Is American Unlimited Espionage the bait for total Internet control?
Brazil leads a group of countries whose recommended solution is creating a ‘world government of the internet’ to solve espionage attacks
The new revelations about U.S. intelligence activities based on documents leaked by Edward Snowden draw a map of operations that covers much of the planet .
The intensity and degree of penetration depends, as reflected in this material, on a classification of countries into different categories of interest. Only a very narrow circle of Washington’s allies, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand receive preferential treatment, but it is not necessary to be an enemy of the United States for its espionage mafia to spy on world leaders.
The cases of Brazil and Mexico opened Pandora’s box, before the Guardian newspaper published a secret document of the National Security Agency of the United States which revealed the espionage on about 200 phone numbers, included those of 35 world leaders.
The documents leaked by Snowden suggest that the president of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, was the subject of NSA surveillance. Rousseff recently canceled an official visit to the United States and a meeting with Barack Obama as a gesture of protest against the activities of NSA and the vagueness of Washington on its explanations.
The president also delivered a tough speech from the podium of the UN during the last General Assembly which has so far been the most vibrant reaction to the revelations.
In the case of Mexico, the documents provided by Snowden indicate that communications held by Felipe Calderon, Enrique Peña Nieto’s predecessor in office, were under American surveillance. The Mexican government’s reaction, however, was less forceful than the Brazilian.
But the papers also indicate that US NATO allies were also spied on by the NSA. The US agency used data logging of unimaginable amounts of communications from political leaders and ordinary citizens.
Spying only “a little”
Despite the global backlash, the U.S. government insists on its right to obtain information on any country in the world in order to protect its citizens, while at the same time it spies on those very same citizens. Washington has not satisfied anyone with its explanations while it says it is willing to review current programs to make sure that the information collected is really needed. Now, who in the world would believe that?
In this context, State Department spokesperson, Jean Psaki said that the Administration was considering a proposal made by Germany and France to discuss new rules to limit espionage, but added that there was still no decision made.
The spokesperson said officials from various levels of government had been in contact with France, Germany and Italy to try to address the concerns that the issue of espionage had caused. During those conversations, officials discussed ways to end the conflict.
To that end, President Barack Obama ordered a supposed review of current systems of espionage, but nothing new has occurred since then. On the contrary, the evidence presented by Edward Snowden shows the unlimited extension of America’s surveillance grid. The latest revelations resulted on even louder complaints from affected countries – Germany, Brazil, France and Mexico.
The crisis has escalated to the point that the bilateral relationships have reversed, in practical terms, with Brazil, gotten complicated with Mexico and grown sharply out of tone with Europe.
The White House hopes to overcome this situation based on friendliness and personal contacts to return things to calmer waters. Espionage has hurt the dignity of Europeans and exposed some of their deepest frustrations: inequality of their relationship with the U.S..
Although Obama and U.S. spokespeople insist in saying that the practice of espionage is old and common among all nations of the world, even among friends and allies, it is important to add that none of them have the means that the U.S. has to pry into the secrets of others while protecting themselves.
The fundamental problem is the absurd size and power achieved by American secret services. The National Security Agency, is just one of 16 U.S. government agencies involved in illegally gathering information. Limits on spying are established by statutory, judicial and parliamentary control, but new technologies have made these controls ineffective and obsolete.
No committee or judge is able to control the heavily funded American spying services. In addition, those using technology to spy and the courts that support them act in secrecy, which makes lack of transparency even more alarming.
This control is even more difficult since the approval of the infamous Patriot Act, which granted the president, whoever it may be, the power to detain, interrogate, torture and kill anyone without having to prove his involvement in a crime. Obama acknowledged earlier this year in a speech that those presidential powers were excessive and were not justified by the threats that the country faces today. He asked Congress to reformulate such legislation, but neither Obama nor Congress has gone anywhere with the proposal.
It’s not easy going back. No government has ever given up the powers it has taken or that its people have allowed it to gain. Once you create a carefully oiled espionage machine it is impossible to voluntarily dismantle its capabilities. Spies are trained to gather information. It’s not easy to add exceptions.
