Institutionalized Spying Targets Freedom
by Stephen Lendman
Out-of-control spying reflects America's true face. At stake are fundamental rights too important to lose.
They're gravely eroded already. They're headed toward disappearing altogether. They may not survive much longer.
Everybody spies on everyone else. America likely does it best of all. It spies on friends and foes alike.
In "Animal Farm," Orwell said "All animals are equal but some are more equal than others." As the world's sole superpower, America is most of all.
Expect no policy change. A previous article discussed Senate legislation legitimizing lawless surveillance. Obama wants it and then some.
On November 2, The New York Times headlined "No Morsel Too Minuscule for All-Consuming NSA."
It wants nothing escaping scrutiny. Privacy no longer exists.
"Mr. Obama and top intelligence officials have defended the agency's role in preventing terrorist attacks."
"But as the documents make clear, the focus on counterterrorism is a misleadingly narrow sales pitch for an agency with an almost unlimited agenda. Its scale and aggressiveness are breathtaking."
No amount spent is too much if "it adds to the agency's global phone book."
"The agency, using a combination of jawboning, stealth and legal force, has turned the nation's Internet and telecommunications companies into collection partners, installing filters in their facilities, serving them with court orders, building back doors into their software and acquiring keys to break their encryption."
Rule of law principles don't matter. Anything goes is policy. Everything transmitted electronically is fair game for intrusion.
Britain operates the same way. On November 3, London's Guardian published an open letter to Prime Minister David Cameron. Dozens of human rights groups signed it. In part, it said:
"We have joined together as an international coalition of free speech, media freedom and human rights organisations because we believe that the United Kingdom government's response to the revelations of mass surveillance of digital communications is eroding fundamental human rights in the country."
"The government's response has been to condemn, rather than celebrate, investigative journalism, which plays a crucial role in a healthy democratic society."
"We are alarmed at the way in which the UK government has reacted, using national security legislation against those who have helped bring this public interest information to global attention."
They expressed grave concern about Britain's abusive Terrorism Act 2000. Glenn Greenwald's partner David Miranda was wrongfully targeted.
London's Guardian was threatened. Responsible journalism is criminalized. Freedom is fast disappearing.
Government policy "clearly violate(s) the right to freedom of expression, which is protected under British, European and international law," the letter's signatories said.
"Under such laws, the right to freedom of expression includes the protection of both journalists, and those that assist them in the course of their vital work."
"The right to freedom of expression and media freedom enable the free flow of information in order for the public to hold their governments to account."
National security never justifies criminalizing disclosures of government wrongdoing. Revealing it is fundamentally essential.
Nations with no regard for core freedoms have no credibility. Calling themselves democracies doesn't wash.
Signatories called on Cameron to "end the UK government's pressure on the Guardian and" contributing journalists. Expect little or no change in response.
Britain's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) works cooperatively with NSA. They complement each other's operations. They share intelligence. They operate lawlessly.
On November 5, London's Independent headlined "Revealed: Britain's 'secret listening post in the heart of Berlin.' "
It doesn't surprise. Der Spiegel revealed a similar NSA operation. More from Der Spiegel below.
Edward Snowden released documents show how NSA and GCHQ cooperatively engage in global spying. They do it from embassies and other diplomatic buildings worldwide. It's no secret.
According to The Independent:
"An American intercept 'nest' on top of its embassy in Berlin - less than 150 metres from Britain's own diplomatic mission - is believed to have been shut down last week as the US scrambled to limit the damage from revelations that it listened to mobile phone calls made by Chancellor Angela Merkel."
Britain's Berlin "listening station will test relations between London and" Germany at the time of an uproar over monitoring Merkel.
Germany's Green Party MEP Jan Albrecht campaigns for privacy and data protection.
"If GCHQ runs a listening post on the top of the UK's Berlin embassy, it is clearly targeting politicians and journalists," he said.
"Do these people pose a threat? The EU has asked David Cameron's Government to explain the activities of GCHQ in Europe but it has declined to do so, saying it does not comment on activities in the interest of national security."
"This is hardly in the spirit of European co-operation. We are not enemies." Cameron's spokesman declined to comment.
