United States loses credibility by spying on allies
Published: Sunday, October 27, 2013
Updated: Sunday, October 27, 2013 13:10
Since recent revelations have surfaced regarding the National Security Agency’s intercepting the phone calls of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and a host of other foreign leaders and their governments and their citizens, President Obama has been forced to try and persuade the world that this program is under control.
But he has had no such success.
His attempt to convince Germany and French President François Hollande that they should be at ease with his surveillance strategy is unconvincing – to put it kindly. No explanation he has provided has included a shred of comprehensive description; everything he has said has felt deliberately inadequate.
Reports have stated that President Obama told Merkel that her phone was not being monitored and would not be in the future. It is an answer evading any recognition of what has been done in the past and is also an answer that recognizes the act of monitoring her phone calls is wrong.
Thanks to Der Spiegel, he has at least been forced to provide answers – however lacking they may be. A recent report by the German newsmagazine detailed how the NSA tapped the cell phone of Chancellor Merkel and over 70 million phone calls in France.
These findings likely come from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden – though that has not been officially confirmed. The United States has also spied on the Mexican government and over 30 other nations.
When Snowden’s leak surfaced this summer, the media inflated much of what came to light. Suddenly, “Big Brother” was watching us. But it was President George W. Bush who initiated this policy; President Obama, who criticized it in the past, recognized how he needed it once he stepped into office.
But it was also justifiable. None of the documents indicated that random Americans were being watched just for being Americans. Most of the people you heard hollering about how the government was invading your privacy did not have arguments rooted in what the NSA was actually doing.
Keeping track of Americans who are communicating with foreign citizens who are either alleged terrorist suspects or are connected to those who are is a reasonable and necessary precaution to ensure the safety of the nation. And this had been happening long before it was disclosed.
The NSA got caught when Snowden shared classified information in May. And Obama took the brunt of the criticism, but remember: Obama gets the blame whenever there is a flood these days.
This time is different.
However wrongly the NSA controversy was handled this summer, Obama has stepped out of line with recent actions. Such surveillance on our closest allies undermines our credibility and trust with the international community. It also hurts the very goal it is trying to achieve.
Losing the faith and trust of our allies makes them less likely to share information with us that could help thwart terrorist activity. It does the United States no good to play by its own rules and ignore the principles of democratic alliances.
In today’s world, we rely on broad data collection to combat global threats. We need the cooperation from other nations to help us with this endeavor, and the action taken by NSA makes other nations less likely to work with us.
Why would they if at the same time we are spying on them?
To get out of this imprudent situation, the United States should take up Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande’s proposal to forge an agreement that sets the guidelines for U.S. intelligence operations in Europe.
President Obama should work with these leaders to come to an agreement and should stay clear of vagaries regarding surveillance and privacy.
One of the president’s main campaign promises in 2008 was to restore America’s standing in the world. Disclosures such as this undercut that effort and weaken its chances of coming to fruition.
Participating in an agreement between allied nations would be a substantial way to make good on his campaign promise, which has seemed to elude him since he took his oath.