– by Shenali D Waduge –
This is just great – the world’s self-appointed human rights crusader has been getting its National Security Agency to spy on personal data since 2001 through the world’s biggest internet companies. That project has now been revealed as PRISM by William Binney/Edward Snowden – now in hiding because US Government is angered because they’ve spilt the beans. The victims are ALL those who use Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, or Apple – i.e. Americans and the entire World! An unnamed intelligence officer was quoted by the Washington Post as saying that the NSA could “quite literally … watch your ideas form as you type.”
The National Security Agency is no angel. Snooping on public is nothing new too. Its predecessor known as the Black Chamber worked with Western Union during World War 1 to access America’s telegram traffic. The NSA was launched in 1952 without the oversight of US Congress. The abuses of the NSA, FBI and CIA were exposed by Senator Frank Church’s Senatorial Committee in the 1970s – surprisingly only then that some senators of the US knew that NSA staffed with thousands even existed. So we cant blame American public for being ignorant when US senators are too!
PRISM is simply an updated version of ECHELON – another global tapping and sharing network run by US, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand under “UKUSA Agreement”. International spy agencies collaborate – it’s nothing to be surprised over. But, the problem is a spy is spying on the spies now that’s something for the foreign alliances to think about!
While, Americans think their Government is the most cleanest Government in the world, the American public is clueless about the US Patriotic Act which demands Google, Yahoo and all other global popular internet modes of communication give data to the NSA, CIA. So internet companies are just fooling the public by claiming ignorance and denying that it does not share its central servers. Moreover, that the US policy is to spy is clearly advocated through other laws recently passed – Stop Online Piracy Act, Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) Bill, Cybersecurity Act and the Security IT Act – gives the American State the right to cooperate with Corporates to track individuals’ online activities. In August 2007, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) became law. Included is a Protect America Act (PAA) amendment. It permits unrestricted warrantless data-mining.
The NSA access to live and stored communications were enabled by changes to US surveillance law introduced by President Bush and then renewed under President Obama in 2012.
The information-sharing program has been happening since 2007. Microsoft is running a campaign with a slogan “Your privacy our priority” but it was the first to align with PRISM in November 2007. Yahoo followed in 2008, while Google, Facebook and PalTalk joined in 2009. YouTube in 2010, Skype and AOL in 2011 and Apple in 2012. PRISM actually involves direct access to a Dropbox-like system (potentially hosted by Amazon) which fulfils wiretapping requests made by spooks under the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
A recent court order has compelled telecoms provider Verizon to hand over telephone records of millions of US customers. How many other telecommunications provider do similar sharing is a big question. These are all below the belt tactics and not expected of a First World nation claiming to lead the world in civilized good governance. The list of the vocabulary/terminology and strongly-worded statements used by the US to humiliate nations and Governments are many. But PRISM exposes the US beyond redemption.
While under US law, companies are legally obliged to comply with requests for user’s communication inspite of this the US runs PRISM that allows the intelligence services direct access to companies’ servers and with it the access to emails, video and voice chats, videos, photos, voice-over-IP (SKYPE for example) chats, file transfers, stored data, video conferencing, social networking details, special requests and virtually everything that is being exchanged. William Hague says “law-abiding citizens have nothing to fear” – but who wants to have another listening to one’s conversation with another, or photos exchanged, or skype chats…how can a grandma be a national security threat?
In short, PRISM does not require individual court orders or service providers permission to look at people’s communication modes both real-time and stored. By including “electronic surveillance” the US has fooled the American public into thinking that the surveillance is applicable to only terrorists? A terrorist is a person who America defines terrorist – therefore the American public is somewhat naïve to think its Government is really tracking down terrorists! However, the carefully designed laws and the vocabulary used ensures that the NSA and the Attorney General has power to permit obtaining intelligence and indemnifies internet companies against actions.
So, if the US National Security Agency does not need individual or company authorizations in or outside USA to collect live and stored data of EVERYONE using internet communication systems what are the dangers if information can be leaked to others through the NSA? Will US conglomerates and others obtain a clear advantage over their competition? Will US not be aware of confidential documents being typed live for legal international documents? Will the US not be able to spy on Governmental confidential documents and exchange between MPs and others? How about US Government spying on their own Opposition Republicans? So the issue of personal privacy for those talking on phone, internet chat, exchanging emails is no different to senior public and corporates whose information is being mirrored and looked at by American intelligence. This is what should shock the entire world. Various global leaders may in view of their links and ties to America have to publicly align and agree to the PRISM spy system but surely they must also wonder whether their correspondence is not being spoofed into as well? This is something Cameron, Hague, Merkel, Hollande, Gillard and US strategic partners including India need to be worried about. There is nothing called privacy any more… so no wonder secrets are kept and divulged at the opportune moment that the US sees fit to release sensitive private information. Looks like the US has learnt much after Lewinsky fiasco!
Whilst the UK Guardian exposed the PRISM program our question to world media is why have they been silent all this time?
Its just as well we are sensible enough not to take these US State Dept press releases too seriously knowing too well America’s track record is nothing it can boast of except to people who are too nice and polite to give them a dose of their crimes against humanity.
Nevertheless, there’s no stopping America from making the world believe otherwise. The State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell told Sri Lanka in May 2013, “We urge Sri Lankan authorities to protect freedom of expression”…..”So as we have said many times, we remain extremely concerned about threats to freedom of expression in Sri Lanka” and Robert Blake cannot make a statement without adding some chiding comment against media freedom in Sri Lanka. A good look at all the communications modes available in print and online (locally and internationally) it is not difficult to count the number of articles that appear against the Rajapakse Government as compared to those that praise Rajapakse.
Inspite of being aware of the lack of freedom in the US, the US is placed 32 in the Press Freedom Index of 2013, while the US is also placed quite high in all the rankings related to every type of freedom possible. However, given the reality of PRISM we can just about laugh at these findings! PRISM and Freedom just do not go hand in hand. Moreover, Susan Rice is now the new Director of NSA and Samantha Power takes over from Susan Rice as UN Ambassador equates to mean nothing but conflict for the world.
The White House is in a crisis but when President Obama says “You cant have 100% security and 100% privacy and Zero inconvenience” these should be golden words to Sri Lanka and be quoted every time a US representative makes accusations!
For the people of America, Europe, Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Pacific – how can they protect their privacy? Maybe its time to return to simply writing letters!