Furious Europeans Want Snowden and NSA Head to Testify — Yeah Right


The European Parliament (EP) is calling for the appearance and testimony of Edward Snowden and General Keith Alexander in the incipient investigation into National Security Agency (NSA) information-gathering programs that have affected Europeans. The NSA's internet surveillance program, PRISM, is of particular interest. These two individuals, for very different reasons, will be very difficult to get a hold of. One is stranded without travel documents in a Russian airport and the other is America's greatest spymaster. The EP will get its investigation, but it will not get its desired results and likely neither of these two testimonies. 

The EP has obvious interest in uncovering the details of how intelligence services gather information from its citizens, but it also has a great deal of interest in maintaining good relations with its ally, the U.S. Likewise, the U.S. has a vital interest in maintaining good standing with the Europeans, but also in preserving its image and political capital. This situation will lead to an unfortunately familiar end. Remember when James Clapper gave soothing-but-false testimony on NSA activities earlier this year? The same product, but probably without subsequent scandal, will come with the EP's investigation.

Another problem with the EP investigation is that they do not really know what questions to ask. Most of the outrage from which the EP gets its motivation is coming from the German public. The German public outcry has resulted in its own domestic investigations. German investigations have not produced substantive answers because the question is always: "What else is there to know?" A question to which officials can respond: "Nothing."

Finally, while it might be impolite to dismiss smaller EU nations as insignificant, but insignificant they are. The small countries that may be indignant about civil liberty violations are bound to act cooperatively with the bigger constituents of the EP. The EP is largely supported financially and constitutionally by two of America's staunchest allies: Germany and the UK. Many of the other member nations are also NATO members. This means that all of these countries share some sort of intelligence with the US — via NATO. It is already known that the UK was directly aware of PRISM and utilized NSA data. Der Spiegel also recently revealed that NSA and German Intelligence have "intensive cooperation."

So, these influential EP nations already have at least, at some level, a paltry understanding of the programs. They could get Alexander to testify — more likely a lesser U.S. intelligence official, but nothing more will come of the investigation. The U.S. will do this to assuage its Euro-partners and they will, in turn, let go of these inquiries as quickly as each constituent public relaxes on the topic. Snowden, ever the wild card, is impossible to predict accurately. He will probably not want to enter countries so closely allied with the United States nor he will not be able to.

Either way, the EP will get a meager investigation, few results, and business will continue as usual.