When Edward Snowden leaked the fact that the U.S. government had been spying on U.S. citizens, they justified it in the name of fighting terrorism. Though Americans are deeply divided over the issue, the Germans and other Europeans are very upset by it all and are demanding an explanation from the USA.
“It would seem that the secret services have gotten out of control,” said Luxembourg’s foreign minister. “The US should monitor their own secret services rather than their allies… The US justifies everything as being part of the fight against terrorism.” He said. “But the EU and its diplomats are not terrorists. We need a guarantee from the very highest level that it stops immediately.”
Elmar Brok, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee weighed in. “The US,” he said, “once the land of the free, is suffering from a security syndrome… They have completely lost all balance. George Orwell is nothing by comparison.”
The technology that has created the “information superhighway” has been the source of much controversy between advocates of privacy rights and government hunger for private information on its citizens.
But it isn’t just the American NSA that is spying on its citizens and the citizens of other nations. Under a program called Tampora, the British intelligence Agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and the NSA have developed an invasive form of spying that is frighteningly close to being implemented. “Together, the GCHQ and NSA monitor Internet traffic by tapping directly into the data stream sent through fiber-optic cables. They are able to copy and cache this data, to be sifted through later as needed.”
Those involved in this invasive system don’t hide it, but they claim that it’s “for a good cause,” and is under strict legal controls… It’s all regulated, and we’re only looking at the information collected when we deem it necessary.” But who controls the definition of what is necessary?
The fact that the Americans and British have granted themselves such enormous power is a serious breach of the constitutions of both countries. But other countries are assisting them. Canada, Australia and New Zealand all share intelligence information with the U.S.
Revelations of the NSA’s Prism program (which collects data from Internet companies) and the metadata collection of the Verizon phone company, and presumably other phone companies, shows a level of surveillance expertise that most Americans and others in the Western world had no idea was happening.
Total information is the goal. Lieutenant General Keith Alexander, who runs the NSA said, “Why can’t we collect all the signals all the time?”
The only nations exempt from the spying are the “Five eyes intelligence community” made up of Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand and the USA, because they have had cooperation agreements in place for some time. Apparently, Britain handles the surveillance of Europe instead of the NSA. But the New Zealand government wants to expand its domestic spying similar to the U.S., though its laws presently restrict it.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Postal System is storing photos of the outsides of every piece of mail that passes through its system in a sweeping attempt to “assist law enforcement.” Two programs called “Mail Isolation Control and Tracking,” and “mail covers” stores images of 160 billion pieces of mail a year.
The totalitarian surveillance system, which has been compared to the East German Stasi secret police, lacks all constitutional and democratic legitimacy and undermines key free speech and privacy principles. It represents the meltdown of the constitutional state. In spite of all the hand wringing, the programs remain in place even though Edward Snowden lifted the lid.
The United States “shall repudiate every principle of its Constitution as a Protestant and republican government.” Testimonies for the Church, page 451