EU leaders has expressed anger after new leaks revealed that Washington has routinely monitored the phone conversations of 35 world leaders, saying the distrust of the US over spying could harm the fight against terrorism.
Allegations of spying overshadowed proceedings at an EU summit in Brussels which was supposed to focus on Europe’s growing refugee crisis.
“[European leaders] stressed that intelligence gathering is a vital element in the fight against terrorism. This applies to relations between European countries as well as to relations with the USA,” Herman van Rompuy, the president of the European Council, said in remarks on Friday.
“A lack of trust could prejudice the necessary cooperation in the field of intelligence gathering,” he said.
The British newspaper The Guardian said on Thursday it had obtained a confidential memo suggesting the NSA was able to monitor 35 world leaders’ communications in 2006.
The memo said the NSA encouraged senior officials at the White House, Pentagon and other agencies to share their contacts so the spy agency could add foreign leaders’ phone numbers to its surveillance systems, the report said.
The Guardian did not identify who reportedly was eavesdropped on.
A delegation of members of the European Parliament will travel to Washington on Monday for three days to seek a response to the allegations, after none of the EU presidents who confronted US got no convincing response.
The nine-member delegation from the parliament’s civil liberties committee will meet senior US government and intelligence officials and explore “possible legal remedies for EU citizens” resulting from the alleged surveillance, although it is not clear what such remedies might entail.