Why the US spied on the EU in September 2010

04 Jul

The latest revelations by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden show that the US intelligence services were spying on the European Union mission in New York and its embassy in Washington during September 2010. Causing a diplomatic rift between the EU and the US, it’s still uncertain whether the revelations will have any long term affect. However, I think it’s important to point out the US reasons for spying and what they could be attempting to achieve.

The bugging operation targeting the EU mission at the United Nations was code named “Perdido” The reason for the bugging is all in the name of the operation “Perdido,” Spanish and Portuguese for lost, we assume this to be a reference to the Lisbon Treaty. The Lisbon Treaty added more bureaucracy due to the Qualified voting majority (QVC), which means the unanimity of all 27 countries within the European Council will no longer be required for the EU to act collectively on JHA matters.

Now the reason why the US was so concerned about the Lisbon Treaty is down to four core reasons:

1)      The security relationship – The Treaty would limit British power and influence in the EU, limiting its ability to push through pro-US policy. The Heritage Foundation put this as “the institutional and political constraints imposed by the Lisbon Treaty will severely limit Britain’s ability to build international alliances and independently determine its foreign policy.” They go on to say “the biggest damage would be done to Britain’s enduring alliance with the United States.”[i]

2)      Their economic power – The Heritage Foundation again states that the Lisbon Treaty would move away from an “Anglo-American free market economic model,” toward a “statist sclerotic Rhineland model.”[ii]

3)      EU hegemony – The Heritage Foundation again points out that the Lisbon Treaty will be the “EU’s power-grab of foreign and defense policy, which is vital to realizing the EU’s ambition of becoming the world’s first supranational superstate.”[iii]

4)      Their ability to politically control the European Union – The US feels it has very little control over the EU, outside of using the UK as power to influence. For that reason the Lisbon Treaty and its added bureaucracy, along with a waning UK influence, would severally damage their ability to influence the in EU decision process. The Heritage Foundation states the “Growing estrangement between America and Europe is thus being institutionally fostered.”[iv]

We can assume the bugging took place during the EU-US Energy Conference which started in September 2010. What the exact reason for the bugging taking place is up for debate and speculative as well. However, the conference was focused on energy relations, so we can assume it was mainly in relations to the growing EU demand for Russian energy, which was a major concern to US foreign policy during this time period. The concerns were outlined in the CSIS Report in February 2010 which said:

“Moscow’s divide-and-conquer tactics have successfully prevented greater inter-European cooperation on both economic and security issues. As we shall see, these factors have added to already existing strains in the U.S.-Europe relationship. Further NATO enlargement has been stopped, in part, due to Moscow’s energy ties with the wealthier Western European states. It is in the U.S. interest to assist those Eastern and Central European (ECE) states that are highly dependent on Russian energy imports and are most susceptible to imported corruption. Kremlin officials, supported by 60 percent of Russian public opinion, favor reestablishing Soviet-era control or influence over ECE countries. The threat to the sovereignty of these new democracies cannot be dismissed.”[v]

[i] The Heritage Foundation, “The Lisbon Treaty: Implications for Future Relations between the European Union and the United States,” December 15th 2009. Found at:

[ii] The Heritage Foundation, 2009.

[iii] The Heritage Foundation, 2009.

[iv] The Heritage Foundation, 2009.

[v] Centre for Strategic and International Studies, “Russia-europe energy relations implications for u.s. policy.” February 2010. Found at:

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Posted by on July 4, 2013 in China


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