When I was younger the first thought of the word “spy” brought to mind images of trench coats, dark sunglasses, and a talking wrist watch, but time has grown to show me spies are no more than someone in a blue-collar suite sitting in on an international conference. Apparently, it is thought that all nations perform spying and espionage during international meetings; in fact, it is almost expected of them for national interest reasons. It seems to be however, the US National Security Agency broke the only rule in the game: don’t get caught.
Just like in every classic spy thriller, the NSA learned a valuable lesson in trusting no one, not even your own men. On June 7th this past summer CSI and NSA former employee Edward Snowden leaked classified information to The Guardian newspaper and the scandal continues to pour out. In just the past few days France has learned more of the NSA’s thorough spying on millions of the country’s own citizens. Snowden made allegations stating that the NSA secretly monitored 70.3 million phone communications in France for over a 30 day period beginning in December of 2012. The NSA’s suspects were thought to target those linked to terrorism, business, or politics. They used methods of automatically recording phone calls linked to dialing specific numbers as well as picking up on specific words in text messages. After learning of this scandal French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius demanded a full investigation on the practices of the NSA. This Monday President Obama met with French President Francois Hollande to discuss the NSA report and ensure our allies that the intelligence agencies gather information on a basis balanced between security and privacy.
The NSA on the other hand brushed off all allegations, including tapping into Mexico’s President Nieto’s emails justified by reasons of providing insight into “Mexico’s political system and internal stability.” It is not just the US conducting such spying; the UK’s Government Communication Head Quarters has also been guilty of similar tactics, as well as Germany and Mexico itself. If all countries are doing it, why choose now to become so upset researchers ask? Is France actually upset by the NSA’s methods or is it just because they are the targets with something to hide? French Prime Minister Labius brings up a valid argument however, scolding the US for not trusting their alliance.
After traumatizing events like 9/11 one must begin to question if an alliance is enough for complete trust in today’s world. Are intelligence agencies’ global spying practices justified in the precaution of safety, or is tapping into the conversations of millions of innocent civilians infringing on people’s civil rights? All are important factors to consider, but above all, would you want to be left knowing an attack could have been avoided after it’s too late?