Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Snowden, Fabius, Putin, and Wikileaks: Cui Bono

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has called-in Jane Hartley, the American ambassador to the Quai d'Orsay, in response to media reports— citing Wikileaks— that the National Security Agency kept successive French presidents under surveillance,  The Wall Street Journal reported.

Wikileaks-released material shows that the NSA tracked former presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac as well as President Francois Hollande who has been in office since May 2012.

Six documents disseminated by Wikileaks appear to be sourced in confidential data purloined by Edward Snowden, the renegade NSA contractor now based in Moscow. 

The NSA had previously been shown to have conducted surveillance on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Wikileaks noted.

Hollande's office put out a statement which said that "France will not tolerate any acts that compromise its security and the safeguarding of its interests."

A White House spokesman said that the U.S. does "not conduct any foreign intelligence surveillance activities unless there is a specific and validated national security purpose" and that the policy "applies to ordinary citizens and world leaders alike."

Some of the alleged eavesdropping related to discussions about French-German relations and Greece's economic collapse and took place between 2006 and 2012, according to the Journal.

Hollande plans to parlay with key lawmakers to discuss the Wikileaks material, the AP reported.

A Wikileaks press statement quoted Julian Assange as saying, "We are proud of our work with leading French publishers Liberation and Mediapart to bring this story to light."

Assange has been holed up in the Embassy of Ecuador in London for some three years. He is avoiding extradition to Sweden where he is wanted for questioning regarding accusations that he assaulted two women in 2010.

Ecuador, led by left-wing populist president Rafael Correa, is a key Wikileaks supporter. 

Under Correa, Ecuador also recently opened a Ramallah-based embassy in "Palestine."  In a separate incident, to a political opponent who called him a "fascist," Correa offhandedly tweeted "Heil Hitler."

While some 4,000 Jews found refuge in Ecuador during the Second World War, fewer than now 300 Jews remain in the country.

Snowden's leaks have played into the hands of Russian leader Vladimir Putin. They sow division within Europe and between Europe and the U.S., according to German analyst Josef Joffe, writing in the Journal

To maintain his bona fides and avoid being dismissed as a Moscow stooge, Snowden has lately leveled mild criticism of Putin. 

Max Boot, writing in Commentary speculated-- reasonably to my mind--
that it is likely Snowden's living expenses are being picked up by the Kremlin.

There is little question that Snowden's "whistleblowing" has mostly served Russian interests. A search of Wikileaks for any negative reporting on Putin comes up empty.

While Snowden's revelations exposed intrusive metadata gathering and possibly violations of civil liberties, they may have also undermined efforts to track Islamist terrorists. According to analyst Max Hastings, "Some small loss of privacy seems a fair price to pay for defense against the fanatics, who have already shed innocent blood enough."

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