It’s no exaggeration to say that Europe is outraged by revelations of massive spying by the US.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … PIVOTING AMIDST ENCROACHING CHAOS: IS THE PROMISE OF THE CALIFORNIA SUMMIT RECEDING IN THE REAR VIEW MIRROR?
** QUICK HITS. There’s no sign that Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, the USC PhD who heads the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government, is backing down from a threat by the army to take over in the midst of complex mass demonstrations by a number of secular interests. The army has given Morsi and his other opponents till Wednesday to work out their differences. No pressure there. … The Obamas wrap up their African tour Tuesday with final events in Tanzania. These include a joint presidential appearance with former President George W. Bush at the memorial to the 1998 Al Qaeda attack on the US embassy in Dar Es Salaam, and a joint appearance by First Lady Michelle Obama and former First Lady Laura Bush. … Obama is working on having his own African initiative, the creation of electric power infrastructure, to match Bush’s successful AIDS eradication program. … Governor Jerry Brown signed landmark California education funding reform legislation Monday in dual events in Los Angeles and Sacramento. … California’s state revenues for June finished $1 billion ahead of the Brown Administration’s forecast.
** LATEST SNOWDEN REVELATIONS: HOW VERY FAR WE’VE COME FROM THE DAYS OF ‘GENTLEMEN DO NOT READ EACH OTHER’S MAIL.’ The weekend’s sudden revelations in the Snowden affair show how very far we’ve come from that old notion that “Gentlemen do not read each other’s mail.”
As a result we have another inventive German protest sign to join the “Yes We Scan!” that greeted President Barack Obama during his visit to Berlin less than two weeks ago: “Stasi 2.0 — All Your Data Is Belong To Us” with an image of Obama wearing headphones. The new slogan is lifted from the Internet meme “All your base are belong to us.” The Stasi was the dread East German State Security, enforcer of the late police state.
As entertaining as the movie-ish aspects of ex-NSA analyst Edward Snowden’s interrupted dash from Hong Kong to Latin America — he’s currently hung up in the Moscow airport — may be, the Snowden affair yielded much more substantive fireworks over the weekend. These came in the form of articles in the German news magazine Der Spiegel and elsewhere reporting massive surveillance of German citizens and government by the National Security Agency, as well as extensive spying on the European Union and allied governments. Snowden’s revelations had already shadowed last month’s big U.S.-China summit in California, complicating efforts to execute America’s geopolitical shift from over-engagement with the Islamic world of the Middle East and Central Asia to heightened engagement with the rising Asia-Pacific. (Pivot archive here.)
The latest developments have resulted in a chorus of condemnation from leading European officials for the U.S. and the Obama Administration, all of it pending confirmation that the reports are accurate.
Are they? The U.S. government certainly didn’t issue snappy denials over the weekend.
But there are promises of private consultation with publicly outraged allies, as well as very general-sounding statements about all governments taking security steps. A big transatlantic trade deal hangs in the balance.
Germany seems to be a particular target for the extremely expansive U.S. surveillance of phone and Internet traffic.
The U.S. was already dealing with the ongoing aftermath of controversy around outgoing Ambassador Philip Murphy’s cables (in many if not most U.S. embassies, the ambassador’s name is on all cables, whether he or she is the author or not), which Wikileaks released a few years back to the embarrassment of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and others who were treated to “full and frank” assessments. Between that and the central role that Germany plays in the European Union, Eurozone, and NATO — not to mention its heightened levels of energy and commercial engagement with resurgent great power Russia — my highly capable old Gary Hart for President colleague John Emerson, Obama’s recently announced pick to be our new ambassador to Germany, was already in for a very interesting time of it once he goes through the confirmation process. The situation coming out of the weekend is now such that it gives new meaning to the old Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.”
Meanwhile, aside from some vague language about other governments — in this case the governments of longtime American allies — also conducting espionage operations, not that they have anywhere the technologically advanced capabilities or extremely expansive programs of the NSA, I’m not seeing rationales from the Obama Administration to explain these big new revelations.
