Internet Espionage

The revelation on Thursday that the U.S. National Security Agency monitors communication over Internet and telephone networks within the country’s borders has caused indignation the world over, since U.S. authorities have acknowledged that such surveillance, in the name of averting terrorism has, in fact, global implications.

After the English daily The Guardian — followed by The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal — revealed that the NSA obliges telephone companies like Verizon, one of the largest such companies in the U.S., to provide U.S. intelligence services with access to all calls made, including the number of origin, destination and duration of the call, other, more worrying facts have come to light.

Responding rapidly to the information, the Director of National Intelligence and other U.S. authorities, as well as the U.S. president himself, acknowledged the use of telecommunication surveillance, but declared that such surveillance does not affect U.S. citizens unless they are in contact with individuals abroad. Basically, the U.S. government stated that espionage of private communication does not affect U.S. citizens, only the rest of the world.

Not only that, it was also confirmed that such monitoring extends to all telephone companies, as well as the main Internet service providers, including Microsoft, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, YouTube, Skype, AOL and Apple, meaning that there is practically no communication that is not monitored. Such monitoring covers email content, chat services, videos, images, stored data and shared folders.

As a result of this, The New York Times revealed in its Thursday edition that telephone and Internet espionage activities are not strictly speaking anything new and noted that the former has been going on for seven years, the latter for six. Both are taken into account in the Patriot Act, passed after the 9/11 attacks, and later complemented by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which obliges telecommunication companies to make all information regarding their service users freely available to U.S. intelligence agencies.

The main conclusion that can be drawn from this case is that the U.S. plays the role of global guardian in the worst possible way; in order to satisfy public opinion at home, it declares that the intimacy which is violated is not that of Americans, who are protected by the Constitution, but the rest of the world. In the eyes of the U.S., then, it can be inferred that the entire world is an unsafe place.

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