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Some developments following the Snowden revelations

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”.

Comments

  1. Chiroptera says

    Germany and Brazil are spearheading efforts at the UN to protect the privacy of electronic communications.

    Kind of hypocritical, isn’t it? I don’t recall about Brazil off-hand, but Germany definitely did not offer Snowden asylum. But now they’re queuing the outrage over something they only know about because he let us know about it?

    -

    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.

    Sounds like it’s time for the government to enact a meaningless and purely symbolic measure to make it seem as if they are taking the protesters’ concerns seriously.

  2. alanuk says

    Would it not have been better for the US Administration if they had just said at the beginning that they do not comment on security matters?

  3. Mano Singham says

    That is what they normally do with reports that are based on sources where they can refuse to confirm or deny. Here they are finding it hard because there are actual documents showing exactly what they did. Also the people asking questions are not just reporters but other governments.

  4. trucreep says

    Hypocritical indeed. Not only did they not offer asylum, they didn’t really start caring until THEY (meaning the leaders) were revealed to have been spied on. They show faux outrage when it’s millions of their own citizens, for purposes of reelection I guess.

    Just goes to show you, selling out your citizens is selling out yourself.

  5. janiceclanfield says

    All the ‘outraged’ countries should be offering Snowden asylum.

    So far it’s pretty quiet out there…

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