Don’t France and Germany spy too?


              Just when David Cameron has put on the EU agenda the need to repeal and amend regulations and Directives that are destroying jobs and making the EU less competitive, France and Germany decide to hijack the EU summit to complain about US intelligence methods.

           I am not going to defend Mr Obama who clearly has to apologise to Mrs Merkel and explain what he has been up to. I suspect that Germany too employs people to research US policy and to find out things that are not generally available so Mrs Merkel is well briefed about her US ally.  German staff probably receive off the record briefings, have sources inside the White House to pick up the gossip and do many other things to understand the past and likely future actions of the world’s superpower. If they discovered some private remarks of Mr Obama I suspect they would forward them to Berlin.

           Anyone in public life knows that people are out to pick up their inner thoughts or their unguarded comments to shine more light on what they are likely to do next, or to exploit any mistake or weakness. As a backbench MP I have experienced eavesdropping of my phone and private conversations. These days any private conversation in a public place is liable to be recorded and used by someone.  It must be much worse if you are the Chancellor of Germany.  What I do want is the EU summit to address the problem of the poor economic performance of the EU as a whole, dragged down by too many bad laws and poor public policy at EU level. Picking a public row with Mr Obama is not the best use of this expensive meeting.

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  1. Narrow shoulders
    Posted October 25, 2013 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    My reaction to this revelation was much more, “how embarrassing to be caugh”t and for Germany and France “how embarrassing to be so easily buggable”.

    Of course this happens I hope Britain excels at this activity. Red faces all round and back to business as usual.

    • Hope
      Posted October 25, 2013 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

      What part did GCHQ play in helping the US? Cameron looked very shaky giving answers on the topic. Is this another reason why the US wants the UK in the wretched EU?

  2. Nick
    Posted October 25, 2013 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    They don’t like it up ’em, Captain Manering.

  3. Robert K, Oxford
    Posted October 25, 2013 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    When Mrs Merkel phoned Mr Obama to explain how angry whe was about her mobile being tapped, I rather imagine he said “I know”. 🙂

  4. Denis Cooper
    Posted October 25, 2013 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    Of course the German government would never try to spy on anyone, and least of all now that it is headed by a person who started her political career working for the East German government which also took a very strong line against spying.

    Moreover the German constitution guarantees privacy of communications.

    Article 10:

    “(1) The privacy of correspondence, posts and telecommunications shall be inviolable.”

    Of course the next paragraph does say that what is held to be “inviolable” under the first paragraph may be violated, because that is how the German constitution is written – an inviolable universal principle is boldly proclaimed, and then it is qualified.

    • uanime5
      Posted October 25, 2013 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

      Here’s what Article 10(2) says:

      “Restrictions may be ordered only pursuant to a law. If the restriction serves to protect the free democratic basic order or the existence or security of the Federation or of a Land, the law may provide that the person affected shall not be informed of the restriction and that recourse to the courts shall be replaced by a review of the case by agencies and auxiliary agencies appointed by the legislature.”

      So this right can only be restricted to upload the law or protect national security. In deed much of the German constitution seems to be written in this manners as people have the right to do X, except in circumstances Y. Just because in Germany they write laws differently than in the UK doesn’t mean the Germans are making their laws wrongly.

      Also inviolable is the English translation of a German word. Owing to the difficulties in translating languages it’s entirely possible that inviolable is simply the best word to use but has a slightly different meaning in German.

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted October 27, 2013 at 10:00 am | Permalink

        I know what it says, I said that the constitution was written in that way, and as the translation I used was the official German translation I expect they took care to choose “inviolable” as the closest English word.

  5. Richard1
    Posted October 25, 2013 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    What this episode is also doing is distracting attention from the betrayal of brave agents who have been exposed by these leaks. The sanctimonious and left-wing Guardian newspaper should be called to account for assisting a traitor to make us all less safe. They seem to have got away with by far the worst outrage in the phone hacking scandal – making false allegations which led to the closure of the News of the World. At the very least it should stop receiving the huge public subsidy it gets from all the state and BBC advertising.

