The leaked National Security Agency documents have provoked the interest of Europeans because of their traditional concerns about their privacy and personal data, João Vale de Almeida, the European Union’s ambassador to the U.S., told Global Atlanta June 27.
But the incident has not fueled anti-Americanism, Mr. Vale de Almeida said following a World Affairs Council of Atlanta luncheon held at the Commerce Club concerning policies for re-establishing economic growth in the EU.
Mr. Vale de Almeida said he did not want to discuss the role of Edward Snowden, the 30-year-old former NSA contractor who was the source for a series of leaked documents concerning phone and email surveillance programs.
“We have asked for clarification from our American friends on the impact on European citizens and the citizens’ rights to privacy and other issues,” he said, noting that European officials recently met with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in Dublin, Ireland.
He also said that a working group had been organized to look into the details of the leaks that will be meeting in the next few days.
(When interviewed by Global Atlanta, Mr. Vale de Almeida apparently was unaware that NSA surveillance techiques had been applied to the EU’s offices in Washington. The German magazine Der Spiegel published on June 29, two days following Mr. Vale de Almeida’s address at the World Affairs Council of Atlanta, an extensive overview of Mr. Snowden’s revelations.)
Mr. Vale de Almeida reportedly tweeted on Sunday that he had “confronted US gov with press reports on access to EU comm systems. Have been promised info & eagerly await it. We need clarification.”
The Spiegel article included the following paragraph: “The document suggests that in addition to installing bugs in the building in downtown Washington, DC, the European Union representation’s computer network was also infiltrated. In this way, the Americans were able to access discussions in EU rooms as well as emails and internal documents on computers.”
“We believe as we are among allies and friends that clarity and transparency is the best way forward,” Mr. Vale de Almeida said at the World Affairs Council of Atlanta luncheon.
“So we hope by this process we can be reassured about terms of the rights of European citizens. European citizens are very attached to privacy and protection of personal data and that is regardless of such an event.”
He added that Europeans were suspicious of the invasion of their privacy by governments anywhere including member states of the EU.
Meanwhile, President Obama told the Financial Times in Senegal where he is traveling that there would be “no wheeling and dealing” with any foreign government for the extradition of Mr. Snowden, who reportedly remains in Russia.
Mr. Vale de Almedida participated at the luncheon on a panel with Ireland’s ambassador to the U.S., Michael Collins.