Here's another item for the list of NSA projects that will likely make for awkward U.S. foreign relations. According to a report in El Mundo, the NSA collected data on 60 million phone calls in Spain over a 30-day period in December, 2012. That report, written by Glenn Greenwald and the paper's Germán Aranda, is very similar to an earlier story in Le Monde detailing the NSA's reported collection of data on 70 million French phone calls, also during a 30-day period in December of last year. Both were based on documents from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
El Mundo's story follows a similar piece in El Pais on Friday, citing anonymous sources familiar with the Snowden document trove. That story didn't really quantify the extent of the NSA's reach into Spain. But its claim that "millions" of citizens, along with government officials, were subject to NSA snooping prompted Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy to summon the U.S. ambassador to the country. It looks like the full El Mundo story won't go out until tomorrow, but Greenwald and others are circulating a preview of the report in the form of El Mundo's front page for Monday:
Nevertheless, what we know of the story so far is a good reminder that the revelations on the NSA's spying on foreign countries, including friendly ones, includes two major plot lines. First, there are the reports of NSA programs targeting the leaders of foreign countries, including Mexico, Brazil, Germany, and dozens of others. Then, there are stories like El Mundo's, detailing the NSA's programs targeting the citizens of foreign countries in bulk. Those stories can sometimes place U.S. allies in the interesting position of condemning American bulk surveillance while operating similar programs domestically — like France, for instance.
A number of countries mentioned in the Snowden leaks have lined up to push a U.N. resolution implicitly criticizing the NSA's programs. That resolution would update a decades-old international protection of privacy rights to explicitly include online privacy.