The National Security Agency has been under heavy scrutiny throughout 2013 as a result of documents leaked by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, which indicate that the agency is spying on United States citizens. The NSA’s reputation took another hit when documents revealed that not only is the agency spying on our enemies and U.S. citizens, but it is also intercepting the communications information of our allies.
At a time when the U.S. should seek to strengthen our international alliances, this is an unfortunate blow to our reputation in terms of transparency with our allies.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul said, “To me from where I sit, it doesn’t seem like a good idea or it doesn’t seem to advance diplomacy for us to be spying on our allies.”
The governments of Germany, Spain, France and Brazil have voiced their outrage recently at the excessive electronic surveillance the NSA conducts across international borders.
Germany and Brazil were incensed enough to draft a resolution for the United Nations that said they are “deeply concerned at human rights violations and abuses that may result from the conduct of any surveillance of communications.”
The most recent high-profile victim of the U.S.’ information obsession is German Chancellor Angela Merkel. According to The New York Times, Merkel’s cellphone was under surveillance for 10 years as part of a broad-reaching NSA program.
German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said, “If the Americans intercepted cellphones in Germany, they broke German law on German soil,” according to the Associated Press. He went on to say that he felt those responsible should be held accountable.
Quite frankly, I agree. But in a situation like this, knowing who exactly is responsible is no easy task.
As a result of the government’s J. Edgar Hoover-like desire to collect any information it can on anyone and everyone, the NSA has become so large and so powerful that it is difficult to determine who is calling the shots. In a way, the agency is a case of being too big to fail.
According to The Washington Post, U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers said, “We need to focus on who the bad guys are. And the bad guys, candidly, are not U.S. intelligence agencies. They’re the good guys at the end of the day.”
The irony is that, in its quest to find the ever-present “bad guys,” the NSA has turned everyone into a potential “bad guy.” Its entire method of collecting data is indicative of a “guilty until proven innocent” mentality. As a result, many are growing tired of the agency’s tendency to overstep legal boundaries and violate Americans’ constitutional right to privacy.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is another of our allies who has recently demanded an explanation for the NSA’s activities abroad. Spanish newspapers El Mundo and El País reported that the U.S. collected data relating to about 60 million Spanish phone calls.
American ambassador to Spain James Costos issued a statement saying, “Ultimately, the U.S. needs to balance the important role that these programs play in protecting our national security and protecting the security of our allies with legitimate privacy concerns.”
But despite the U.S.’ efforts to justify our intelligence activities abroad, our allies seem to have one unified opinion: As Rajoy said at a news conference, “Spying activities aren’t proper among partner countries and allies.”