Sanders Condemns Spying on U.S. Allies

BURLINGTON, Vt., Oct. 18 – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today decried “outrageous” eavesdropping by the National Security Agency on some of the United States’ closest allies.

Sanders is cosponsoring legislation that would significantly rein in the sweeping surveillance activities of the NSA and other intelligence agencies.

In a letter to President Barack Obama, the senator also voiced concern that the U.S. actions could undermine cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

“The strained relations with our allies as a result of wholesale NSA eavesdropping have impacted our ability to work with these countries in combating terrorism and advancing common economic goals,” Sanders said. “Clearly, in the complex and difficult world we now find ourselves, it is imperative that we try to improve our relations with friendly countries, not exacerbate them.”

Reports that the NSA spied on heads of state in Brazil, Mexico, France and Germany “are clearly unacceptable and must be discontinued immediately if we are to retain any esteem or credibility in the international community,” the senator said.

The White House did not dispute the most recent reports that the National Security Agency tapped into German Chancellor Angela Merkel's cellphone. That disclosure followed earlier reports that other U.S. allies were the subject of surveillance. The French were outraged by a recent report that the NSA harvested more than 70 million French phone records in a recent 13-month period. President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil last month called off a U.S. state visit over allegations that the Obama administration spied on her and other Brazilians. Mexicans were furious after reports that the U.S. gained access to former President Felipe Calderon’s emails when he was in office and read now-President Enrique Pena Nieto’s emails before he was elected.

“I hope you will work with me and other members of Congress in support of legislation that ends the current reckless activities of the NSA, and to develop policies which protect civil liberties and privacy rights while keeping our nation safe,” Sanders said.