    • Bazman
      Posted October 25, 2013 at 11:23 am | Permalink

      False allegations? You really are a fantasist aren’t you? Like a Party member in the Soviet Union constantly blaming the population for sabotage of the state and its organs whether they be companies or newspapers. We are heading that way as many point out, half with safe (ish) lives and the rest with nothing.

      • Handbags
        Posted October 25, 2013 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

        Yes, false allegations.

        The Guardian reported that Murdoch’s men had deleted voicemails from the Dowler’s phone – which created the uproar that lead to the Leveson enquiry being set up.

        It later turned out that the phone had an ‘auto’ setting and automatically deleted messages after 72hrs – it was nothing to do with the News of the World at all.

        It’s well documented.

        • Bazman
          Posted October 26, 2013 at 7:25 am | Permalink

          That may be one allegation, but they where up to their eyes in various dubious illegal and questionable activities. Shutting the paper down was Murdoch’s political decision. It had falling sales anyway due to ironically for him, advances in technology.

      • Richard1
        Posted October 25, 2013 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

        Its difficult to work out what point your post is making. The point I was making is that the specific allegations which resulted in the closure of the News of the World – and the loss of livelihoods that entailed – were based on allegations about the deletion of phone messages. These allegations turned out not to be true.

        • Bazman
          Posted October 26, 2013 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

          (Refers to alleged phone hacking at News of World which is currently the subject of important court cases ed)

          • Bazman
            Posted October 28, 2013 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

            Noticed that this morning on TV John. On the curve huh!?

    • Edward2
      Posted October 25, 2013 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

      Richard I agree with you over the Guardian exposures.
      I feel it is a massive miscalculation by them, to have exposed our clandestine methods for gathering intelligence and I hope this does not make us here in the UK less able to stop planned terrorist attacks in the future.
      I also agree with you, that some very brave men and women working in the intelligence services who are trying to keep us all safe, have now been put into great danger.
      They could have still made this information public in general terms, without giving full details of the “how” but very sadly, it is too late now.

  6. Denis Cooper
    Posted October 25, 2013 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    Given that there has always been a strong current of anti-Americanism running through the EEC/EC/EU – remember how the euro was going to knock the evil US dollar from its top position in the world? – I think the Americans would be well advised to keep a close eye on what the eurocrats are up to in private, just in case the monster they have bred in Europe finally turns against them.

    • Douglas Carter
      Posted October 25, 2013 at 9:23 am | Permalink

      Funny that just scant weeks ago, the USA and France were historic bestestest of buddies for ever and ever and the UK was in the doghouse for turning down the tempting and lucrative offer of joining them in bombing Syria to make matters even worse.

      And it now transpires that if Cameron would have had his choice, he’d now be playing piggy-in-the-middle between Obama and Kerry on one earpiece, and Hollande and Merkel on the other on a matter of the bleedin’ obvious whilst the Syria mess unwound and deteriorated. France has had the most shameless and aggressive surveillance and eavesdropping operation of practically any Western power in the post-war era. Imagine being in the situation of being compelled to support Hollande’s artificial indignation in this case?

      It was said at the time, and I sincerely hope Cameron is beginning to understand it now, that Parliament did Cameron a colossal favour on August 29 this year, by voting down action against Syria. With allies like those we are stuck with this side of the Atlantic, you just don’t need enemies.

    • John Harrison
      Posted October 25, 2013 at 9:55 am | Permalink

      That’s why the US is keen that the UK stays in the EU; they need an ally on the inside.

  7. stred
    Posted October 25, 2013 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    The best excuse that (Obama) could offer is that he does not control the US government machine. It is self organising and he was probably too busy on other matters to read about Mrs Merkel and did not realise the snooping was going on. When he was rumbled the natural reaction is to back up the machine and call for whistleblowers to be jailed.

