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Why spy on allies? Even good friends keep secrets

October 31, 2013 • National News


This photo provided by The Guardian Newspaper in London shows Edward Snowden, who worked as a contract employee at the National Security Agency, on Sunday, June 9, 2013, in Hong Kong. In geopolitics just as on the local playground, even best friends don’t tell each other everything. And everybody’s dying to know what the other guy knows. Revelations that the U.S. was monitoring the cellphone calls of up to 35 world leaders, including close allies, have brought into high relief the open-yet-often-unspoken secret _ and suggested the incredible reach of new-millennium technology. (AP Photo/The Guardian, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras)

In geopolitics, just as on the playground, even best friends don’t tell each other everything. And everybody’s dying to know what the other guy knows.

Revelations that the U.S. has been monitoring the cellphone calls of up to 35 world leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have brought into high relief the open-yet-often-unspoken secret that even close allies keep things from one another — and work every angle to find out what’s being held back.

So it is that the Israelis recruited American naval analyst Jonathan Pollard to pass along U.S. secrets including satellite photos and data on Soviet weaponry in the 1980s. And the British were accused of spying on U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in the lead-up to the Iraq War. And the French, Germans, Japanese, Israelis and South Koreans have been accused of engaging in economic espionage against the United States.

But now the technology revealed by former National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden has underscored the incredible new-millennium reach of the U.S. spy agency. And it is raising the question for some allies: Is this still OK?

National Intelligence Director James Clapper, for his part, testified this week that it is a “basic tenet” of the intelligence Login to read more

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