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EU fury over allegations of US spying

European leaders reacted with fury yesterday to allegations in a German magazine that the United States had conducted a wide-ranging effort to monitor European Union diplomatic offices and computer networks, with some saying that they expected such surveillance from enemies, not their closest economic partner.

It was the latest fallout from National Security Agency information apparently leaked by Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor whose detailing of classified information on the agency’s programs has shined a rare light on U.S. surveillance efforts that range far wider than previously known.

Underscoring the depth of the European anger over the allegations, top officials from several European countries said the reports of spying would figure into the future of transatlantic trade talks that began in June. The efforts would create the world’s largest free-trade zone, and European officials said yesterday that they suspected the target of U.S. intelligence interest was economic information, not military.

“Partners do not spy on each other,” said European Commissioner for Justice Viviane Reding at a public event in Luxembourg yesterday. “We cannot negotiate over a big transatlantic market if there is the slightest doubt that our partners are carrying out spying activities on the offices of our negotiators.”

Germany’s Der Spiegel newsmagazine reported this weekend that the NSA had placed listening devices in EU diplomatic offices in Washington and New York, had breached an EU computer network that provided access to internal emails and documents, and had accessed phone lines in EU headquarters in Brussels in order to monitor top officials’ phone conversations. The magazine said that it had seen portions of 2010 documents from Snowden, although it did not publish them on its website nor did it quote from them directly.

Later yesterday, Britain’s Guardian newspaper published additional information, including portions of an internal NSA presentation that appear to detail several methods by which U.S. intelligence agencies monitored diplomats inside the United States. The “Dropmire” program apparently monitored communications on an encrypted fax machine used by the E.U. delegation in Washington to communicate with counterparts in Europe.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement yesterday that she had asked for further information from U.S. officials in Washington and Brussels.

A spokesman from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said yesterday that the U.S. government would respond through diplomatic channels.

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