  8. alan jutson
    Posted October 25, 2013 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    Think we all guessed it goes on.

    They do because they can, simples.

    Embarrassing though !

  9. Anonymous
    Posted October 25, 2013 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    Offences such as treason were always dealt with by the death penalty and we now see very good reason for this (not just the hacking of Frau Merkell’s phone.)

    For all her faults we are going to miss America’s global supremacy. And today’s ‘freedom fighting’ Lefties will make by far the most enthusiastic spies and prison guards in the new order.

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted October 25, 2013 at 9:26 am | Permalink

      Anon–The Death Penalty was just the least of it–John wouldn’t let me explain the other day the full mediaeval Traitor’s Death.

  10. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted October 25, 2013 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    What a marvellous diversion for the EU. I am sure they would much rather talk about a row with the USA than “to address the problem of the poor economic performance of the EU as a whole, dragged down by too many bad laws and poor public policy at EU level.” Once again the conjuror’s hand deflects attention from reality.

  11. Mike Stallard
    Posted October 25, 2013 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    Wasn’t it at Yalta, that Winston Churchill withdrew into him Russian Guest House and began to say everything that he thought about the Russians? Her was quickly hushed up.
    At the next meeting, Stalin sucked up to Roosevelt and neglected Churchill.
    This time, when the Great War Hero got back to the Russian House, he began to say all the plans which he secretly had about the future.
    The next meeting, Stalin was very attentive and Churchill was able to get his point of view across.

    Or words to that effect…

  12. a-tracy
    Posted October 25, 2013 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    Why wouldn’t Germany be spied on ? They were the instigator of the two biggest wars in Europe. Frau Merkel should be more concerned about why German technology doesn’t protect her phone better from being listened to. Are the Germans and Frau Merkel staking her reputation and made a solemn promise under oath that Germany doesn’t hack or listen in to any other politician’s phone calls?

  13. Denis Cooper
    Posted October 25, 2013 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    Oh, by the way, there may be no real need for this expensive meeting to actually take place, as Open Europe published its draft conclusions some days ago:

    • uanime5
      Posted October 25, 2013 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

      The European Council is made up of the leaders of the member states, so it’s no surprise that they’ve created a draft conclusion covering the main areas and are having a meeting to agree upon the exact wording.

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted October 26, 2013 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

        Thanks, unlike you I do know who is allowed to sit on the European Council.

        • uanime5
          Posted October 26, 2013 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

          Care to explain who sits on the European Council then. Your comment implies that it’s not the leaders of the member states. I trust you’re not confusing the Council with the Commission.

          • Denis Cooper
            Posted October 27, 2013 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

            Look it up for yourself, it’s not difficult.

  14. oldtimer
    Posted October 25, 2013 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    Sound intelligence is the most valuable commodity of all in international negotiations. Failure to gather it, understand it and act on it can and will lead to (sometime catastrophic) mistakes in the conduct of diplomacy and international relations. Any country that fails to gather it or assess it is failing in its duty to its citizens. Of course France and Germany gather intelligence as does every other country that can afford to do so.

  15. English Pensioner
    Posted October 25, 2013 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    I would expect our security services to have the ability to spy on and intercept the communications of all important world leaders whether or not they actually choose to do so at any given time. Similarly, I expect them, along with the military, to have plans for a wide range of contingencies, even if they never need to be put into action. This is called looking after your country’s own interests, which should be the top priority of any government.
    If GCHQ are listening to the French and German leaders’ communications, I hope that they are also listening to Obama’s as well. Don’t trust anyone should be the motto of our intelligence community.

    • zorro
      Posted October 25, 2013 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

      Well, the USA had a plan to invade the UK in the 1930s…..I doubt that we had the same. I think that some people are being rather sanguine about this seemingly universal attempt by the USA to bug everything that moves. Other countries do it on a more selective scale. The French and Germans are into industrial espionage though not on the same scale as the Chinese.

