I Spy with My Little Eye. . .

The hero or the villain, the title is up to your opinion of Edward Snowden. Snowden is the NSA (National Security Agency) contractor that leaked a massive amount of programs and data collected from the NSA. After the leaks in June that exposed the existances of the PRISM, XKeyscore, and Tempora spying programs used by the United States and the rest of the “Five Eyes” (US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand) for international and domestic purposes has other nations angry and passionate about international spying. Brazil cancelled an official state visit to Washington over allegations the U.S. spied on them, Germany was particularly outraged over allegations that the U.S. kept tabs on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone, and U.S. citizens are upset about the PRISM program and how expansive the PATRIOT act has become in collecting and recording their own phone calls.

These revelations are bad for business for the United States. Fighting global terrorism since the 9/11 attacks, intelligence gathering is crucial to bring known terrorists to justice and prevent future attacks. However, it seems that this important purpose has been overextended into spying on regular citizens and our allies. So much so, the European Parliament (EP) had an inquiry on the NSA and other spy programs. The experts’ conclusion was that the EP should rethink “data transfer deals” with the United States.

The European Parliament took ideas from experts in the field. They suggested that the EP rethink EU-US data transfers. Sergio Carrera, of the Center for European Policy Studies was asked by the EP what steps they should take, he said, “The EP should use all its powers to reconsider instruments of cooperation with the US” such as the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program (TFTP) or the Passenger Name Record (PNR) agreement”. He also said that Safe Harbor data protection standards have been violated by mass surveillance.

There were key proposals given to the EP.  One was the creation of an European privacy cloud, which is a secure data storage location to protect an internet user’s privacy, a standing inter-parliamentary committee governed by the EP and the national parliaments, and EU level protection for whistle blowers.

The experts went on to say that there is damaged trust now between Europe and U.S. The trust is from the continuous breach of fundamental rights for citizens and commercial entities, the experts contend. The EP passed a non-binding resolution calling on the EU Commission to temporarily suspend all banking data transfers to the U.S. under the TFTP, which illustrates Europe’s strong displeasure towards these spying programs.

For a restoration of trust, there needs to be a much stronger legal footing for spying programs other than oversight committees. The experts paneled mocked U.S. Congressional and U.K. Parliamentary oversight committees by saying they end up as “mere cheerleaders” for the programs. They suggested that both oversight committees and judicial authorization should be used. They said that judges should look over programs and make a determination about the legality of the program. They argued it presents the best case to restore to the public that their privacy is protected and safeguarded by a non-political and independent legal body.

After all these revelations, what can the international community do to reign in on what seems to be rampant spying? What can other nations do to put pressure on the United States to reel in the NSA’s programs if they oppose them or is there a way to make everyone happy?


European Parliament

Intellectual Property Watch

Vi(eu)ws: The EU Policy Broadcaster

The Atlantic

Image: Press TV


One comment

  1. I agree that intelligence gathering is important if it helps the overall national security of the United States. The problem is – that most likely only occurs in rare circumstances, and the NSA has used this “security” justification to extend the scope of the spying program well beyond its anticipated sphere of application. However, it is important to keep in mind that the government is not the only party at fault here. We should not forget all the private companies like Google, Facebook etc. that willingly participate with the government. If it wasn’t for these companies’ voluntary cooperation, the growth of this spying regime would not be possible.

    Although it is likely that other countries engage in the same spy tactics the US does, I still believe the US must take greater steps to alleviate the international blowback that these programs have caused. International goodwill is vital to efficient trade and national security. It seems the NSA has carried on with practically no oversight or control mechanisms. It remains to be seen if the international community will have any real influence on the US’s actions. My guess would be that if changes are to be made, the American people themselves must demand them. After initial outrage, the public has seemed to cool on this issue. Perhaps Benjamin Franklin framed the problem best: “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

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