entreaties to president Rafael Correa of Ecuador not to grant him asylum, information leaked by him has been causing havoc to America’s relations with its allies. The fallout from his disclosures widened as the German magazine Der Spiegel reported that the US had eavesdropped on offices of the European Union in Washington and Brussels and at the United Nations in New York.
Snowden, facing charges of felony in the US, had earlier provided data showing the dates and Internet protocol addresses of computers in China and Hong Kong that the National Security Agency penetrated over four years. The embarrassment the US feels over its espionage activity cannot be scotched by repeatedly calling Snowden names and asking for his deportation. He also exposed the US’s double-acting on espionage; while it accuses China of hacking its computer systems, its intelligence agencies do precisely the same to China, besides targeting the embassies of several nations including India.
With its false claims of finding weapons of mass destruction in pre-war Iraq, Guantanamo Bay and, now, Snowden’s leaks, the US has lost its claim to the moral high ground. European nations now compare the American practices to those of the notorious Stassi of East Germany. What the world curiously watches is how the ill-feelings would impact negotiations for a trans-Atlantic trade pact worth hundreds of billions of dollars. EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding’s reported comment that “we can’t negotiate... if there is the slightest doubt that our partners are carrying out spying activities on the offices of our negotiators” portend major changes. Needless to say, the US has a lot of explaining to do.