      Remember that the US has interests not allies….Remember Northern Ireland.


  16. Peter van Leeuwen
    Posted October 25, 2013 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    I suspected a different French and German motivation, and yes, already see it confirmed in Reuters: They want a “no-spying” deal with the US. Some country has to replace the UK’s “special” or “essential” relationship with the powerful US, if and when the UK leaves the EU. And then it doesn’t harm to have a no-spying deal. It also helps in negotiating with the US on things like SWIFT data on less submissive terms (submissive to the US)
    As for the summit agenda. It will be interesting to see the summit resolutions afterwards, because a draft copy has been out days before the summit. I suspect that all the items on digital economy and battling youth unemployment will be in, even if they don’t get the coverage in the news.

    • libertarian
      Posted October 25, 2013 at 8:03 pm | Permalink


      what do you mean by negotiating with US on SWIFT data ?

      • Peter van Leeuwen
        Posted October 26, 2013 at 6:45 am | Permalink

        @libertarian: After it appeared some years ago that the US was secretly milking all SWIFT data for, as excuse afterwards, anti-terrorist purposes. The EU then tried to negotiate a more evenhanded mutual use of data but was in a submissive position (threats of interrupting airline traffic). Europeans and Americans ought to be treated equally though, with respect to privacy and data mining for security (and other?) purposes.

  17. peter davies
    Posted October 25, 2013 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Given that politicians like to divert attention from their failings this is probably a convenient distraction from the economic problems partially caused by bad policy in the EZ.

    What can else can one expect with a monster EU socialist construct run by unelected, unaccountable and useless commissioners? They show time and time again in their answers to economic problems – MORE EU, increased budgets even though they have never passed an audit.

    What was the answer given to an MEP who did not have a clue what he was voting on? “That’s the way we do things here”

    Sooner we get out of that cesspit the better, before it takes us all down with it.

  18. Peter Stroud
    Posted October 25, 2013 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    As many others have said; such behavior by intelligence services, world wide, is no surprise. Neither should we expect nothing but faux anger by the EU leaders. What I find galling is the way the press, and media in general, refer to Snowden as a whistle blower. The man (has endangered our Intelligence services? ed) The Guardian are aiding and abetting him.

    • zorro
      Posted October 25, 2013 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

      There is absolutely no evidence that he has endangered our Intelligence Services. He has certainly embarassed them and uncovered them as being economical with the actualite. Nice bit on intercept evidence in The Guardian too….So it seems that the Intelligence Services weren’t so interested in convicting the bad guys as to protecting their own interests/asses …in the service of the state eh?


      • Tom William
        Posted October 27, 2013 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

        You have no evidence, so therefore can not be any evidence?

  19. Bob
    Posted October 25, 2013 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    If the Americans listened in to Frau Merkel’s cell phone calls, it’s only because she wanted them to. The Germans have learned a thing or two about espionage since WWII.

    BTW – isn’t it time that David Cameron apologised for the Bletchley Park snooping operation ?

  20. Tad Davison
    Posted October 25, 2013 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    I may have already told this tale, but it’s worth telling again.

    An old friend who happens to be a knight of the realm and an ex-government minister once had an innocent phone call, as indeed are all his phone calls. At its end, he put the receiver into the cradle in the prescribed manner. Five minutes later, the phone rang, and when he picked up the receiver, the entire contents of the previous conversation were being played back to him.

    Obviously a malfunction with the recording equipment.

    My own view, is that the conversation wasn’t recorded by a foreign power to gain advantage, but (possibly by someone here in the UK ed), and their motives are these. They don’t really like people who are Eurosceptic, and see them as a threat to the advancement of their underhanded pro-EU federalist cause. But they’re making an appallingly bad job of things, and the very best way to get British people’s backs up, is to try to influence a policy and direction, not by good logic and a sound common sense because in that, they haven’t got a leg to stand on, but by subversion.

