If spying on others is the new normal …


The US government and supporters of the authoritarian state say that snooping on everyone all over the globe is standard practice, everyone does it, and hence the cascade of NSA revelations are no big deal and that the only reason the US does more of it than others is that they have the technology to do so.

If that is the case, then a British man who has been arrested for hacking into US Defense Department computers should be able to use that as his defense.

If the argument is that technology is the only limiting factor and that laws and national boundaries do not apply, then why shouldn’t anyone be able to snoop as much as they can on anyone else and that the only thing that people can do to guard their privacy is to increase their defenses? If the US government has the right to snoop on this British man, why doesn’t he have the right to snoop on the US government?

Comments

  1. mnb0 says

    Now this is really naive. For one thing spying on others, including allies, always has been normal. In the second place there is the legal theory of governmental monopoly of violence and that includes spying.
    You have to bring up something much better to jump from governmental rights to individual rights.

  2. says

    Governments don’t have rights. They have powers assigned to them by individuals. Careful there because one of the problems involves governments pretending that they have rights, which I think explains a lot of the attitude in government today. They exceed the proscribed limits of their powers on a regular basis.

  3. Mano Singham says

    I admit I am pushing an extreme view but my underlying point is serious. The US government says that there is no law that prevents it from spying on people in other countries, only within the US (though it breaks those too). So where is the law that says it is wrong for a foreigner to spy on the US government?

  4. invivoMark says

    Way to miss the point.

    While a monopoly of violence is sensible (for certain values of “violence,” generally taken to mean “unconsenting physical force” rather than just blood-spilling murder violence), a monopoly of knowledge is not. And it certainly shouldn’t apply where reasonable suspicion is an afterthought, rather than a serious prerequisite to investigation.

  5. says

    Mano, What “new normal”?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Art_of_War

    “The end and aim of spying in all its five varieties is knowledge of the enemy; and this knowledge can only be derived, in the first instance, from the converted spy. Hence it is essential that the converted spy be treated with the utmost liberality.”
    ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War
    “Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.”
    ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Prince

    “Never attempt to win by force what can be won by deception.”
    ― Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince

    “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.”
    –Isaac Asimov

  6. Acolyte of Sagan says

    “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.”
    –Isaac Asimov

    “…unless in self-defence.”
    -Acolyte of Sagan

    Couldn’t agree with you more, Mano. The USA particularly is looking more like the schoolyard bully every day. They’re perfectly happy pushing everybody else around, but if somebody shoves back the toys are rapidly thrown out of the pram.
    “Don’t give it if you can’t take it”
    -my late Grandfather.

  7. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    If spying on others is the new normal …

    New normal? Not really. Spying has always been around. Remember the secret agents and spy scandals of the Cold War with the Soviets spying on everybody too? Queen Elizabeth I of England famously had a great spymaster and owed her life to those who stopped Catholic plots against her. There are spies in Homer’s Odyssey incl. the wily King Odysseus when he returned to Ithaca , and there arespies mentione dinteh Torah.

    Its nothing new and nothing unexpected and of course, there are restrictions on who can and should spy on who in each nation. Spying’s always been with us and probably always will be. Only the methods have changed over time.

    Yet some people today seem to act like its all new and something outrageous that only the USA has ever done.

    I don’t get their lack of historical and other perspective really. (Shrug)

    As long as the spies aren’t abusing their power and are keeping us safe from those who would do us harm such as terrorists where’s the problem with it?

    If you’re not doing anything wrong or suspicious, you’ve nothing to worry about and won’t come to their attention.

  8. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    That’s meant to read “..and there are spies mentioned in the Torah” of course.

    @4. Acolyte of Sagan :

    he USA particularly is looking more like the schoolyard bully every day. They’re perfectly happy pushing everybody else around, but if somebody shoves back the toys are rapidly thrown out of the pram.

    Really? I’d have said China and Russia are far more aggressive to other nations and the world generally and that describes them among others far more than it does the USA.

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