While the US government has been using the ‘everybody does it’ excuse to downplay the damaging effects of the Snowden revelations, one can only imagine the outrage if it were discovered that (say) the Germans or the Brazilians had been eavesdropping into all president Obama’s communications. It is this asymmetry about the latest revelations of spying that are triggering some actions.
Germany and Brazil are spearheading efforts at the UN to protect the privacy of electronic communications. Diplomats from the two countries, which have both been targeted by the NSA, are leading efforts by a coalition of nations to draft a UN general assembly resolution calling for the right to privacy on the internet. Although non-binding, the resolution would be one of the strongest condemnations of US snooping to date.
“This resolution will probably have enormous support in the GA [general assembly] since no one likes the NSA spying on them,” a western diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity. The Brazilian president, Dilma Rousseff, had previously cancelled a state visit to Washington over the revelation that the NSA was scooping up large amounts of Brazilian communications data, including from the state-run oil company Petrobras. The drafting of the UN resolution was confirmed by the country’s foreign ministry.
While the resolution will not name the US and will not be binding, it will still be seen as a rebuke to the US.
Meanwhile the rally to oppose the US government’s massive global spying program took place on Saturday in Washington, DC. Though the numbers were not great, the passion seemed to be there and, most significantly, it attracted a mix of people from across the political spectrum.
Thousands gathered by the Capitol reflection pool in Washington on Saturday to march, chant, and listen to speakers and performers as part of Stop Watching Us, a gathering to protest “mass surveillance” under NSA programs first disclosed by the whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Billed by organizers as “the largest rally yet to protest mass surveillance”, Stop Watching Us was sponsored by an unusually broad coalition of left- and right-wing groups, including everything from the American Civil Liberties Union, the Green Party, Color of Change and Daily Kos to the Libertarian Party, FreedomWorks and Young Americans for Liberty.
But the big star of the day, despite his physical absence, was Edward Snowden – “Thank you, Edward Snowden” was the most popular banner slogan among the cord. Jesselyn Radack, a former Justice Department ethics advisor who is now a director with the Government Accountability Project, read a statement from Snowden to the crowd.
“This isn’t about red or blue party lines, and it definitely isn’t about terrorism,” Snowden wrote. “It’s about being able to live in a free and open society.” He also noted that “elections are coming up, and we are watching you”. Members of Congress and government officials, he said, were supposed to be “public servants, not private investigators”.