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US spying on Europe - the gloves come off

By       Message Martin Cohen     Permalink
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* The French electronics giant, Thomson, lost a contract for the supply of a $1.3 billion surveillance system for the Amazon rainforest after the Americans intercepted phone calls concerning the negotiations and passed them on to their own Raytheon Corporation.

* US newspapers have obtained reports from the Commerce Department demonstrating intelligence support to US companies in Indonesia. One document consists of minutes from an August 1994 Commerce Department meeting to help. A CIA employee spoke at the meeting; and no less than 5 of the 16 people on the distribution list for the minutes were from the CIA.

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* After the NSA lifted all the faxes and phone calls between Airbus, the Saudi national airline and the Saudi government from a commercial communications satellite. U.S. officials complained that Airbus agents were offering bribes - unfair! - helping Boeing and McDonnell Douglas win the $6 billion contract.

Other reported occasions on which the US government have used covertly intercepted communications for national commercial purposes include the trade negotiations the import of Japanese luxury cars; French participation in the GATT trade negotiations in 1993 and the Asian-Pacific Economic Conference in1997. Less well known is the extent to which US triumphs in intellectual property and patents draw on stolen information.

But here are some suggestions where insider information could have been very useful:

* In International Patents battles

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Apple's $1 Billion Patent Win Over Samsung in 2012. wrote that "Apple's huge intellectual property victory over Samsung last Friday night was ... about market dominance in the exploding global smartphone race".

* In World Trade disputes

A 2012 ruling by the World Trade organisation found heavily for the US, saying, on the basis of information provided in large part by the US, that while Boeing received between $3 billion and $4 billion in U.S. subsidies, the European consortium, Airbus, received $18 billion in subsidies from European governments.

* To steal Intellectual Property

Although the US is spying on everyone, including (ludicrously) its supposed allies, like the UK, Germany and France, all of whom faithfully provide secret information to their US spymasters, the US government is obsessed about the damage to its interests from other country's industrial espionage. The extent to which this is the case was well indicated by Dennis Blair, who served as President Barack Obama's first director of national intelligence, and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, who served as U.S. ambassador to China from 2009 through 2011. In an investigation conducted in public, for obvious political reasons, they claimed that the US loses billions in intellectual property to Chinese 'hackers' every year. Their report found that an estimated 2.1 million American jobs were lost due to intellectual theft.and that corporations hire what amount to full-time IT security guards to protect their networks from intruders.

It's not just the Chinese though who are the enemy of the NSA. Congressman Peter King, chair of the House Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence (a committee created in the wake of the findings of the Church Committee (described above) in the 1970s to act as a watchdog on the secret services, speaking on NBC's Meet the Press (28 October 2013) defended the United States' spying saying:

'I think the president should stop apologizing, stop being defensive... you know, the French are some ones to talk, when the fact is, they've carried out spying operations against the United States, both the government and industry..'

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What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

Although it is very difficult to quantify the losses caused by industrial espionage, writing in 1999, researchers for the European Parliament (STOA) already put the losses incurred by European firms at billions of euros per year. The bottom line is that the aim of the US monitoring of the world's communications is not to capture terrorists armed with box-cutters but to obtain significant economic information and, hence, to secure a leading position on the commercial markets.

This week, an influential German lawmaker invited NSA whistleblower, Edward Snowden, to brief the German parliament on the secret activities of its great ally - in principle- the US. To do that, he would probably have to be offered political asylum and special protection from assassination. That things have come to such a pass shows how deeply damaging the US government's secret programs are not only to its European allies but to the US's true economic interests too.

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Martin Cohen is a well-established author specializing in popular books in philosophy, social science and politics. His most recent projects include the UK edition of Philosophy for Dummies (Wiley June 2010); How to Live: Wise and not-so-wise (more...)

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