The revelations about US intelligence gathering that Edward Snowden made public have had repercussions around the world, and not just between the US and Germany. The bugging of Angela Merkel’s phone has received a lot of press coverage in the US, but other countries now have problems.
One of the revelations to emerge was that in 2009, Australia attempted to bug the phone conversations of the president of Indonesia, his wife and his inner circle. As a result, Indonesia has suspended cooperation with Australia on intelligence sharing, and has stopped any cooperation in relation to people smuggling. (Boatloads of refugees often travel from Indonesia or through Indonesian waters to get to Christmas Island, a tiny chunk of Australia , 300 miles from Indonesia and 1600 miles from Australia. Numerous people have drowned when their boats smash on rocks near Christmas Island.) At the time of writing, Indonesia has said that if boats are passing through its waters, towards Australia, they can do so. Indonesia won’t interfere. Australia will just have to handle the problem when the boats appear off Christmas Island.
The Indonesians are understandably offended, since we are supposed to be allies. Indonesia is the most populous Muslim country on earth, and one of Australia’s only three near neighbors. The truth is we have to be able to get along with them, because unless there is a religious miracle that rearranges geography, neither country is going anywhere any time soon.
Jakarta has said that before cooperation resumes, Australia will have to sign some formal agreement about intelligence gathering between the two countries. In a nutshell, Australia will have to eat humble pie, suck it up and promise to be good boys in future. The Indonesian reaction is totally understandable. Most of us know the Asian concept of “loss of face.” Apart from the offense caused by spying on friends, the revelations involve a loss of face. Indonesia has to recover ‘face” and to do this, Australia will have to lose some.
In addition, there is an internet cable called SEA-ME-WE-3 that runs from Japan, across Southeast Asia, through Singapore, across the Indian ocean, up through the Suez, through the Mediterranean, and round the coast of Europe to end in Germany. As the cable passes through Singapore, the Singaporean government has been tapping into it and giving the US and Australia the goodies. Jakarta has asked Singapore to “please explain.” So this massive intrusion, and its exposure is not just a problem for the US.
The most recent revelations are that the NSA has been monitoring charities. From the Guardian newspaper:
The papers show GCHQ, in collaboration with America’s National Security Agency (NSA), was targeting organisations such as the United Nations development programme, the UN’s children’s charity Unicef andMédecins du Monde, a French organisation that provides doctors and medical volunteers to conflict zones.
So how is the average American taxpayer going to feel about that use of their taxes? The most recent extensive article about Snowden is here. It contains this interesting quote:
“For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission’s already accomplished,” he said. “I already won. As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that I had been trying to do was validated. Because, remember, I didn’t want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself. All I wanted was for the public to be able to have a say in how they are governed,” he said.
How will history judge Snowden? My guess is that as more revelations come out, the public will feel more incensed at the NSA’s actions, foreign allies will be more incensed at being treated like enemies, US lawmakers will be forced to act on what the NSA is doing, and public sentiment will turn more in Snowden’s favor. History may look on Snowden as it now looks on Woodward and Bernstein, the two journalists who broke the Watergate story, and Mark Felt, the Assistant FBI Director who for years was only known as “deep throat.”
It’s only an educated guess, but I think it’s a fair guess. What do you think? Anyone who wishes to re-blog this may.
5 thoughts on “If you think the Snowden revelations are only about the US and Germany, you don’t understand what’s happening.”
Obviously, where international relations are concerned, one cannot use the word “friend” as understood in a social context.
Quite true, Eric. But one has to weigh up the diplomatic consequences of one’s actions. Imagine if the US found Canada or France had been bugging Obama’s phone. What would the US reaction be? China you would expect – yes? I’ve been trying to locate a very good article published last week where the author points out that “everybody is a foreigner – – to somebody else,” but can’t locate it. if I do I’ll send it to you.
China is definitely spying on the US and the world – think of all those cheap electronic gadgets in every American home, office and vehicle.
I would like to read that article, Richard. Yes, please.
China of course. I also found one that said a Korean brand of TV was sending the owners viewing habit back to Korea, presumably to be sold to advertisers but didn’t bookmark it. I should have copied the URL into my miscellaneous notes” document to use here. Actually just found the latter one: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-25018225
Eric Alagan, the other article was this http://justsecurity.org/2013/10/29/foreigners-nsa-spying-rights/