Europeans, Americans oppose spying on allies: poll

BRUSSELS - Europeans and Americans largely oppose their governments spying on their citizens and those of allied countries, a poll found on Tuesday, reflecting widespread disquiet at eavesdropping disclosed by former US intelligence operative Edward Snowden.

Opposition to government surveillance of private phone and internet data was strongest in Germany, where Snowden's allegations have caused uproar and damaged relations between Berlin and the United States.

Seventy per cent of Germans said their government would not be justified in collecting German citizens' phone and internet data to protect national security, according to the poll by the German Marshall Fund of the United States, a US thinktank that promotes cooperation between North America and Europe.

Twenty-five per cent of Germans disagreed.

Germans were even more hostile to governments collecting the telephone and internet data of people from allied countries, with 72 per cent opposed and 20 per cent in favour.

About 1,000 people were polled in each country in early September.

That was before fresh European outrage erupted last month over allegations published by Britain's Guardian newspaper that the United States monitored the phone conversations of 35 world leaders.

Germany summoned the US ambassador for the first time in living memory in October over suspicions that Washington bugged Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone.

Last week, Germany called in the British ambassador over documents leaked by Snowden showing that Britain's surveillance agency was operating a covert listening station close to Merkel's office.

In the United States, 54 per cent of people opposed government surveillance of Americans but US views on spying on allied citizens were more ambivalent, with 44 per cent opposed and 33 per cent saying it was justified.

In Britain, whose GCHQ eavesdropping agency is alleged to have cooperated closely with the US National Security Agency, 44 per cent said government surveillance of British citizens on national security grounds was unjustified compared to 33 per cent who said it was justified.

Forty-three per cent of Britons thought government surveillance of allied citizens was unjustified while 30 per cent believed it to be justified.