Having assumed that we were living in the free West, where values like freedom of speech, democracy and the rule of law are being hold dearly, the big, fat NSA leaks might have made you think otherwise. In the US, that piece of land they call the land of the free, there is a government institution called the National Security Agency. As one is fighting a war on terror this agency is considered of key importance to keeping the nation safe. Now, there are several big, fat challenges this agency and other security agencies are facing. Unlike during the Cold War when the enemy was another nation state and its allies, the antagonists in the War on Terror are less clearly defined actors operating in different cells across nation states. Then there is the digital revolution that produces humongous amounts of data. So if we use the metaphor of the needle in the haystack, the baddies have become far less visible and the haystack more digitised and therefore far bigger and denser. And to find those less visible baddies in a world with a far complexer structure, the NSA helps itself to the entire haystack and snoops through it as if no one told them it’s rather, rude and not terribly free-worldly to disregard personal privacy all in the name of security.
Now the even more smelly bit in this saga is that the UK Government Communications Headquarters, an intelligence agency, has helped itself to data made available through the PRISM Programme – that’s the name of this big, fat, ugly surveillance activity- on UK citizens while this programme is not subjected to UK law. Both the US as well as the UK government have cried that all this activity is within the law and that if we got nothing to hide we don’t have anything to fear. This all is a load of bollocks. If this is lawful in what is considered a free country then something might not be quite right with the law or this country is not as free as we claim it t be or, most likely, both. Being a law-abiding and morally upright citizen doesn’t mean that I’m cool with the state or whoever storing and peeking through data regarding my movements as long as they are digitally traceable. And while the technology revolution is rolling along almost everything will be digital traceable. And who or what is keeping the government’s snooping activity in check? Who says the storage of all this data is safe?
As an aftershock to the initial bombshell it was revealed the UK government had been spying on politicians and diplomats of allied nations during the 2009 G20 summit. If the state doesn’t trust its own citizens or allied nations than who does it trust?! In some twisted way the UK government does trusts the plan to arm the Syrian rebels. There was a time when I cried for intervention in Syria. It was a time when the conflict was already dirty, but clear. There was a repressive government and there was the opposition with a mostly secular agenda of government reform and, later on, regime change. While the international community was dragging its feet and didn’t know how to solve a problem like Syria, the conflict became increasingly sectarian with seemingly every section having its own foreign sponsor. Until the shit truly hit the fan and a civil uprising had turned into a full-blown proxy war not experienced since the Cold War. And now the enlightened leaders of the world think it is a good idea to arm the opposition, which is most fragmented and includes some elements who are as thuggish as the regime. If the opposition manages to topple El Assad, then what? Neighbouring Iraq can’t be the example and as I’m sure it isn’t, what’s the plan? What is a post-El-Assad Syria to look like? Who’s got the masterplan? Not only for Syria, but for Big Brother, the economy, the weather, the cure to cancer? Could superwoman or man please rise and get into action?