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As Europe Erupts Over US Spying, NSA Chief Says Government Must Stop Media

The most under-discussed aspect of the NSA story has long been its international scope. That all changed this week as both Germany and France exploded with anger over new revelations about pervasive NSA surveillance on their population and democratically elected leaders.
 link to www.theguardian.com

As Europe erupts over US spying, NSA chief says government must stop media

With General Alexander calling for NSA reporting to be halted, US and UK credibility as guardians of press freedom is crushed

Glenn Greenwald
theguardian.com, Friday 25 October 2013 15.22 EDT

The most under-discussed aspect of the NSA story has long been its international scope. That all changed this week as both Germany and France exploded with anger over new revelations about pervasive NSA surveillance on their population and democratically elected leaders.

As was true for Brazil previously, reports about surveillance aimed at leaders are receiving most of the media attention, but what really originally drove the story there were revelations that the NSA is bulk-spying on millions and millions of innocent citizens in all of those nations. The favorite cry of US government apologists --everyone spies! - falls impotent in the face of this sort of ubiquitous, suspicionless spying that is the sole province of the US and its four English-speaking surveillance allies (the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand).

There are three points worth making about these latest developments.

• First, note how leaders such as Chancellor Angela Merkel reacted with basic indifference when it was revealed months ago that the NSA was bulk-spying on all German citizens, but suddenly found her indignation only when it turned out that she personally was also targeted. That reaction gives potent insight into the true mindset of many western leaders.

• Second, all of these governments keep saying how newsworthy these revelations are, how profound are the violations they expose, how happy they are to learn of all this, how devoted they are to reform. If that's true, why are they allowing the person who enabled all these disclosures - Edward Snowden - to be targeted for persecution by the US government for the "crime" of blowing the whistle on all of this?

If the German and French governments - and the German and French people - are so pleased to learn of how their privacy is being systematically assaulted by a foreign power over which they exert no influence, shouldn't they be offering asylum to the person who exposed it all, rather than ignoring or rejecting his pleas to have his basic political rights protected, and thus leaving him vulnerable to being imprisoned for decades by the US government?

Aside from the treaty obligations these nations have to protect the basic political rights of human beings from persecution, how can they simultaneously express outrage over these exposed invasions while turning their back on the person who risked his liberty and even life to bring them to light?

• Third, is there any doubt at all that the US government repeatedly tried to mislead the world when insisting that this system of suspicionless surveillance was motivated by an attempt to protect Americans from The Terrorists™? Our reporting has revealed spying on conferences designed to negotiate economic agreements, the Organization of American States, oil companies, ministries that oversee mines and energy resources, the democratically elected leaders of allied states, and entire populations in those states.

Can even President Obama and his most devoted loyalists continue to maintain, with a straight face, that this is all about Terrorism? That is what this superb new Foreign Affairs essay by Henry Farrell and Martha Finnemore means when it argues that the Manning and Snowden leaks are putting an end to the ability of the US to use hypocrisy as a key weapon in its soft power.

Speaking of an inability to maintain claims with a straight face, how are American and British officials, in light of their conduct in all of this, going to maintain the pretense that they are defenders of press freedoms and are in a position to lecture and condemn others for violations? In what might be the most explicit hostility to such freedoms yet - as well as the most unmistakable evidence of rampant panic - the NSA's director, General Keith Alexander, actually demanded Thursday that the reporting being done by newspapers around the world on this secret surveillance system be halted (Techdirt has the full video here):

The head of the embattled National Security Agency, Gen Keith Alexander, is accusing journalists of "selling" his agency's documents and is calling for an end to the steady stream of public disclosures of secrets snatched by former contractor Edward Snowden.

"I think it's wrong that that newspaper reporters have all these documents, the 50,000 - whatever they have and are selling them and giving them out as if these - you know it just doesn't make sense," Alexander said in an interview with the Defense Department's "Armed With Science" blog.

"We ought to come up with a way of stopping it. I don't know how to do that. That's more of the courts and the policy-makers but, from my perspective, it's wrong to allow this to go on," the NSA director declared. [My italics]

There are 25,000 employees of the NSA (and many tens of thousands more who work for private contracts assigned to the agency). Maybe one of them can tell The General about this thing called "the first amendment".

I'd love to know what ways, specifically, General Alexander has in mind for empowering the US government to "come up with a way of stopping" the journalism on this story. Whatever ways those might be, they are deeply hostile to the US constitution - obviously. What kind of person wants the government to forcibly shut down reporting by the press?

Whatever kind of person that is, he is not someone to be trusted in instituting and developing a massive bulk-spying system that operates in the dark. For that matter, nobody is.

