FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Risk of Snowden Fatigue

by BINOY KAMPMARK

Oh, the fury of the states at the peeping toms of Uncle Sam, the lusty search for data, material and subject matter.  The latest Edward Snowden spectacular has seen the Spanish government haul the US ambassador before its offices to deal with “doubts” arising from his country’s espionage exploits.  Spain’s EU minister, Inigo Mendez de Vigo, cited the familiar round of disapproval with the monitoring allegations, claiming that, if proven, they would be “inappropriate and unacceptable”.  An EU delegate in Washington was quoted by the BBC (Oct 28) as claiming that there had been “a breakdown in trust”.

The Spanish case, highlighted in detail in El Mundo, did more than raise the eyebrows of the public prosecutor, who explained on Monday that the NSA had violated the privacy of millions of Spaniards “which is punishable by up to four years in prison under Article 197 of the Penal Code.”  Much of this took place between December 2013 and January 2013.  US intelligence officials have responded by claiming that while telephone calls, the numbers of the callers, and recipients were logged, the contents of telephone call were not.  This goes to show how the NSA embraces the worst of both worlds: violating privacy, and doing it in a half-baked style.

The higher up the food chain of intelligence, the more revealing.  The German tabloid Bild am Sonntag, for all its smutty mercies, cited unnamed sources on Sunday that President Barack Obama had been told by the NSA director in 2010 that Angela Merkel’s phone was being tapped.  The NSA’s Vanee Vines responded that the NSA had done no such thing, though again, it did not quash suggestions that tapping of the German chancellor’s phone had never happened.  This was truth told in circuit.

Meetings have been held between representatives from the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs and members of the US Congress.  The cool topic: the blanket surveillance of EU citizens, the almost avaricious manner the intelligence services have gone about their task.  One of the members of that delegation, British Labour MEP Claude Moraes, stated the objective.  “We wanted to transmit to them first that this mass surveillance of EU citizens is a genuine concern.”  Confidently, he claimed that those on the Hill were willing “to have some sort of dialogue.”

A few of those steeped in the surveillance culture genuinely can’t see what the fuss is about.  Why listen, suggest the NSA honchos, to the deliberations of a thief who risks lifting the veil of liberty from the American dream?  The NSA Director Keith Alexander is in a tizz and not entirely sure what to do.  He is adamant about one thing: such behaviour as that of Snowden’s must stop.  For the Defense Department’s Armed with Science blog, he claimed that, “We ought to come up with a way of stopping it.  I don’t know how to do that.”  From the director’s “perspective, it’s wrong to allow this to go on.”

Alexander’s description is dim witted.  He sees the disclosure of any secret documentation on surveillance as tantamount to selling material.  “I think it’s wrong that newspaper reporters have all these documents, the 50,000 – whatever they have and are selling them and giving them out as if these – you know it just doesn’t make sense”.  In a recently released YouTube video, Alexander ran with the “hero” line his agency was pursuing: “They do more to save our lives that anybody else that I know.  The leaker is not a hero.  He will have cost lives” (Mashable, Oct 28).  And naturally, such a mission of espionage helps America’s allies, those disgruntled ones unnecessarily concerned about the privacy of their irrelevant citizens. Such are the burdens of empire.

The observations here are prescient, for they chart the avenues open to the EU and their delegates.  Are they genuinely interested in a matter of halting the insidious surveillance culture that has crept around them and their citizens?  Or will they simply adopt the David Cameron model of plugging leaks and identifying the breaches in the dam spiced by the official stance of incandescent fury?  (There is a third, near unmentionable one: the Australian reaction, which is to say nothing, do nothing and hope for the best.)

Altruism and theft do not necessarily go hand in hand, and it all comes down to what proprietary interest one attaches to documents and the material contained therein.  Snowden can hardly have pilfered what was, in any case, information that the global public – and governments – should know about.  Distinctions about friend and foe have simply not applied here – this has become surveillance for surveillance’s own pitiful sake, a cry, perhaps, of an empire teetering rather than strutting.

Public knowledge remains the greatest threat against democratic corrosion.  It is that knowledge that renders the NSA paladins apoplectic, concerned that their ivory tower is finally coming down, or at the very least penetrated.  The only problem may end up being that they have nothing to worry about.  Outrage, if not channelled and used, is merely superfluous sentiment.  EU officials risk remaining sentimental in this regard rather than constructive.  After all, democracy is hardly their forte, and transparency even less so.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

 

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

February 20, 2017
Bruce E. Levine
Humiliation Porn: Trump’s Gift to His Faithful…and Now the Blowback
Melvin Goodman
“Wag the Dog,” Revisited
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima: a Lurking Global Catastrophe?
David Smith-Ferri
Resistance and Resolve in Russia: Memorial HRC
Kenneth Surin
Global India?
Norman Pollack
Fascistization Crashing Down: Driving the Cleaver into Social Welfare
Patrick Cockburn
Trump v. the Media: a Fight to the Death
Susan Babbitt
Shooting Arrows at Heaven: Why is There Debate About Battle Imagery in Health?
Matt Peppe
New York Times Openly Promotes Formal Apartheid Regime By Israel
David Swanson
Understanding Robert E. Lee Supporters
Michael Brenner
The Narcissism of Donald Trump
Martin Billheimer
Capital of Pain
Thomas Knapp
Florida’s Shenanigans Make a Great Case for (Re-)Separation of Ballot and State
Jordan Flaherty
Best Films of 2016: Black Excellence Versus White Mediocrity
Weekend Edition
February 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
David Price
Rogue Elephant Rising: The CIA as Kingslayer
Matthew Stevenson
Is Trump the Worst President Ever?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Flynn?
John Wight
Brexit and Trump: Why Right is Not the New Left
Diana Johnstone
France: Another Ghastly Presidential Election Campaign; the Deep State Rises to the Surface
Neve Gordon
Trump’s One-State Option
Roger Harris
Emperor Trump Has No Clothes: Time to Organize!
Joan Roelofs
What Else is Wrong with Globalization
Andrew Levine
Why Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban?
Mike Whitney
Blood in the Water: the Trump Revolution Ends in a Whimper
Vijay Prashad
Trump, Turmoil and Resistance
Ron Jacobs
U.S. Imperial War Personified
David Swanson
Can the Climate Survive Adherence to War and Partisanship?
Andre Vltchek
Governor of Jakarta: Get Re-elected or Die!
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Destruction of Mosul
Norman Pollack
Self-Devouring Reaction: Governmental Impasse
Steve Horn
What Do a Louisiana Pipeline Explosion and Dakota Access Pipeline Have in Common? Phillips 66
Brian Saady
Why Corporations are Too Big to Jail in the Drug War
Graham Peebles
Ethiopia: Peaceful Protest to Armed Uprising
Luke Meyer
The Case of Tony: Inside a Lifer Hearing
Binoy Kampmark
Adolf, The Donald and History
Robert Koehler
The Great American Awakening
Murray Dobbin
Canadians at Odds With Their Government on Israel
Fariborz Saremi
A Whole New World?
Joyce Nelson
Japan’s Abe, Trump & Illegal Leaks
Christopher Brauchli
Trump 1, Tillerson 0
Yves Engler
Is This Hate Speech?
Dan Bacher
Trump Administration Exempts Three CA Oil Fields From Water Protection Rule at Jerry Brown’s Request
Richard Klin
Solid Gold
Melissa Garriga
Anti-Abortion and Anti-Fascist Movements: More in Common Than Meets the Eye
Thomas Knapp
The Absurd Consequences of a “Right to Privacy”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail