The US response to the latest revelations about its vast global surveillance programs amounts to the plaintive and familiar cry from the teenager caught in the act: 'Everyone else is doing it.'
News reports over the weekend from both Der Speigel in Germany and the UK's Guardian sparked outrage among EU countries after new documents made available by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden showed the NSA has been spying on many of its European allies, bugging their offices and tapping into their computer networks.
Following the reports, German officials accused the US of treating it "like a cold war enemy" and Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, said he was “deeply worried and shocked" over the allegations, and demanded a "full clarification" from the US regarding the allegations.
But on Sunday, the office of the NSA's director put out a press statement saying that the US foreign spying programs against its so-called allies is "of the of the type gathered by all nations."
Adding to the it's-ok-that-we-do-it-because-they-do-it argument on Sunday was former NSA chief Michael Hayden, who appeared on CBS' Face the Nation and said European officials blasting the US "should look first and find out what their own governments are doing."
Hayden defended US espionage by saying that the US Fourth Amendment, which is designed to protect the privacy of US citizens, does not extend to foreign citizens. That protection, he said, "Is not an international treaty."
The statement from NSA on Sunday did not deny any aspects of the news reporting about the bugging of the offices or the hacking of computer systems and said only that the US would address the charges through direct channels with the countries involved.