EU, NSA, Will Smith and I – in D.C. back in 1997

In midst of continuing news flow on the Snowden/NSA case, I’ve got to share my special NSA/“almost related to a celebrity” moment from D.C. from 1997. In autumn 1997, I was doing my internship at the Delegation of the European Commission in D.C. – i.e. in one of those EU offices the U.S. has reportedly been bugging.

One October morning, the street in front of our office windows was closed, and a neighboring parking space was suddenly packed with movie production trucks and trailers. By chance, and how aptly, it turned out that the movie being shot just in front of our eyes was a Scott/Bruckheimer film “Enemy of the State” featuring Gene Hackman and Will Smith. This is the movie that many commentators invoked in the U.S. when the Snowden/NSA case broke in June, due to a fact that NSA surveillance capabilities was the main theme of the movie. (http://ti.me/14lq7nn, http://nym.ag/19Mu3Td).

Here, I’ll not go further into political or ethical discussions around this topic, except for saying that I pretty much agree with Jaakko Iloniemi’s realistic views presented in his blog on 3 July (http://bit.ly/17lZz3F, only in Finnish). Enemy of the State was a pretty good, entertaining conspiracy movie, no more than that. However, it is an interestingly topical one from the point of view of today’s discussion on surveillance, and for sure, it was a memorable experience for, at that time, a young guy from Tampere to have a chance to follow from few meters distance Will Smith and Gene Hackman in action on the movie’s “hotel chase scene”.

What comes to the U.S. bugging of the EU delegation, I hope it wasn’t active when I had my highlight/one of many “junior moments” of the internship. I interned at the delegation’s information services, and one day, I was lucky to answer the phone when a Clinton advisor called and requested information on the EU stances on then ongoing Kyoto climate negotiations. I promised to send the requested documents, and at the end of our phone conversation, asked to which address the documents should be delivered. The advisor fell silent for a moment, and then replied, sounding somewhat surprised at my stupid question: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. In the U.S., obviously, that is the synonym for White House, and the address everybody should know.

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