What might they say, if they tried? Well, it’s true that some transnational jihadists have based terrorist operations out of Germany in the past.
But does that justify the breadth of surveillance?
In any event, that leaves the question of a rationale for the spying on allied governments and the European Union.
Of course, we shouldn’t be naive. Spying and secrecy have been part and parcel of the international system for a long time. That may be for the purpose of monitoring the political stability of the E.U. and the financial stability of the Eurozone, the latter of which has at times seemed to threaten the rickety global economic recovery. But that can’t be rationalized in terms of any potential terrorist threat, which is of course the uber-rationale for all these new heightened surveillance programs.
* “Gentlemen do not read each other’s mail.”
That’s the famous line from Henry Stimson, the old-line Republican Skull-and-Bones Yalie who served as secretary of war under President William Howard Taft from 1911 to 1913, secretary of state under President Herbert Hoover from 1929 to 1933, and secretary of war again for President Franklin D. Roosevelt from 1940 to 1945.
While Hoover’s secretary of state, Stimson notoriously dismantled the Cipher Bureau, better known as the Black Chamber, a joint venture between the Army and the State Department that masqueraded as a New York City company. This forerunner of the NSA read the coded cables of virtually all the delegations, especially those of Japan, to the Washington Naval Conference of the early ’20s, at which global naval power was apportioned in the aftermath of World War I. It’s one of history’s ironies that Stimson, who promulgated the Stimson Doctrine, which placed the U.S. in official opposition to Japanese expansionism in the Asia-Pacific, as secretary of state also did away with the cryptographic outfit which had already shown it could break the Japanese codes.
But in reality, by the time the U.S. entered the run-up to World War II, espionage, code-making and code-breaking were very deeply entrenched in the system. And Stimson, no longer bound by an old gentlemen’s code of honor, was very much in the thick of it. Battles famously turned on the ability, and inability, of spy agencies to read someone else’s “mail.” …
** OBAMA MONDAY. President Barack Obama is in South Africa and Tanzania.
The Obamas have entered the final stage of their big trip to Africa.
They flew on Air Force One from Cape Town, South Africa to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania early Monday morning
There they took part in an official welcome ceremony in Dar Es Salaam at State House, Tanzania.
Travel Pool Coverage
Obama then held a restricted bilateral meeting with President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania at State House in Dar Es Salaam.
Following that, he held an expanded bilateral meeting with President Kikwete.
The two presidents then conducted a joint press conference at State House.
Next up for Obama was a tree planting ceremony with President Kikwete at State House.
When that concluded, Obama took part in a CEO Roundtable at the Hyatt Kilimanjaro in Dar Es Salaam.
Obama then delivered remarks at a business forum at the Hyatt Kilimanjaro.
The final event of the day finds the Obamas attending an official dinner with President Kikwete at State House.
The Obamas wrap up their African visit Tuesday in Tanzania, then return to the White House.
The Snowden affair continues to boil over with hot European reaction to revelations of the massive surveillance program conducted by the administration on the European Union and other European allies, especially Germany.
As for Snowden himself, his status remains up in the air. He is unable at present to make it to Ecuadorian territory to begin his asylum process.
He has an apparent offer of asylum from new Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, but that is problematic given the sharply antagonistic relationship between the US and Venezuela from the days of the late Hugo Chavez.
Snowden appears to be seeking asylum in Russia, where President Vladimir Putin says he won’t give up the fugitive NSA contractor. But as many things are not simple where Putin is concerned, this seems a fallback move. I can’t believe that Snowden wants to end up in Russia in Putin’s grasp.
More to follow.
Secretary of State John Kerry is trying to fend off the firestorm even as he has arrived in Brunei for an Asian security conference around the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) foreign ministers summit.
There the Philippines is accusing China of trying to militarize the entire South China Sea region and menacing its ships not far off its own shores.