    I have proven time and time again to a great many witnesses that my own communications have been intercepted in a similar way, so to anyone who might think this is England, and our right to privacy is sacrosanct, they need to think again. The powers that be operate within, and excuse all that they do, by their adherence to that catch-all phrase ‘in the interests of the nation’s peace, security, and economic well-being’. That our involvement with the EU over the past 40 years has been a disaster, doesn’t seem to cut any ice. It has hardly been to our advantage, so that begs the question, who are their puppet masters, and what is their ultimate aim?

    The British people are right to renounce the EU, and the shadowy people who work behind the scenes at the government’s behest should take on board that they are there to do our bidding, and not the other way around. They need to work to protect and preserve the United Kingdom, and not be a party to its wholesale capitulation to a federalist cause that destroys our national identity, and removes our right to self-determination, which few of us really want.

    Let’s hope the latest episode finally blows the lid off this subterfuge once and for all. It’s been going on for decades, only now, those of us who have been warning everyone about it, are finally being believed.

    Tad Davison


    Reply I have allowed this as it does not accuse anyone or any particular institution in this form. However, the underlying allegation is serious, and needs evidence, and examples to back it up, so it could be investigated. Without cases and evidence it is a silly conspiracy theory, but I did not wish you to say I have censored it. If the person you describe really has some evidence he would know where and how to deploy it.

  21. Bert Young
    Posted October 25, 2013 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    Germany has much to lose by taking the view that “they should not be spied upon”. They have manufacturing plants and commercial outposts around the world that (could ed) play a part in the gathering of intelligence ; naturally (some? ed) of this information strays into the political and military areas . I can well imagine that Angela has something to hide (like the French) ; the aggressive response she has made is no surprise . I trust that our own monitoring of affairs is effectively hidden .

  22. BobE
    Posted October 25, 2013 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    Unless its just white noise to stop more important discussions. Then the grand dinner followed by a photo call and the insanity can roll on as before.
    I despair as I watch my country ruined by weak leaders and poor quality decisions.
    I have to vote UKIP as its my only desperate chance now.

  23. Martin Ryder
    Posted October 25, 2013 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    What was Mrs Merkel talking about that she did not want the Americans to hear? She would not be Chancellor of a united democratic Germany if the Americans had not stood guard over Europe during the time of the Soviet Union.

    In an ideal world – one without terrorists, criminals and politicians and their servants who feel the need to get the edge over foreign politicians and their servants – all conversations and correspondence would be private. But this is not an ideal world, nor will it ever be, and anyone talking on a telephone or sending an e-mail should assume that their message is as private as shouting it out in the street would be.

    It is likely that Mrs Merkel simply did not want to have to listen to Mr Cameron talking about changes to the EU.

    • zorro
      Posted October 25, 2013 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

      If the US had been spied on on such a huge scale they would be screaming all over the place. Look at the way they whine about the Chinese (allegedly) when lo and behold, they (use computers in ways the US does not like ed)…. The US will not respect you unless you stand up to them.


  24. Martin
    Posted October 25, 2013 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Its all very well going on about waste in the EU but isn’t snoops with so much cash that they have nothing better to do than listen to Mrs Merkel’s private calls a sign of a bloated budget?

    • Bazman
      Posted October 25, 2013 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

      American snooping on Germany funded by the EU says it all. I have heard that due to an EU directives putting costs directly onto the state and to prevent unfair taxation on car ownership in more poor countries and areas, that roads are to be made from from rubber and cars/lorries are all to have concrete tyres fitted. If your vehicle is unable to comply may have to be scrapped. Electric vehicles and some leisure vehicles such as large high powered motorcycles will be exempt due to the increased weight and rolling mass being unfair to them and their already economical running costs and zero emissions.

  25. cosmic
    Posted October 25, 2013 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    “Picking a public row with Mr Obama is not the best use of this expensive meeting.”

    It is if you really don’t want to “address the problem of the poor economic performance of the EU as a whole, dragged down by too many bad laws and poor public policy at EU level” and wish to avoid that discussion at any cost.

