Dimitris Rapidis

How much trust could you have for somebody who is regularly intercepting millions of communications between politicians, diplomats, entrepreneurs and citizens around the globe? Can the United States be considered as a “friendly country” and “ally” for the European Union, especially when rumors reveal spying even in Chancellor’s Merkel cellphone? How hypocritical is the shock and the rage of France’s President François Hollande that suddenly has learnt from Le Monde that he is surveilled by the National Security Agency (NSA)? Both the US and the European Union’s great powers, like France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy and Spain have developed vast and complex surveillance services that are prone to cyber spying of wide scale. Thus, the problem is deeper and needs to be stressed from another perspective.

The United States do exert spying and this is a well-established notion, publicly admitted already since the “War against Terrorism” and the 9/11. The Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution does permit to the US secret services to proceed to surveillance for the protection of the lives of the US citizens. This legislation is not a product of international agreement or convention and it does not, therefore, bind the US secret services against citizens of other countries. Other countries of the European Union and worldwide as well do implement spying and surveillance for security reasons. Therefore, the shock by such revelations is literally hypocritical and lack any considerable concern regarding the violation of human rights and the right of privacy.

Similar to the NSA, the French counter-intelligence service DGSE is also intercepting and surveilling millions of communications, from SMS and emails to social media accounts, thus establishing an immense personal data for millions of people. In Germany, the BND and BfV are also cooperating with NSA in mutual programs that are destined to pursue possible terrorist groups and attacks. Internationally, the core of the problem is that there is no legal prediction that can bind states against the breach of privacy or, to put it this way, even if there are constitutional limits, real political and security conditions overcome the rule of law and put under the eye of “Big Brother” the citizens of the world.

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The new element in the debate is not the surveillance per se, but the dimension it has taken. Until nowadays and before these colossal revelations, counter-intelligence was publicly considered to be a well-preserved and specific modus operandi that was focusing on certain information after meticulous cross-reference practices. In this respect, one of the major explanations that has to do with the width of counter-intelligence and its shifting purposes is correlated with the globalization of economy and the strong interests that stem from the interconnected investment environment and the US commercial, industrial and financial interests over the European continent. Especially during turbulent times, and dealing with the global financial crisis, the US surveillance interest normally grows and deepens to unprecedented levels comparing to what was the norm a decade or twenty years ago.

Another aspect that needs to be further explored is the fact that the counter-intelligence mechanism in the United States is so widely interconnected that it is hardly inevitable to prevent leaks from every side. NSA, CIA and other counter-intelligence units, while being cooperating, there are many times developing conflicting practices and goals that exceed the power that is attributed to them by the US Constitution. We can also interpret this extensive leakage we have experienced these last months concerning the NSA Scandal from a merely antagonistic perspective as another agency that runs another surveilling service that opposes NSA targets and scopes might possibly and intentionally had urged former agent Edward Snowden to reveal this top story. No matter what, the revelation of spying policies to this extent undoubtedly engenders some critical concerns over the pragmatic scope of such a revelation to the public.

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Furthermore, the revelation of the NSA Scandal has significantly blurred the very essence of industrial counter-intelligence against major states that are not included in the Western Alliance which are, namely, Russia, China, and Iran. Despite the fall of communism and the end of Cold War, counter-intelligence practices still run under a different umbrella of justification, like the prevention of terrorist attacks or the control over possible pre-emptive strikes of global concern (i.e. nuclear attack). As confidentiality is completely crippled, there is nothing left that can solidly and undoubtedly safeguard the fundamentals of human rights convention. George Orwell’s prophecy has been verified.

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Comments

  1. We should distinguish eavesdropping for antiterrorism from that for industrial espionage or worse, among political leading partners. Undoubteldy, there is plenty of hypocrisy in this area and large budgets involved; I only hope that industrial espionage is not a means to reduce the overall budget!

  2. Hi Dimitris, good article, you’ve made an effort to go beyond the “outraged” headlines to the more complicated real issues.

    I found the following suggestion interesting:

    “We can also interpret this extensive leakage we have experienced these last months concerning the NSA Scandal from a merely antagonistic perspective as another agency that runs another surveilling service that opposes NSA targets and scopes might possibly and intentionally had urged former agent Edward Snowden to reveal this top story.”

    I don’t know if you have any evidence for this or whether it’s just a suspicion, but I find it difficult to believe that Edward Snowden had access to information such as on the surveillance of foreign leaders and details such as on the bugging of Merkel’s phone simply from working for Booz Allen Hamilton for three months. Let’s also not forget that it appears he deliberately got this job so he could then proceed to “whistleblow”. Before that he had been jumping around from one intelligence jobs to another, even though his resume was highly questionable and he didn’t have a degree.

    Similarly, I doubt he got the slide of the “Google” sketch with the smiley from Booz Allen Hamilton. (Btw, I’m not a computer scientist, but that sketch seems very amateur to me: put that there, and that there, and we’re in!)

    There’s just so much more to this story.

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