Not Our Big Brother By Hannatu Musawa



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Hannatu Musawa

The recent reports that the American National Security Agency has been examining records of millions of private telephone calls including spying on the personal communications of various international leaders came as such a shock to many. But more than anything, it highlights the dishonesty and obduracy of the American administration in dealing with the revelations that the National Security Agency has been acting outside the bounds of common decency and even the law.
The fact that the American NSA has been targeting its covert stakeout undertakings towards their so called allies, specifically the leaders of these countries, a spanner has effectively been chucked at the trust and understanding critical to sustaining a friendly relationship with its foreign allies. And by every right, these so called American allies would most likely demand an explanation from the United States about the purpose and reasoning behind the spying programs.

Allegedly, the American NSA has been carrying out these surveillance programs and spying on The Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, since 2002. In the same vein, it was reported that the same NSA surveillance program had also been carried out on top officials in the French and Spanish government. In-fact, anonymous sources allegedly close to the US programs claim that the United States has been engaged in espionage on 35 world leaders and some 125 billion phone calls worldwide, 3 billion of which originated in the United States.

These reports of the NSA’s massive records hunt, along with the Justice Department’s surveillance of correspondences by journalists, and news that security agencies are routinely scanning Internet traffic for personal communication, is just the latest evidence that the Americans have become an insultingly overreaching government.

Overreaching is one way of calling it, the other is a tyrannical force unapologetic and entitled. However, come you think of it, this expose is not so much of an intermittent considering the fact that even within America, the lines of privacy and security have increasingly become blurred. Laws passed after the 9/11 attacks established a new mechanism for authorities to seek judicial approval, through a special National Security court, to cast a wide net for all sorts of records under the premise that the amalgamation of data could be analyzed for patterns of suspicious behavior while not involving a specific focus on any individual or group. This was part of Edward Snowden was talking about when he exposed America’s spying operations.

Thus, millions of Americans had lost a great measure of privacy simply because they had cell phones or computers, and the government had evidence that terrorists have cell phones, too, and use them to plot acts of aggression. The American government, however, came up with a half-wit that such surveillance was necessary to seek out suspicious activity.

But with what we know and given the benefit of blindside, the blanket nature of the NSA’s surveillance suggests a broad widening of the probable cause threshold to one that essentially holds everyone, including almost every nation potential suspicious until they are cleared by an examination of their records. Now that probable cause threshold net seems to been spread so wide, it has managed to snag even those allies that America relies on in its war against terror, alienating and vilifying America even more than before.

Whatever the exact truth of the matter, whatever the benefit of the surveillance program for the United States in their fight against communism, terrorism or whatever else it is they are fighting for, the fact is that America itself has become an intimidating and tyrannical force, the likes of which they are trying to guard against.

To say that the American surveillance program is disturbing is an understatement but to make the official statements coming from the top echelon of US officials supporting the exercise are even more perturbing. There is sufficient cause to worry when the American government puts on their big brother hat to subject unsuspecting victims the world over to a routine pry-fest on private communication records, irrespective of what rationalization the American government might have. And there is more cause for worry when the government is elusive about its reasoning, refusing to divulge details as to how widespread the spying is, and exactly why it is dire to their homeland security.

Of course, a global surveillance program was expected after the September 11, 2001 Twin Tower attacks in New York. Apparently, since then the United States has spent over $500 billion on an intelligence community that, allegedly, constitutes an espionage empire with resources and a reach beyond those of any adversary, sustained even now by spending that rivals or exceeds the levels at the height of the Cold War.

It gets worse, because now that the CIA and NSA have allegedly begun an offensive cyber operation, which involves hacking into foreign computer networks in order to either steal information or sabotage the network itself. “May God help us.”

This whole surveillance malarkey is creepy, at best. With the type of reputation and history that the US NSA has, it would be hard to imagine anything innocent about a worldwide program of surveillance that America is embarking on, a program that can benefit them and them alone. More than anything, this behavior seems reminiscent of a new era, an expansion of the Cold War mentality of tracking an unknown enemy, which only exists in the imagination of those who seek more power and influence in America.

Even in the most dire cases, where, for instance, one considers the American war against Al-Qaeda, there is still little justification for a US surveillance program that targets and disrespects those allies that America is so poised to call their friends. The same allies who helped them to fight Al-Qeada. Any public scrutiny would demonstrate their ineffectiveness and uselessness.

It’s time to restore the rightful balance of governments and nations in this world and its time for America to know that these spying programs that they conduct against anyone, but to their benefit are unacceptable and will not be tolerated by the rest of the free world.

No nation wants a gradual and pernicious erosion of their sovereignty. And each countries’ constitutional provisions expresses protection from unwarranted surveillance and search by the American or any other establishment. It strikes at one of our most precious ideals as people co-existing in this world; that we are free agents in a free society with an ongoing expectation of personal privacy.

There certainly are legitimate reasons for nations and security agencies to conduct surveillance, but such programs and searches have previously been subject to more vigorous rules that balance on permission by the host countries and a mutual understanding between nations. Traditionally, the concept of “probable cause” has served as a threshold authorities must cross before they can tap a phone or delve into private records. They must provide evidence to a judicial authority when there is reason to suspect an individual of a particular transgression. In this case where the US NSA taps the phone and spies on the Chancellor of Germany, one would be hard pressed to find probable cause on reasoning.

Because America has the technical ability to conduct such surveillance doesn’t mean they should, especially without clear and stringent accountability. Until there is evidence such accountability is firmly in place, there are reasons to be literally playing Big Brother.

Who knows whether tapping the phone of the German Chancellor by America has resulted in shutting down any terrorists’ plots? Who knows whether the NSA has any plans to reduce or limit this kind of surveillance? But with reports of a giant new NSA data center in Bluffdale said to have the capacity to scan the entire store of the world’s electronic communications on a daily basis, chances are that America will continue to play Big Bother, literally, … even though they are in no way any other natins Big Brother.

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Babatunde Akinsola
Babatunde Akinsola
Babatunde Akinsola is aNaija247news' Southwest editor. He's based in Lagos and writes on the Yoruba Nation political issues, news and investigative reports

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