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The Corner

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Spy vs. Spy vs. Spy



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According to the Guardian:

Foreign politicians and officials who took part in two G20 summit meetings in London in 2009 had their computers monitored and their phone calls intercepted on the instructions of their British government hosts, according to documents seen by the Guardian. Some delegates were tricked into using internet cafes which had been set up by British intelligence agencies to read their email traffic.

I’m struggling to understand why this was regarded as a “scoop.” Really, the manner in which Edward Snowden and his ilk drift between stating opposition to domestic spying and stating opposition to all forms of spying is quite absurd. As my colleague, Lindsey Grudnicki, wrote this morning:

On the NSA surveillance in general, Snowden opined that “the ‘US Persons’ protection in general is a distraction from the power and danger of this system. Suspicionless surveillance does not become okay simply because it’s only victimizing 95% of the world instead of 100%. Our founders did not write that ‘We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all US Persons are created equal.’”

Actually, it does “become okay.” It is certainly true that the Declaration of Independence is a statement of universal principle. But it is not true that its legal counterpart, the Constitution, applies to anyone except US Persons. The Fourth Amendment no more applies to citizens of other countries than the Fifth Amendment guarantees a jury trial to those accused of crimes in Lisbon or the Second Amendment secures the right to bear arms for an Australian. The United States can spy on whomever it wishes outside of its borders — and it should. Foreigners are not part of the American social compact.

Last week, the EU complained:

The EU is demanding assurances that Europeans’ rights are not being infringed by massive, newly revealed US surveillance programmes.

Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding plans to raise the concerns with US Attorney General Eric Holder on Friday.

This is bizarre. Europeans are not immune from American spying. Constitutionally and morally, there is a world of difference between the American or British government spying on foreigners and the American or British government spying on its own people. I would expect the Chinese to spy on the British, and the British to spy on the Chinese, and the Americans to spy on both of them. But I would not expect the phone records of the U.S. government’s employers to be routinely collected in their own country. If we can’t draw a distinction between these two things then, well, we might as well pack up and go home.



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