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‘It keeps the French safe’: US lawmakers defend spying


US lawmakers took to the airwaves over the weekend to defend the National Security Agency’s surveillance programme after a week of mounting French and German outrage, saying Europeans should be grateful for US spying since it keeps them safe.


US Republican lawmakers took to the airwaves over the weekend, defending US spying operations in France and Germany after a week of mounting official and public outrage over the wide scope of the National Security Agency’s surveillance programme.

Defending Washington’s spying operations in an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Republican Congressman Peter King, chairman of the House subcommittee on counterterrorism and intelligence, said Europeans should be grateful for US spying operations because they keep them safe.

King also said that US President Barack Obama should stop apologising to his European allies.

"The reality is the NSA [National Security Agency] has saved thousands of lives, not just in the United States but also in France and Germany and throughout Europe. The French are some ones to talk; the fact is, they've carried out spying operations against the United States, both the government and industry. As far as Germany, that's where the Hamburg plot began, which led to 9/11,” said King, referring to the cell of Islamist radicals based in the German city of Hamburg, which included 9/11 ringleader Mohamed Atta.

King’s statement followed a report by the German newspaper, Der Spiegel, that the US may have bugged German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone since 2002.

France has also expressed outrage over reports that the NSA recorded millions of phone calls made in France. Both France and Germany have summoned the US ambassador in their respective capitals as the diplomatic fallout of the latest scandal snowballed last week.

Media gets ‘one slide’ with the word ‘France’

But in an interview with CNN’s “State of the Nation” show over the weekend, Mike Rogers, chairman of the House of Representatives intelligence committee, said French citizens would celebrate US phone intercepts in their country if they realised how the practice keeps them safe.

"If the French citizens knew exactly what that was about, they would be applauding and popping champagne corks. It's a good thing. It keeps the French safe. It keeps the US safe. It keeps our European allies safe," said Rogers.

"This whole notion that we're going to go after each other on what is really legitimate protection of nation-state interest, I think is disingenuous."

While defending the NSA’s track record, Rogers suggested that the news coverage in Europe had been misguided.

"They are seeing three or four pieces of a thousand-piece puzzle and trying to come to a conclusion," he said.

The media was given one slide, which included the word "France" on it, Rogers said, which "started a huge amount of discussion about Americans collecting phone calls in France with French citizens. That is 100 percent wrong". The slide referred to a counter-terrorism program that had nothing to do with French citizens, he added.

Protesters march on Capitol Hill

Outrage over the NSA’s communications dragnet, which has been exposed by whistleblower Edward Snowden, has been mounting on both sides of the Atlantic.

On Saturday, a mixed group of protesters marched on Capitol Hill in Washington to protest against the government's online surveillance programs.

People carried signs reading: "Stop Mass Spying," "Thank you, Edward Snowden" and "Unplug Big Brother" as they gathered to demonstrate against the online surveillance by the NSA.

Estimates varied on the size of the march, with organisers saying more than 2,000 attended.

The march attracted protesters from both ends of the political spectrum as liberal privacy advocates walked alongside members of the conservative Tea Party movement in opposition to what they say is unlawful government spying on Americans.

In Europe, public anger against the revelation has been mounting, particularly in Germany following last week’s reports that the US may have bugged Merkel’s phone for more than 10 years.

A poll for Der Spiegel found that 60 percent of Germans believe the scandal has damaged bilateral ties.

The spying row prompted European leaders late last week to demand a new deal with Washington on intelligence gathering that would maintain an essential alliance while keeping the fight against terrorism on track.

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