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Jimmy Carter vs. 'Jimmy Carter'

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Late last week. Former President Jimmy Carter chimed in on the NSA surveillance scandal and the plight of whistle blower Edward Snowden.

"I think the invasion of human rights and American privacy has gone too far," President Carter told CNN's Suzanne Malveaux. "And I think that the secrecy that has been surrounding this invasion of privacy has been excessive... Bringing it to the public notice has probably been, in the long term, beneficial." (Video at 2:15)

Last year, Carter railed against the U.S. government for losing moral ground on a series of human rights issues. "Recent laws have canceled the restraints in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to allow unprecedented violations of our rights to privacy through warrantless wiretapping and government mining of our electronic communications," he wrote in a New York Times Op-Ed.

Meanwhile, the latest NSA disclosure revealed just how deep the U.S. government's was willing to go to listen in on communications both at home and abroad -- eavesdropping that involves Carter more in name than in spirit.

Carter Christening 'Carter' in 2004
On July 1 Der Spiegel published an article exposing efforts by the U.S. to spy on communications across Europe. The NSA monitors half-a-billion communications in the region; it's also bugged EU buildings, according to the report.

The means to this monitoring are many, including cooperation between the intelligence agency and approximately 80 multinational corporations, among them telecommunications companies, network infrastructure providers and Internet firms, according to Der Spiegel.

They also involve the tapping of undersea fiber-optic cables. In the early aughts the U.S. Navy fitted the Seawolf-class submarine USS "Jimmy Carter" with "a hull extension that allows it to house technicians and gear to perform the cable-tapping and other secret missions," according to a 2005 New York Times article.

It seems this same submarine was pressed into service to spy on Europe.

The "Jimmy Carter" has the capacity to attach a complex "bug" to fiber cables, writes author and NSA watcher James Bamford. "This is difficult, however, and undersea taps are short-lived because the batteries last only a limited time."

Still many in European press are now speculating on the whereabouts of Jimmy Carter -- the sub, not the ex-president. And as the flesh-and-blood version continues his post-presidential crusade for human rights, he has to wonder what's being done in his name.