Europe, Still Angry at U.S. Spying, Prepares to Increase Its Own

Just as the United States is taking a first step toward placating European privacy concerns about U.S. surveillance, several European countries are passing laws dramatically expanding their own spy programs.


The House last month passed the Judicial Redress Act, intended to extend some privacy protections to foreign citizens. Meanwhile, the French Senate just passed one of the broadest international surveillance bills in the world and several other European countries are moving in a similar direction.


That frustrates Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., who sponsored the Judicial Redress Act because he wanted to improve relationships with our international allies.


“Rather than criticizing U.S. surveillance practices, I encourage the EU to work to ensure that its own privacy protections meet the standards they demand from us,” he said in a statement emailed to The Intercept.


Ever since whistleblower Edward Snowden disclosed the extent of the U.S. National Security Agency’s sweeping dragnet of surveillance overseas in 2013, the Obama administration has been working to reassure friendly nations that we trust them, and aren’t indiscriminately spying on them.


It’s been an uphill battle. When European diplomatic leaders first learned the extent of NSA spying, they threatened to renegotiate major trade deals and said they felt betrayed. President Obama gave a speech stressing the importance of protecting privacy for people outside the U.S. in January 2014, saying, “Our efforts will only be effective if ordinary citizens in other countries have confidence that the United States respects their privacy, too.” He told European leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel that he’ll “call them” rather than resort to surveillance in the future.


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