Spain has become the latest European ally of the United States to express outrage at Washington’s clandestine operations after it emerged that the American National Security Agency (NSA) had monitored tens of millions of Spanish phone calls in the space of a single month.
El Mundo newspaper reported that a leaked NSA document showed the American agency had tracked 60 million phone calls, texts and emails in Spain between 10 December 2012 and 8 January this year. The White House has yet to comment. The US’s ambassador to Madrid, James Costos, was summoned to a meeting with the Secretary of State for the European Union, Inigo Méndez de Vigo, on Monday morning by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
A statement from Spain’s foreign ministry said that the alleged eavesdropping – “if true” – was “inappropriate and unacceptable”. The practices are also, as El Mundo pointed out in an editorial on Monday, illegal in Spain, with unauthorised “violation of the privacy of millions of Spaniards punishable by up to four years in prison”.
The meeting concluded with Mr Costos leaving with a security escort and making no comments to journalists assembled outside, nor, indeed, to a lone, placard-wielding, protester. El Mundo said its report and a classified graph, entitled “Spain – last 30 days”, of the US’s alleged monitoring were based on documents provided by Brazil-based journalist Glenn Greenwald. Mr Greenwald, co-writer of El Mundo’s report, in turn had received the documents from the ex-NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowdon. Although actual conversations were not apparently taped, the newspaper claimed the duration and location of the origin and destination of tens of millions calls were recorded, with a peak of 3.5 million calls tracked in a single day on 11 December.
If confirmed, the report will have opened a new chapter of the spying scandals that have seen similar stories emerging from France and Germany – which also summoned respective US ambassadors to meetings to discuss the allegations.
The stories have also led to calls from Germany that the EU’s 28-member states reach a “no-spy” deal, following reports that the NSA had monitored Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone. Among the mounting diplomatic tension, it would also indirectly increase the pressure on Spain to accept Germany’s proposal, which Spain had previously rejected.
Spain’s media later reported that the country’s Foreign Minister, José Manuel García-Margallo – in Poland on an official visit – said that “if confirmed” the US monitoring could lead to a “breakdown in the climate of trust” between Washington and Madrid.
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