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Time for Europe to stop being complicit in NSA's crimes

10.06.2013 - 12:11

A hero walks among us, and his name is Edward Snowden. He exposed a widespread wiretapping of ordinary people's lives by the United States NSA that goes far, far beyond anything the East German Stasi ever did. While we cannot and should not control agencies in the United States, we can stop being complicit in their crimes against European citizens.

It has now come to light that the United States NSA - National Security Agency - wiretaps the social life of pretty much every European citizen as they use Facebook, Google, Gmail, Skype, phonecalls, video conferences, and a number of other services. This is a crime under European legislation. It's not just "bad guys" and "rogue states" that are wiretapped; detailed leaked maps reveal that they have wiretapped people in Germany as much as they have wiretapped people in, say, Iraq. This is more than cause for concern; this is an outrage.

What the United States NSA has done, and is doing, is so serious that it straddles the line to crimes against humanity.

This intelligence organization breaks the law on a daily basis with wanton and unchecked wiretapping, specifically including breaking the European Convention on Human Rights articles 6, 8, and 10 (rights to fair trial, privacy, and expression). The mindset and attitude of such organizations remind us not of the civilization we strive and aspire to be, but rather of brutal ex-dictatorships such as we have seen in Latin America. To quote Snowden on the NSA, "They say it is better to kick someone out of a plane than let these people have a day in court. It is an authoritarian mindset in general." Coming to think of it, that's exactly what dictatorships in Latin America did, and which set off a refugee wave to us, to Europe.

The problem here arises when the ends start to justify the means. "Of course we get to break the rules, we're the good guys." I can assure everybody that the East German Stasi was of the exact same mindset, considering themselves to be the good guys and therefore having a right of leeway to avoid scrutiny and transparency. Unchecked power that operate outside the law will start breaking the law, or outright seeing it as an obstacle, sooner or later - hence the statement about rather killing people than giving them a fair trial.

So far, this is a very stern warning to the intelligence agencies of Europe - not to mention the oversight bodies of those agencies - that ends do not justify the means, and that we're no more good guys than anybody else who has considered themselves so in history. But this is also something else. It is a call to action for the European Parliament and Commission.

We cannot stop agencies on American soil from violating their own citizens in egregious misconduct outside of the law. But we can stop being complicit in such crimes against European citizens.

Now that we know - know - how the United States violates personal and private data of citizens, it is our duty to prevent it from happening to the citizens of Europe, the citizens we are elected and appointed to serve and protect. We need to do so quite regardless of any repercussions of self-entitled anger from the United States that we're taking their toys away. We're the world's largest economy and need accept being bullied by exactly no one.

* We need to revoke the United States' status as a Safe Harbor under protection of personal data, as evidence has now been brought forward that EU regulations for EU citizens' private data are not just ignored, but systematically violated by the United States government. Again, German citizens' data was wiretapped by the NSA on the same scale as that of Iraqis.

* We need to immediately revoke the SWIFT agreement where the United States is fed data on the bank transactions on European citizens. That's none of their business.

* We need to revoke the aggrement where the United States get Passenger Name Records (PNR) from Europe. Who of our citizens travel and how is none of the US business up until and if such citizens happen to land on US soil.

* We need to revoke any data-sharing agreements between the intelligence agencies of Europe and the United States. Many of these agencies in Europe, too, have been observed to have a "law, shlaw" mindset, circumventing bans on wiretapping the own population by cross-agreeing to wiretap each other in an "I'll wiretap yours if you'll wiretap mine" agreement.

But perhaps most importantly, Europe needs to learn from this as well. The Data Retention Directive and similar ideas are brainchilds of the same kin as these egregious NSA violations, the idea that effective checks on citizens always take precedence before citizens' checks on government. That idea needs to go away. In a civilized society, citizens have a guaranteed right to privacy unless under formal and concrete individual suspicion of a crime.

We should strive to return to that point.