U.S. Allies Still Angry at Snowden’s Revelations of U.S. Spying

Relations with Europe, Brazil are tense and unlikely to ease soon

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Richard Drew / AP

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff waits to be introduced to address the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Sept. 24, 2013 in New York.

The European Parliament this week named Edward Snowden a finalist for its prestigious human rights award, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, the latest expression of international outrage over the former U.S. intelligence contractor’s revelations that America spies on allies and enemies alike.

Snowden in late June showed National Security Agency documents to the German magazine Der Spiegel that allegedly revealed that the U.S. monitored Germany as closely as it does China or Russia, intercepting some 500 million communications monthly. German Chancellor Angela Merkel in July called on President Barack Obama to disclose the full details on U.S. spying on Germany. “Germany is not a surveillance state, it’s a country of freedom,” she said during her annual summer appearance before the Berlin press corps. Given East Germany’s big brother history, invasion of privacy is a serious issue in Germany. “There is a huge outcry against the [Snowden scandal],” Dan Hamilton, executive director of the American Consortium on European Union Studies at Johns Hopkins, tells TIME. “I’m not sure how many in the U.S. understand the depth of anger and surprise amongst the Germans about the surveillance.”

Snowden, at the time camping out in the transit lounge in Moscow’s international airport waiting for Russia to grant him asylum, also showed Der Spiegel documents that described how the agency bugged the European Union’s Washington and New York as well as the Justus Lipsius Building in Brussels, which houses the European Council and the EU Council of Ministers. “If it is true, it is a huge scandal,” European Parliament President Martin Schulz told Der Spiegel. “That would mean a huge burden for relations between the EU and the U.S. We now demand comprehensive information.” Some European Union politicians have called for Europe to open proceedings against the U.S. at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

The same week, The Guardian printed a story also attributed to Snowden documents that the NSA also spies on 38 embassies and missions. So-called “targets” include France, Italy, Greece, Japan, South Korea, India and Turkey.

Mexico and Brazil have demanded answers from the U.S. over Guardian revelations in September, again sourced to Snowden’s trove of stolen NSA documents, that the U.S. spied on both countries’ presidential offices as well as Petrobras, Brazil’s state-owned oil giant.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who was once imprisoned and tortured by Brazil’s military hunta, delayed an October state visit to Washington in protest. She also took to the floor of the United Nations General Assembly last week to express her outrage to Obama, who was waiting in the wings to speak. “Tampering in such a manner in the affairs of other countries is a breach of international law and is an affront of the principles that must guide the relations among them, especially among friendly nations,” Rousseff thundered. “A sovereign nation can never establish itself to the detriment of another sovereign nation. The right to safety of citizens of one country can never be guaranteed by violating fundamental human rights of citizens of another country.”

Though the U.S. hasn’t commented on Europe’s anger, the White House did put out a statement following Obama’s call with Rousseff on Sept. 17 during which she informed him she was postponing her state visit—the first of Obama’s second term. “The President has said that he understands and regrets the concerns disclosures of alleged U.S. intelligence activities have generated in Brazil and made clear that he is committed to working together with President Rousseff and her government in diplomatic channels to move beyond this issue as a source of tension in our bilateral relationship,” Caitlin Hayden, a spokesman for the National Security Council said. “As the President previously stated, he has directed a broad review of U.S. intelligence posture, but the process will take several months to complete.”

MORE: The Surveillance Society