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Leaving

As many of you likely know, it was announced last week that I am leaving the Guardian. My last day here will be 31 October, and I will write my last column on that date.

homepage: homepage: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/oct/25/europe-erupts-nsa-spying-chief-government
address: address: The Guardian


and the academy award goes to........ 26.Oct.2013 21:40

hb

all of these countries do this to each other. They all know it, they just have to act outraged when someone gets caught (like now).

So all this "acting" is sort of amusing..

What they are really pissed at is that the USA is just that much better at it than they are.

Banal Justification for Directing US Surveillance State at World Leaders 26.Oct.2013 21:59

Kevin Gosztola

All countries spy on each other. Countries like Brazil, France, Germany and Mexico would not be so upset that they had been spied on by the United States if it had not been made public by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. In fact, countries have learned to look the other way and accept that they are being spied on regularly by American intelligence agencies so there really is no reasonable justification for all this outrage from world leaders.

As The Washington Post's David Ignatius declared on CNN, "Everybody does do this kind of thing. The US, through the NSA, does it more aggressively because it's just better at it. It's got more capabilities."

The above has been the typical reaction in the US.

It aims to suppress debate or conversation about the operations, which US intelligence is engaged in around the world. It seeks to paint outraged officials as simply jealous.

If they could spy on all the world's people at all levels of society, wouldn't they be doing it, too?

The nature of this response from officials and commentators, from within a country that has built a massive surveillance state for spying on the entire world of which no other country has matched, is truly imperial.

To preserve American hegemony over the world, the US must collect all the data or "strategic intelligence," from world leaders, foreign governments and the United Nations and its associated foreign missions (which is a violation of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations).

Snowden's disclosures show this is an objective, if not the objective, which the NSA works to maintain and achieve in its daily operations. It is the only reasonable argument for maintaining wiretaps and continuing spying programs, which target the communications of foreign governments.

The idea that everyone is doing it and others would do it if they could except we're better so they hate us for our capabilities is a race to the bottom argument. It could be used to excuse just about any intrusive and objectionable conduct, such as flying surveillance drones in any country's airspace or building secret prisons for interrogating prisoners in any country's land.


what is old is new 27.Oct.2013 13:38

Clyde

This strikes me as something that has been going on for decades, which is now suddenly being thrust into the spotlight and generating some manufactured outrage.

Allies spy on allies. Israel, arguably one of our strongest allies, has spied on us, and those spies have been caught. Jonathan Pollard is a classic example, and certainly not the only one who has existed in the past. He was passing highly classified secrets to Israel from the US. This kind of thing happens quite often I am sure. Allies exist because they are conveniently aligned against a common foe. True friends are rare in the world of international relations and espionage.

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Pollard

For all of the wailing about the US spying on our euro allies, it can be pretty safely assumed that those allies would have done the same to us, or were doing it anyway when the opportunity presented itself.

RE: "Everybody Knows" 28.Oct.2013 01:21

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hb:
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all of these countries do this to each other. They all know it
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Clyde:
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something that has been going on for decades, which is now generating some manufactured outrage
Allies spy on allies
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___ No. ___


Glenn Greenwald:
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The favorite cry of US government apologists --everyone spies! - falls impotent in the face of this sort of ubiquitous, suspicionless spying that is the sole province of the US and its four English-speaking surveillance allies (the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand).
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[ Invalidating 100% Clyde's weak stab, "it can be pretty safely assumed that those allies would have done the same to us, or were doing it anyway when the opportunity presented itself...." ]




This ("Everyone Spies") is not the topic of the originally-posted article by Glenn Greenwald.

The topic is,

1) Hypocrisy of the U.S. to maintain the pretense that they are defenders of press freedoms and are in a position to lecture and condemn others for violations,

Along with:

2) the [U.S. surveillance agency] NSA's director, General Keith Alexander, demanding that the reporting being done by newspapers around the world on this secret surveillance system be halted.

i.e. the topic of article isn't "outrage" as raised by the "spied upon" (Brazil, Germany, France -- except as regards their own hypocrisy towards treatment of Edward Snowden);


Article's topic is the "outrage" claimed by the United States at veritable widespread press coverage of its own ubiquitous bulk-spying surveillance system.

or,

" How dare you exposé the NSA "

outrage.

Why David Cameron hasn't complained 30.Oct.2013 13:05

indyradio.nu

It's been noted today that the UK stands apart from the EU on this issue. Their CGHQ has been doing much of the dirty work, tapping underwater cables for instance, to help the US bypass the need to get warrants for tapping Google and Yahoo.  http://www.indyradio.nu/content/nsa-and-gchq-bypass-us-laws-tap-google-and-yahoo