Henry L. Stimson was an early-mid 20th century US diplomat/politician.
He once said "Gentlemen don't read each other's mail." He said it long before modern technology. He couldn't have imagined what's routine today.
According to a Snowden released documents, NSA closed some of its Special Collection Service (SCS) operations.
It transferred them to GCHQ. Documents The Independent obtained show NSA and GCHQ use "equipment hidden within the fabric of diplomatic buildings."
Small numbers of personnel run it. They operate under diplomatic cover. Most of their colleagues don't know their "true mission."
Aerial photos of Britain's Berlin embassy are revealing. They show a "potential eavesdropping base."
It's located "inside a white, cylindrical tent-like structure." It can't easily be seen from streets below. It's been in place since 2000.
It's able to intercept cell phone calls, wi-fi data, and long distance communications from across Berlin.
Government buildings like the Reichstag and Chancellery are vulnerable. So is virtually any targeted location throughout the capital.
NSA and GCHQ use similar technologies. "Collection equipment on a building is concealed so as not to reveal SIGINT (signals intelligence) activity...antennas are sometimes hidden in false architectural features or roof maintenance sheds."
The Independent said similar spying operations made earlier headlines.
In 1971, investigative journalist Jack Anderson said NSA and GCHQ successfully monitored Soviet leaders' radio links.
They did so from Russian limousines. They got lots of important intelligence. It pertained to foreign policy and potential military intentions.
Spying and prostitution may be the world's oldest professions. Modern day technology lets today's spies operate in ways their predecessors couldn't have imagined.
Today's capability way exceeds Orwell's 1984. Big Brother is much more pervasive than he imagined. It's an out-of-control monster.
In September, London Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger said "Orwell could never have imagined anything as complete as this, this concept of scooping up everything all the time."
"This is something potentially astonishing about how life could be lived and the limitations on human freedom."
Today's technology is enormously alarming. Imagine being able to monitor virtually everyone everywhere all the time.
Imagine the potential harm. Imagine it on a global scale. Imagine how inappropriately it's likely to be used. Imagine the worst of all possible outcomes.
Imagine a totalitarian world not fit to live in. Imagine technology advancing to where it can read minds, thoughts and intentions.
Technology can advance the human condition. It can do so when used constructively. Digital democracy can elevate everyone. Digital destructiveness is polar opposite.
Modern technology is monstrous when used the wrong way. Violating privacy rights is the tip of how bad things can get.
On November 5, Der Spiegel headlined "Et Tu, UK? Anger Grows over British Spying in Berlin," saying:
First it was America. Now it's Britain. Both countries spy from their embassies.
Germany's Foreign Ministry asked UK ambassador Simon McDonald to explain. A spokesman said:
"(E)avesdropping on communications inside the offices of a diplomatic mission would violate international law."
Everybody does it to everyone one else. Given today's advanced technology, there's no effective way to stop it.
If presidents, prime ministers, Germany's chancellor and the pope are vulnerable, what chance have ordinary people?
So-called reported rifts are more hyperbole than real. Other nations are caught red-handed.
On November 5, Brazil's Folha de Sao Paulo said Dilma Rouseff's government spies like NSA.
Justice Minister Jose Eduardo Cardozo replied, saying:
"I see the situations as completely different." NSA is all pervasive. It breaches secrecy. It intercepts data and phone calls. It "affronts Brazil's sovereignty."
Rouseff's government engages in counterespionage measures, he said. It pales in comparison to NSA spying.
German parliamentarians have different views. Merkel ally/Christian Democrat Wolfgang Bosbach calls NSA monitoring unacceptable.
He urges some kind of a no-spy agreement. What good it would do he didn't explain.
Christian Social Union/Merkel coalition ally parliamentarian Hans-Peter Uhl wants better protection afforded German data.
Social Democrat Bundestag control committee chairman Thomas Oppermann assumes we're all spied on by friends.
It's likely most, perhaps all, parliamentarians want it stopped. Given today's advanced technology, expect things to get worse, not better.
Congressional reform is a non-starter. NSA director Keith Alexander wants the whole haystack.
So does Obama. He and his advisors concluded there's no alternative to getting it all. Privacy and other civil liberties be damned.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.
It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.