German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Obama at G-8 summit. (photo: Getty Images)
The New York Times reports that US president Barack Obama is "poised to order the National Security Agency to stop eavesdropping on the leaders of American allied nations." Diane Feinstein reportedly agrees. All of which wildly misses the point, and pays little more than lip-service to the far broader problem: The NSA and the US government are spying on anyone and everyone in the world they choose, including but certainly not limited to heads of allied states -- including Angela Merkel -- and the American people.
Tossing a token fig leaf to those foreign elected officials the US government and the NSA arbitrarily deem to be leading states that conduct their affairs in an acceptable manner is nothing other than cheap theater, and an insult to those very leaders. All of this electronic invasion of sovereignty is presented as a means to enhance American national security. In fact, as it alienates our staunchest supporters, it isolates the US it makes the nation far more vulnerable.
What is of even greater concern is that the proposed meager act of contrition is entirely discretionary. At this moment in time, this sitting US president has decided to extend this measure of good grace to a handful of chosen favored elites. Nothing that is now is proposed would create any lasting impediment to doing all of this again if a John McCain, Mitt Romney, Ted Cruz, or Hillary Clinton were elected president. In short, it's grandstanding without substance.
What is needed is a substantive change in course. It's not enough that our allies cooperate with us, we must also cooperate with them. The US must adhere to a code of ethics that other nations have confidence in. Yes, it is a complicated and adversarial world, but betraying the trust of all nations makes it no safer.
To believe that a unified Europe cannot impact US economic and security interests is a silly notion. The leaders of Europe don't need fig leaves, they need the kind of respect for the sovereignty of their nations and their people that builds lasting partnerships.