This topic is going to jar a lot of us out of our comfort zone. In American media, all issues have to be black or white. In fact issues are rarely black or white, a truism the right completely fails to grasp. A conspicuous current example is the question of U.S.National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance of foreign nations and their leaders, especially the “enraged” European countries of France, Germany and Spain. A goodly number of progressives are equally enraged on behalf of these three leadership victims of American officialdom snooping where their snoopers ostensibly don’t belong. Of course the Teapublican press loves the issue. It gets to use a favorite word in right-wing lingo headlines; “ENRAGE.” As in, “U.S. spying ENRAGES allied leaders.”
Let’s examine the three enraged surveillance targets that are the most offended by U.S. intelligence prying into their business. It would be instructive to point out that France features no less that 8 different agencies that could be best described as intelligence or spy agencies domestically and abroad (beyond question, including their own surveillance of the United States). The General Directorate for External Security (DGSE) is, as its name implies, the biggie external intelligence agency. It works under the French ministry of defense with another agency in counterintelligence abroad that addresses threats to French security. You don’t think either agency has ever used the same tracking devices and strategies as the Americans to get some clues about what they’ll run into “abroad.” I would guess that the right-wing defaming Francophobia of “Freedom Fries” brought a lot of French intelligence attention our way.
As a country, France plays host to a myriad of nasty gatherings of nutzoids under assorted banners. U.S. Homeland Security created the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and response to terrorism (START). It lists no fewer than 51 different organizations, all of them having used terror to one degree or another as a political wedge. A few are no longer active. One of the active groups is called; oh, let me see; what was that name? I’ve got it; Al Qaeda!!!
I’m sure another concern of NSA rests with the ongoing activities of Frances’ Algerian population, roughly the same percentage as the U.S. African American total. Algerians emigrated from Northern Africa and are overwhelmingly Sunni Muslims. Al Qaeda is also overwhelmingly Sunni. So maybe it’s in our best interest to keep an eye (and ear) on this bunch that have proven repeatedly through word and deed their belief that the only good American is a dead American.
The idea that German Chancellor Angela Merkel would sternly lecture the Obama administration about “shattered trust” doesn’t hold water. Her country gave us Hitler, Nazis, 6 million dead Jews, Neo-Nazis, decades of the lefty terrorist Baader-Meinhof Group and currently hosts its own Al Qaeda citizenry. And Angela might recall the name Mohamed Atta, the terrorist most identified with carrying out an attack that killed over 3,000 people in New York City 22 years ago. Atta met several times a week, pre-9/11, in Hamburg with at least a half-dozen participants in that attack, two of who were pilots of aircraft involved in the terrorism, as was Atta. Shattered trust indeed! Of course being a free market, anti-labor favorite of the G.W. Bush administration makes it easy for Angela to fire off such salvos.
Now we arrive at the latest band-wagon passenger; Spain. This beautiful country has become a favorite roosting spot for increasing numbers of Muslims. Nothing wrong with that considering the historical (way back) Spanish ties with Islam. It would, however, be wrong to totally ignore a relatively new grouping of a million people, the vast majority simply wanting a better life, but bound to include a few terrorist-inclined bad actors. Spain apparently doesn’t ignore everybody either. The Spanish government features 8 intelligence and surveillance agencies.
There’s one small problem with the “enraged responses” directed at NSA by Spanish intelligence authorities. If you believe a revelation in Spain’s El Mundo newspaper, (scroll past the first 5 articles) the locals were all in on the surveillance, cooperating and facilitating the action with NSA. The electronic metadata, computer and phone information was even shared with other countries, including those bitching the loudest about the practice.
As I used to tell my little ones when they were still little ones, “Take a timeout.” Yes, God knows there are abuses of this system of gathering intelligence from an ally or even a bad guy. No question NSA might stumble on to some heated phone sex between Pierre and Brigitte or intercept an email full of deeply personal convictions of love and other sweet nothings. But then again the heavy-breathing verbiage could be fraught with potentially seemingly innocent, but potentially deadly code words for a terrorist attack in the making like gang notes kited out of penitentiaries. A harmless phrase like “tell Leon I said hi” could mean “Shoot Leon in the back of the head and make sure it takes.”
I’m quite conflicted when it comes to protecting American interests. This much we know; terrorists, mostly, but not entirely, of Middle East persuasion, hate us with every fiber of their being. Unlike most U.S. citizens, they’re more than willing to accompany their victims to the hereafter through their own kamikaze version of suicide bombs. We also know they’ll take down huge buildings to make their statement of infinite malevolence.
Privacy can be a nebulous term. Back in Grandpa and grandma’s or great-grandpa or grandma’s day, there were telephone party lines or multi-party lines. At any given time, a neighbor or as many as a couple of dozen neighbors might be listening in on your “private” phone conversation.
There seems to be little or no privacy in today’s society. Participants in social media will give up every ounce of info about themselves, friends and family. Twitter routinely runs one photo after another with every member of the family and Instagram “selfies”, generally goofy pics of the subject of the photo, often in varied states of undress, are all the current rage.
But, yes, we do have a right to privacy if so desired. Our business should stay our business if we choose. But the price we pay for the extraordinary advances in computer and communications technology is that good guys and bad guys can access most of our electronic information with ease. That, of course, includes all Internet entries, email and phone calls.
At the end of the day, I’m left with two questions. Edward Snowden just seems a little too pat to me. Not your typical whistle-blower. He was already paid extremely well in his day job, his timing was exquisite and his fleeing well organized by China and Russia at the very least. I’m also puzzled why foreign leaders who knew of their own role and every other industrialized nation’s role in NSA surveillance pretended to be so shocked and “enraged.”
Some of this needs fixing, including coming up with a better idea, but mostly it’s just another opportunistic shot across the bow at the White House that the right hopes will poison the well of good will that Barack Obama had built up overseas.