Sunday, August 4, 2013

German Intelligence Breaks With the US Over Spy Program

It was reported today that

"Germany has dissolved a fifty-years-old surveillance pact with the United States and Britain in response to a “debate about protecting personal privacy” in the country, which was sparked by revelations of the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden."

"Following Snowden’s leaks, which disclosed the span of the NSA surveillance program and revealed that Germany is the most spied on EU country by the US, there has been a heated nationwide debate on whether the alleged massive privacy breach of German citizens should have been allowed."

"The documents leaked Snowden say that the US spy agency combs through half a billion of German phone calls, emails and text messages on a monthly basis."

"German government officials have insisted that American and British intelligence agencies were never given permission to break Germany’s strict privacy laws."

Here in America, I am most surprised not by how outrageous the spy program itself is, but by the reactions of my fellow Americans to it. A surprising number of them see nothing wrong with it, and many are actually *glad* it exists and feel it is keeping them safer. I do not deny that the construction of an authoritarian national security state that destroys its citizens civil liberties and eradicates their privacy has resulted in the discovery, and prevention, of several crimes. Were we to install a police man into every American's home, classroom, gymnasium, and workplace to watch their doings 24 hours a day, we would probably prevent many more crimes. However, one might say there is a point at which the line has to be drawn, and the costs associated with such a program begin to out way its benefits.

To clarify the points under which a rational person might find fault with the employment of government agents manning computers monitoring that who millions of their citizens call and email every day, the following three assertions will now be made.


The first reason is that our foreign policy is the cause of terrorism, as well as the deaths of hundreds of thousands of middle eastern people and the suffering of millions more who chafe under the corrupt governments we have supported in around the world. Well over a hundred thousand of them were killed by our military in Iraq, which is a country that posted no threat to us at all in 2003 and which was invaded on the basis of deliberately misleading information cherry picked and dishonestly presented by the Bush Administration.

Trying to stop "terror" while maintaining unjust and unethical relationships with our neighbors on this planet won't work. Furthermore it is extremely immoral to attempt it.


Secondly, even if the spying was used "for good", an election could easily change that. What would Sarah Palin do with a tool like this? What would Michele Bachmann, Eguene "Bull" Connor, or any of the other violent racist who ran the country 60 years ago? People in the 1950s lost their jobs for having showed up once at a march for relief for unemployed people, or for having their names on petitions opposing arms embargoes to Republican Spain. What damage to the lives and well being of ordinary, non-criminal citizens could be organized by a malicious and politically motivated controller of these spying tools? An unscrupulous person could do tremendous damage with it.


Thirdly, this is not how free people live. It's reminiscent of the Stalinist regimes of Eastern Europe, or even the one party states of much of the rest of the world. This is the kind of program a government that doesn't trust its citizens and is afraid of them would invent. A tool like this should have been invented by Saddam Hussien or North Korea. It is a shame the nation that so proudly and loudly brags about its "Freedom" has invented it.

I propose the war on terror is not designed to make us safer, or to make the world a better place. Rather than perusing peaceful and sustainable relationships with our fellow inhabitants of this planet, our leaders have demonstrated reckless militarism abroad that it is difficult to criticize without the word "empire" coming to mind. The idea of a perpetual international "war on terror" is an excuse for the Military- Industrial Complex to keep its jobs. Hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer funding is at stake, and those who build bombers and bullets and staff the pentagon and the over one thousand military bases around the world want a global war to keep their jobs. I believe it is this unscrupulous and powerful interest, which President Dwight Eisenhower once warned us of, which is really behind the drive to create a militaristic, fearful, and spied upon citizenry.

As Ike puts it,

"The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together."

This is not the way a free country should operate, but it is the path we have all made inevitable by acquiescing to the "war on terror." The blame lies not just on George W. Bush's head, or Barack Obama's heads, or their advisers or hangers on. The blame should cover the whole nation who voted for either of these people and who have been asleep while our political culture has grown more and more putrid.