  26. Wireworm
    Posted October 25, 2013 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    I very much doubt whether elected leaders can control who is bugged by their intelligence services.

  27. Terry
    Posted October 25, 2013 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    Let’s face it, these EU meeting achieve very little anyway. Everyone talks a lot and poses for the cameras but very little is demonstrably achieved. We spy as do every Nation, I suspect but unlike the USA, I do not think we eavesdtrop on the phone calls of the leaders of friendly nations. This is despicable and more in keeping with Stalin and the USSR. There can be no other conclusion to be drawn from this expose and that is the USA Obama administration trusts no one, not even their friends. And that demonstrates the contempt the President has for all of us, on this side of the pond. This is a very serious breech of trust on the part of the Obama Presidency.

  28. Mark B
    Posted October 25, 2013 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    I am surprised that they are surprised. About the spying I mean.

    But what I am surprised about the most, is that the PM thinks he is going to cut regulations and directives. Well to be fair, regulations and some directives maybe cut, but I doubt they will amount to much. And certainly not because he has asked them to, but because they announced recently that they were going to anyway. He is just bandwagon jumping – nothing to see here.

    In other news, I see that the EU, or rather the European Parliament has just voted to have the pockets of ‘EU Citizens’ plundered to make up their cash shortfall. Which is nice of them I suppose.

  29. lojolondon
    Posted October 25, 2013 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    John, I guess you know that the last thing Merkel can do is solve EU’s financial problems, as they are caused by the Euro. This ‘problem’ is doubtless timed exactly to take up loads of time and press focus during the conference.

    Fun watching the Biased BBC on this subject – how to they show their European solidarity and normal outrage at security forces in action, yet still show their admiration and support for the bumbling Obama?

  30. Peter van Leeuwen
    Posted October 25, 2013 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    It seems that EU reform is well underway, so congratulations David Cameron. After an overhaul of fishery policies earlier this year there is now much emphasis on reducing the regulatory burden, even though Cameron already congratulated the EC on scrapping many thousands of regulations already. Bad news for EU-wanting-to leavers?

  31. Micahel
    Posted October 25, 2013 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    But I expect our Security and Intelligence Services to do this. It is, after all, what we are paying them for. A convenient means of kicking more important business (well to the UK) into the long grass while providing the dual benefits of a smoke screen for the EU’s budget difficulties and yet another anti-US and UK rant.

  32. zorro
    Posted October 25, 2013 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    ‘These days any private conversation in a public place is liable to be recorded and used by someone.’….Crikey John, hopefully it’s not quite that bad yet, otherwise 1984 has nothing on us!


  33. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted October 26, 2013 at 1:32 am | Permalink

    No comment, just a change of email address

  34. Andy
    Posted October 26, 2013 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    Given that there has been nothing but trouble in Europe since Germany was created in 1870 I think it is eminently sensible to keep a close eye on them. If MI6 etc aren’t doing this it is a gross dereliction of duty.

  35. Bazman
    Posted October 26, 2013 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    The Chinese don’t have to do espionage now they are just given the secrets as they buy the industries. Conservatives across the world are really going to get themselves in a spin now and very soon as technology advances.
    Uncrackable codes allowing secret communication, ever faster connections and methods of sending information making copyright obsolete, 3D Printers making illegal weapons possible. Advances in chemical sciences may see class A drugs being available in mass quantities due to backstreet laboratories being able to replicate them cheaply. We will really be in trouble then. The genie is well and truly out of the bottle.which leaves
    the eternal question of what to do? Leave it to the market I suppose. Anything else would be pointless and absurd..?!

    • Edward2
      Posted October 27, 2013 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

      I think you’ve got the aims of commerce and politics confused Baz

      Espionage is about nations and gaining knowledge.
      Business is about competition and understanding what your rivals are doing and more importantly doing next.
      Two very different concepts.

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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