Now Obama needs at least the appearance that they are going to increase the controls, even if that means nothing in practice. No national laws are negotiated with the governments of other countries, but surely it would be reassuring for France and Germany if the US abolished the Patriot Act. Facing the Americans themselves, parliamentary and judicial transparency seems most urgent, though not something is just about to come to fruition.
The Brazilian “solution”
Eyes need to be wide open anytime a government such as the one of the United States has unlimited power to spy on anyone and everyone. That shouldn’t. however, distract people from so-called “solutions” to the unwarranted spying problem. Let’s take as an example the case of Brazil and the BRICS.
The president of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, has proposed the convening of a global forum to regulate Internet use and prevent cyber espionage. Alarm bells go off. The solution to spying is not internet regulation, but spying regulation. Unfortunately, Rouseeff’s proposal has found open ears around the world. Her criticism of the illegal actions of espionage carried out by the National Security Agency on citizens, businesses and political leaders in several countries, continues gaining steam and now has the support of Brazil’s BRICS partners.
The suggestion of the Brazilian president, filed Thursday during a radio interview, would be to create a forum with a global multilateral framework to discuss, along with members of academia and civil society, how to better solve the espionage problem.
Rousseff’s initiative now has the support of Fadi Chehade, President of the Internet Corporation for Assignment of Names and Numbers ( ICANN ), the body that regulates Internet use worldwide. The Brazilian President confirmed her plan last Thursday during an interview with Radio Itatiaia in Belo Horizonte, capital of Minas Gerais.
“We defend an open, democratic, participatory and neutral internet,” she said. “Most countries will want to participate in that process. The civil framework provides data protection for citizens and businesses,” she said. Rousseff again condemned the actions of espionage by the U.S.’s NSA, labeling them as “unacceptable” and highlighted the increasingly strong reactions from different countries who were spied on by the agency.
The excuse given that such eavesdropping would serve to protect against terrorism, does not justify, according to Rousseff, the spying of her personal emails.
Rousseff had previously defended the idea of establishing a global government of the Internet during her opening speech at the 68th General Assembly of the United Nations (UN ) in New York. It is precisely this proposal the what should jolt everyone off their seats. With technocrats such as Rousseff calling for a world government in Europe and corporations leading the charge against the free world in the Americas, the least the planet needs is a centralized superpower who decides what is done with the Internet.
During her speech Rousseff recalled: “I fought against censorship and discretion and I can not stop defending the right to privacy of individuals and the sovereignty of my country.” Then she added, “without the right to privacy there is no true freedom of expression and opinion and, therefore, there is no true democracy.” Moreover, the president remarked: “There is no basis for a relationship between the nations when there is no respect for democracy.” It is strange that she says that, since her very own proposal calls for the formation of a centralized entity that would govern over the Internet and that would decide for all nations. Her idea of a “solution” for the espionage problems is similar to the one advanced by fascist environmentalists, who propose the implementation of Agenda 21 to “save the planet” from armageddon.
The new representative of Brazil to the UN, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Antonio Patriota, said that the issue of espionage will be priority during his tenure. Patriota reported that Brazil is already working with other countries, such as Germany, for approval of the right to privacy. He said privacy is a right that is closely linked to freedom of expression.
Brazil wants to gather as many votes as possible so the project can be discussed in other instances. For example, in the Security Council and the UN General Assembly itself.
In summary, we have a grave abuse of power on the part of the United States when it comes to spying on everyone including its allies. On the other hand, we have a group of countries allegedly led by Brazil, who want to establish a centralized global entity to control the Internet once and for all.
They justify such proposal with the excuse that something must be done to stop America’s out of control espionage. This solution, if it can be called that way, seems to be as extreme as the American justification to spy on everyone because such a practice helps the country fight its war on terrorism.
Is the Brazilian proposal a necessary drastic measure to be adopted during difficult times, or has the American espionage scandal served the interests of the elite that controls the United States’ intelligence grid to advance their never ending dream of total control over the only effective tool available to fight abusive practices such as those carried out by the NSA?
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Luis R. Miranda is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief at The Real Agenda. His career spans over 19 years and almost every form of news media. He attended Montclair State University's School of Broadcasting and also obtained a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism from Universidad Latina de Costa Rica. Luis speaks English, Spanish Portuguese and Italian.