GO
Loading...

You Learn to Live With Being Bugged: Former UK Minister

A former minister of state in the U.K. government has told CNBC that he "learned to live" with "several security services" bugging his electronic communications, and that claims that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) spied on European Union (EU) offices "represent perfectly reasonable policy".

Mark Malloch-Brown, who was minister of state for Africa, Asia and the United Nations (UN) between 2007-2009 in the U.K. foreign ministry, as well as deputy secretary general at the United Nations in 2006, told CNBC that he was not surprised by the recent claims the NSA bugged EU offices.

"Having been the number two at the United Nations, I learned to live with it (bugging) as taken for granted that our phones were bugged by several security services," he said.

"I suppose one might wryly add I would have felt rather less important if I thought that wasn't the case."

(Read More: US Bugged EU Offices, Hacked Into Its Computers)

Malloch-Brown was speaking as European leaders warned that allegations the NSA had hacked into the EU computer network could derail major trade talks, with Germany's foreign ministry summoning the U.S. Ambassador to seek clarification over the matter.

A spokesman for Germany Chancellor Angel Merkel said Monday: "If it is confirmed that diplomatic representations of the European Union and individual European countries have been spied upon, we will clearly say that bugging friends is unacceptable."

"We are no longer in the Cold War."

(Read More: Russia's Denial on Snowden Like Cold War: McCain)

While Malloch-Brown argued spying was part of the political game, he said that massive electronic surveillance, especially on an ally, was bad diplomacy.

"We're just about to start one of the most complex negotiations between Europe and the US in a generation," he said, "Indeed, if Europeans feel that their every offer and concession is already known by the other side, it will slow down and possibly even fatally undermine discussions."

"Because European negotiations are anyway complex, with 27 plus players, if now they feel they've got to meet privately and take walks in the woods where they're not being eavesdropped on, to decide what to do on subsidies for European cows or French film language, a complex negotiation will become impossible and fall under its own weight, possibly."

Malloch-Brown argued that it was important for nations to agree to not tap their allies, but he added that if the NSA did bug EU offices, it was a perfectly understandable line of policy from the Americans.

"One must not lose sight of the fact that within this is a perfectly reasonable U.S. security objective," he argued. "The nature of the threat has changed in our world."

Featured

Contact Europe News

Europe Video