“Six months ago, I revealed that the NSA wanted to listen to the whole world. Now the whole world is listening, and also talking back. And the NSA does not like what it is hearing.” [The Guardian 17 December 2013]. The words uttered as the global eye of the media recently focused on Edward Snowden, former C.I.A agent and National Security Agency (NSA) employee, who leaked top secret American government information to The Guardian.
This begs the question, why is Edward Snowden being labelled by the American government as a leaker, if the authorities have been hacking, tracking and invading the privacy of the general public and politicians? Can we blame Snowden for bestowing this information or should we have expected this because of the influence the NSA had on him?
German chancellor, Angela Merkel, alleges that a US intelligence agency tapped into her phone and monitored all of her actions on the mobile. Angela Merkel said it would be a “serious breach of trust” if the allegations were correct. Barack Obama responded to her comments by assuring [Merkel] that, “The United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of the chancellor.” The dilemma now for the German Head of State is whether or not she can trust Obama.
Unfortunately, it does not help America’s relationship with its European allies that the Spanish and Italian governments are also accusing the NSA of spying on millions of people’s calls between December 10th, 2012, and January 8th, 2013. The monitoring did not appear to track the content of calls but their duration and where they took place, according to Spanish and Italian media reports.
Let us suppose that suppose that Russia did not grant Snowden one year’s political asylum and he was obliged to go on trial, this could have lead to confirmation of the extent of America’s global intelligence gathering activities, for example, the hacking of Angela Merkel’s mobile and interception of Italian and Spanish phone calls.
In truth, the gathering actions of the USA’s intelligence agencies revealed by Snowden shows the violation of the United Nations 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political rights. The [I.C.C.P.R] was commissioned by more than one hundred and sixty countries, including the United States. Article 17 of the Covenant states that, “Citizens should not be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with [their] privacy, family, and home”. By this, the USA has breached this law and yet the United Nations has failed to implement a sanction for the secret services of America. What the NSA have been shown by Snowden to be doing is also in breach of the Bill of Rights which acts to, “Prevent unreasonable searches, seizures and requires any warrant to be judicially authorized and supported by the probable cause”.
In addition to the protest of people who dislike Snowden’s actions regarding the issues of the NSA leaks; an unnamed senior Administration official said that the claims that Snowden’s motivations are transparency, freedom, human rights and democracy are, ‘belied by the protectors he has potentially chosen; China, Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, and Ecuador’. The anonymous official also said that, “His failure to criticize these regimes suggests that his true motive throughout has been to injure the national security of the U.S”, thus revealing America’s paranoia regarding the Snowden affair.
In 1950, the term McCarthyism was attributed to Senator Joseph McCarthy’s work to expose American communists. McCarthy believed during the tensions of the Cold War that there were communist Soviet spies in America trying to infiltrate the government, McCarthy wanted these people out. Although Joseph McCarthy is dead, the words of this anonymous senior official are reminiscent of McCarthyism because they reveal America’s fear and paranoia. They also reveal that the so-called land of the free is not what it pertains to be.
Uncle Sam is a fictional personification of the American government and its power to care for the American people, regardless of the background and status one has. Despite this, the universal idea of who Uncle Sam and what he represents is not what he is made out to be. Uncle Sam is known all over the world, representing America’s nation and people. The American government cannot deny that they do not know who he is because in 1971 Uncle Sam was passed by congress as the American Symbol. Therefore, they cannot say that the citizens of America had failed “to criticize these regimes”.
Ironically, the Snowden affair also brings to mind George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”, an allegory of the Soviet Union. The farm government proclaimed equality of all animals but, as the pig squealer explained, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”. Snowden, being the ‘Squealer”, has exhibited America’s government is more parasitic towards their allies and citizens rather than showing mutuality.
Indubitably, in situations where governments need to identify people who present a risk to national security, a degree of surveillance is acceptable. However, constant unnecessary monitoring is not acceptable. There is a thin line between legitimate actions to defend the state and its people, which inevitably involves some invasion of privacy, and outright abuses of civil liberties; especially on other countries and allies, where trust and communication is paramount to sustain international co-operation.
Snowden has enabled scrutiny and the US government would not be making commotion about it if they had nothing to hide.
Snowden, probably being the first, has shown the corrupt work of America’s under cover governing operations. In my opinion, Snowden has enabled scrutiny among the country that apparently has no cracks in its system. However, as he has stated, ‘the whole world is listening and now talking back’, this is a pure act of heroism. To add to my former points, lastly, I do think America is a good example of the fact that countries should go under speculation surrounding the issues regarding their programmes.