As someone who considers himself a great admirer of the US legal system, the American belief in constitutional rights and personal freedoms, recent developments in the US vis a vis NSA's PRISM has saddened me greatly. I feel shattered, cheated - almost as if I have believed in a lie all these years. One always suspected that there may be some surveillance but to think that it would be so widespread - worse than fiction (remember Enemy of the State?)- it is just mind blowing. Remember we are talking of surveillance that goes beyond anything the former Soviet Union was guilty of. What then of the leader of the free world?
Obama - From Constitutional Lawyer to Big Brother?
To think that it fell to President Obama, a Harvard educated Constitutional Lawyer and Jurist, to take this program to unprecedented lengths means that all that rhetoric about freedom has always been quite hollow, that absolute power corrupts absolutely and all the many cliches you can imagine. If this is what the US is doing - what hope or what argument do we - those who work in hostile conditions in terrible conditions - have against our states snooping on our computers? I am afraid good and bad state logic just does not cut it.
It is truly terrible stuff. Edward Snowden - the whistleblower now on the run - had this to say:
He added: "You are not even aware of what is possible. The extent of their capabilities is horrifying. We can plant bugs in machines. Once you go on the network, I can identify your machine. You will never be safe whatever protections you put in place."Top lawmakers in the US have since asked for the extradition of Mr. Snowden from Hong Kong. Perhaps the searing irony of this whole sordid drama is that China - that oppressor of freedoms and human rights- gets now to decide whether to hand over Mr. Snowden to the US or not.
As well as the obvious privacy fears for internet users, the Prism scandal has reached our news desk over the last few days due to allegations that some of the world's biggest tech giants are making it easy for the NSA to harvest user data.
Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft have all denied allowing the US government to have direct access to their servers, but reports this weekend have suggested they may not have put up much resistance to requests for user information.
My appeal to the US - as a friend, well wisher and admirer - is consider dispassionately that if the US resorts to such tactics in flagrant disregard of the values on which it was built, what hope is for the rest of us in the world?