Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Furious Indignation

The perceived security of all countries is based primarily on human intelligence, on having built a system of discreet agencies whose duty it is to be apprised at all times if humanly possible, of the concerns and plans of other countries (and individuals) as they impinge on their own.

Intelligence and counter-intelligence marks the first line of defence against harm of one country's sovereignty and another country's aspirations to exploit opportunities. When countries have a signed pact of alliance in light of their commonalities they feel they can trust one another, if only because it is in the interest of each of those part of the agreement to evince trust and in that trust, exchange useful information.

Despite such alliances of trust and interdependence, it is well enough known that all countries, friends and foe alike, engage in espionage. Each country wants to know what the other is planning, whom it consorts with, what their agreements are, how they will impact on one's own. This is a matter of general knowledge, acknowledged but rarely spoken of in public. Yet even the public knows that countries spy on one another, irrespective of their relationships.

Some countries' administrations feel troubled by this fact of national life, and would like things to be otherwise; for trust to be firmly established and for each of the contracting nations to respect one another and trust one another to the extent that no surveillance of the other is required, over and above regular and intimate contact and exchange of vital information critical to the safety and security of one another, singly and combined.

Presumably, the United States, Canada, Britain, New Zealand and Australia, all democracies, all English-speaking, all basically Christian countries having much in common, including heritage, feel that the extent of their cooperative relationship is such that there is no need to take such covert informational action. They name themselves The Five Eyes, and share intelligence between them.

And the understanding is that as national confreres there is no need to indulge in extracurricular spying activities against one another.

It all pivots around the decisions taken by the United States of America, the most authoritative, wealthy and assertive of the countries. Which is now struggling to maintain its friendly relations with other countries of Europe and Latin America because of the revelations of spying indulged upon by the American National Security Agency.

The global public has become aware, if they were naive enough not to be aware before, that their nation's intimate political-social business has been tampered with through American technology enabling snooping.

Thanks to the release of protected security data through documents provided to news media by Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor who took personal exception to the surveillance activities of his country's national surveillance agency, the world is now awash with scandal and indignation over America's prying proclivities.

Apart from what all nations attempt to establish with respect to their security, the United States was spurred to action through the very real and very bloody terrorist attacks it has suffered. Spain, Britain, Malaysia and other countries have also suffered Islamist jihadist violence. And that violence has been the global spur to surveillance activity.

The French, the Germans and the Spanish have been particularly vocal in their indignation over the NSA's global eavesdropping operations, swooping in to peruse tens of millions of communications, both official and civil, in European countries. In Germany it is unlawful for interception of messages to take place.

"If the Americans intercepted cellphones in Germany, they broke German law on German soil", humphed Hans-Peter Friedrich, the German interior minister. German Chancellor Angela Merkel whose cellphone has reputedly been tapped for many years, is none too enthused over that fact. "The magnitude of the eavesdropping shocked us", said Bernard Kouchner, former French foreign minister.

NSA eavesdropping posts exist in 19 European cities, including Paris, Madrid, Rome and Frankfurt.

"If the French citizens knew exactly what that was about, they would be applauding and popping champagne corks. It's a good thing, it keeps the French safe. It keeps the U.S. safe", said Mike Rogers, chairman of the intelligence committee in the House of Representatives, emphasizing that instead of feigned indignation playing to their national voting list, America's allies should be grateful for surveillance operations.

"If 9/11 had happened to Germany and been planned in New York not Hamburg, I'd expect [German] intel to monitor USA top 2 bottom", wrote John Schindler, a former NSA official on Twitter.


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