Friday, October 25, 2013

International Maneuvers of Mystery

Recent reports of the NSA monitoring the electronic communications of world leaders have been causing quite a stir. The controversy was sparked by the dissemination of a 2006 NSA internal document by the infamous Edward Snowden. Possibly the most significant of the purported espionage targets is German Chancellor Angela Merkel; Merkel called President Obama and the US ambassador to Germany was questioned in connection with reports that the NSA tapped the Chancellor's official cellphone. The US has also been accused of spying on Mexican, French, and Brazilian officials among other allies.

The White House has made it clear that they are not currently monitoring Merkel's phone and will not in the future, but the conspicuous omission of a statement about past practices leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Since the document is from 2006, it seems likely the practice began under the Bush administration and as a symptom of paranoia in the wake of 9/11. The Obama administration, however, has continued many controversial national security programs from the Bush administration, so it may be too optimistic to think the NSA stopped spying on foreign leaders in 2008.

I wish I could say I was surprised by this development, but it is simply par for the course in the tradition of US intervention abroad and the recent trend of US government overreach in monitoring electronic communications. I hope the international outrage comes as a wake-up call and we realize that, while national security is obviously important and the US has the power to do a great deal of good, there have to be limits on our exercise of power.

I don't think I'm ever going to like what the NSA does, but most of the time what they do is justified by the danger and chaos of our world. I acknowledge that someone has to look out for us, but they ought to be compelled to look out for us in the right way.

If we keep doing this sort of thing to our friends, we eventually won't have any friends left.

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