07/01/2013 03:55 pm ET Updated Aug 31, 2013

The United States of Paranoia

Which do you think is worse? Spying on your family or spying on your friends?

Even as we condemn the NSA for its intrusion into the private lives of American citizens, we must also condemn it for its rampant spying on our European allies.

This shocking news has just come to light: U.S. intelligence agents have bugged E.U. offices on both sides of the Atlantic -- in Washington and Brussels -- and have infiltrated E.U. computer networks in those key cities and at the United Nations in New York as well.

The shocking revelation was made this past weekend by the German newspaper, Der Spiegel. It may have filtered down from Edward Snowden's cache of NSA information. It has thrown our allies into turmoil. While the Obama administration may lamely excuse American spying on grounds that it is protecting Americans, how can it by any stretch of the imagination justify spying on our allies?

This news comes at a crucial time: negotiations were recently launched on a major trans-Atlantic trade treaty. The United States and Europe represent the world's biggest trading bloc, but now, understandably, many European allies want to put the negotiations on hold. They also want to cancel existing U.S.-EU agreements on the exchange of banking information -- a program the U.S. has forced upon European banks, overriding their historic tradition of privacy.

America is not just acting like the bully on the block, fighting for his turf. American spying goes beyond that -- it is acting out of acute paranoia. And it is not the fear of another 9/11 attack, although that is always the excuse given. It is the fear born of insecurity, the fear of losing our wealth, our position in the world, our power.

America has tried to exert its power most recently through two needless wars, and failed. Its influence in the world is diminishing steadily, both economically and morally. And its wealth is no longer serving the American people, but is squandered in useless ways: in bloated bureaucracies and in costly programs that are redundant, inappropriate and unproductive. And sometimes, like the NSA program, unconstitutional.

The NSA is fighting a bogeyman, an evil phantom it has created from its existential fears and which it is using as the justification for its spying and surveillance. The NSA would make paranoids of us all... if we let it.

This is no way to defend a nation that is growing weaker by the day. It is no way to serve citizens who have been losing jobs and homes and hope. It is no way to use our still considerable resources.

It is definitely the way to cause America to implode, sinking under the weight of excessive and expensive and inappropriate government surveillance, while America's basic needs and real problems go unattended. It is also the way to lose our friends and allies, and to isolate ourselves from the international community.

Paranoid people are lonely, suspicious, and often violent. Is this what we want for America?