The American government — well, probably many governments — must truly hate Edward Snowden. Snowden, a former contractor at the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), has been releasing incredibly damaging information about the spy agency’s activities, both inside and outside the United States, and the revelations have just kept coming.
Tuesday, in The Washington Post, Snowden revealed that the NSA’s electronic spying effort is so massive that it is recording all routing data and telephone calls in an entire country, and holding a month’s worth of that data in massive databanks. Four other countries are undergoing similar, but less thorough, examinations.
The program, called Project Mystic, works like this, according to the Post: “collection systems are recording ‘every single’ conversation nationwide, storing billions of them in a 30-day rolling buffer that clears the oldest calls as new ones arrive, according to a classified summary. The call buffer opens a door ‘into the past,’ the summary says, enabling users to ‘retrieve audio of interest that was not tasked at the time of the original call.’ Analysts listen to only a fraction of one per cent of the calls, but the absolute numbers are high. Each month, they send millions of voice clippings, or ‘cuts,’ for processing and long-term storage. At the request of U.S. officials, The Washington Post is withholding details that could be used to identify the country where the system is being employed or other countries where its use was envisioned.”
Just part of the war on terror, you might say — except the NSA is gradually and grudgingly admitting that the spying, which has included eavesdropping on countries considered to be neighbours and friends, like Mexico and the EU, has to do with more than finding terrorists.
On Tuesday, they offered up a statement saying their agency “does not conduct signals intelligence collection in any country, or anywhere in the world, unless it is necessary to advance national security and foreign policy interests.”
National security is one thing — foreign policy interests are something else again. That includes everything from helping American businesses compete unfairly to having the nation gain unreasonable advantages in trade talks.
Think of it this way (even though the comparison might seem like quite a stretch, because people have died in the Ukraine). Much of the world is outraged that Russia has arbitrarily ignored a neighbouring country’s sovereignty and is now attempting to annex part of the Ukraine for its own ends.
Why is isn’t there similar outrage for a different superpower that is arbitrarily ignoring the sovereignty of many nations and annexing data to, once again, benefit the particular interests of the rogue superpower itself?
Theft is theft, and whether you’re doing it with a gun or with a supercomputer, the result is much the same. Without Snowden to tell us about it, it’s clear we would never have known that our
neighbour to the south — sometimes with the
co-operation of our own federal government — has no compunctions about lying or stealing for its own gain.
For a once-great nation, that is truly a shame.