Meanwhile, Kerry appointed my old friend and boss former Senator Gary Hart as the new chairman of the International Security Advisory Board. The post was previously held by former Defense Secretary William Perry, who remains a member of the board.
Obama is monitoring several geopolitical crises involving widespread unrest in Egypt, where the military has given President Mohamed Morsi to find a way to work with the opposition, the Syrian civil war, the North Korean nuclear program, the Arab Awakening, Iran and Israel, Iraq, AfPak, and the South China Sea.
Military Crisis Zone Times: The Persian/Arabian Gulf is ten hours ahead of Pacific time, and Afghanistan is eleven and a half hours ahead of Pacific time. The time in Manila, on the South China Sea, is fifteen hours ahead of Pacific time. The time on the Korean Peninsula is sixteen hours ahead of Pacific time.
The underlying politics of the US Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage continue to reverberate.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES – MONDAY. Governor Jerry Brown is in Northern California and Southern California.
At 9:30 AM, he appears at Cahuenga Elementary School in Los Angeles to sign historic school funding legislation directing additional resources to the state’s neediest students and restoring local control over school spending.
He is joined in LA by Assembly Speaker John Pérez, author of the Middle Class Scholarship Act (AB 94), which will also be signed at the event.
At 1:45 PM, Brown appears at California Middle School in Sacramento to again sign his education funding reform program.
State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg joins Brown at the Sacramento signing event.
Not surprisingly, the effort by proponents of the Prop 8 anti-gay marriage initiative to delay the new marriages taking place was denied by US Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Californian, over the weekend.
The victory for same-sex marriage in California was enabled by the decision of Brown and then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger not to defend Prop 8 in court.
But it’s not all roses for Brown. There’s a big public transit strike underway in his home Bay Area region just getting underway.
NOTE: Now that California’s budget process is concluded and the state’s political crisis has subsided and with things going so smoothly in presidential politics — okay, that’s not quite right — New West Notes, with travel in the picture, will not be publishing around the clock for awhile. But there will be no shortage of columns and articles and publication here will be regular.
** HOW CALIFORNIA’S PROP 8 ANTI-GAY MARRIAGE WAS FINALLY DEFEATED, FOUR YEARS AGO. … From my June 28th feature.
** MAD MEN‘S DOWN SEASON 6 ENDS UP IN TRIUMPH. … From my June 26th essay.
** SNOWDEN CRASH. … From my June 24th column.
** OBAMA SUMMITRY ENCOUNTERS THE SNOWDEN EFFECT, AGAIN. … From my June 21st essay.
** A SLUMPING MAD MEN HEADS TO ITS SEASON FINALE. … From my June 19th essay.
** OBAMA’S SERIOUS SYRIAN STRADDLE THREATENS HIS OWN STRATEGY. … From my June 14th essay.
The US is getting more involved in disputes between China and its Asia-Pacific neighbors over the PRC’s claim of sovereignty over almost all the strategic South China Sea.
** SUNNYLANDS SUMMITRY: ALTERNATE CHINESE VIEW, ALTERNATE CALIFORNIAN SUMMIT. … From my June 12th feature.
** FROM GOVERNATOR TO MOONBEAM. … From my January 3rd, 2011 feature.
** OBAMA: RIDING WITH HISTORY. (NOTE: As Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States, this column was the featured column on the top of the front page of the Huffington Post.) … From my January 19th, 2009 Huffington Post column.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM AL JAZEERA. With the US entangled in major military operations in the region, and the Arab awakening underway, it’s valuable to keep up with news and perspectives from the leading Middle Eastern-based TV news network. Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer. The NWN live link to AJ does not constitute an endorsement of the channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** TRACK GLOBAL AND NATIONAL ENERGY PRICES IN NEAR REAL TIME VIA BLOOMBERG ENERGY MARKET WATCH. Having crashed over $147 for yet another record on July 11th, 2008, crude oil is trading around $98 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $64 from the low of $34 per barrel prior to enactment of the Obama economic recovery program, reflecting a low point in global economic activity, and down about $16 per barrel from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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