News Analysis: Will U.S. explain Snowden case to the world? [Xinhua]

BEIJING, July 14 (Xinhua) — Former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden sought political asylum in Russia…at a closed-door meeting at Moscow airport with human rights activists, lawyers and officials.

While the fate of the whistleblower, who exposed the U.S. surveillance program, is a point worthy of attention, a more important question is whether the United States will explain its suspicious monitoring activities to the world.

Analysts say recent developments indicate Washington is adamant in maintaining its position on the issue and showing no sign of an apology or regret. Nevertheless, the Snowden’s revelations have already alerted other countries to keep a closer eye on national cyber security.

U.S. UNLIKELY TO CHANGE COURSE

Observers say, despite criticism and protests from various sides, it is highly unlikely the United States will make substantial adjustment to its intelligence programs.

So far, U.S. President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and many senior intelligence officials have defended the surveillance program, saying it is aimed at overseas targets and not U.S. citizens, that it was approved and supervised by the U.S. legislative, judiciary and executive branches, and that it has made important contributions to counter-terrorism and U.S. allies.

Analysts say the Obama administration faces little domestic pressure on the issue as it labeled the program with the buzzwords of “overseas targets” and “counterterrorism”.

Except for a few lawmakers, who have demanded a full review of the program and whether it has infringed the privacy of its citizens, U.S. Congress has showed unusual unity this time in supporting the surveillance program. This has given Obama plenty of space in which to avoid explaining its actions to the international community.

It has been a long tradition for the United States to treat domestic and foreign surveillance targets differently. The American public pay more attention to their own privacy rights than that of overseas targets.

David Rothkopf, CEO and editor-at-large of the Foreign Policy Group, wrote in an article recently that U.S. congressional and executive branch officials have bought into the post 9/11 paranoia and hyped-up threat mentality and come to accept that even the possibility of an attack on the United States warrants disregard for U.S. laws and international agreements.

There is little chance the United States will make significant changes regarding its secretive surveillance program.

Jean-Marc Manach, a French Internet expert, told Xinhua recently that monitoring international communications has become a huge “business” in America. Nearly five million jobs in the United States are related to covert defense, including 500,000 private contractors. Many private firms have prospered thanks to the surveillance business.

OTHERS HAVE TO WATCH OUT FOR THEMSELVES

After the U.S. hacking of other nations’ telecommunication networks was exposed by Snowden, countries from the European Union, Latin America and Asia expressed their indignation and demanded an explanation.

However, it is unlikely to prompt any changes from the United States, with analysts pointing out that, for target countries, strengthening their own network security is a wiser move.

For example, classified documents about the PRISM program show Germany appeared to be the EU nation most watched by the United States. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has been keeping a low profile, has responded with strong-worded remarks over the issue.

“The monitoring of friends — this is unacceptable. It can’t be tolerated,” Merkel has said through her spokesman Steffen Seibert. “We are no longer in the Cold War.”

Most Germans were angry, surprised and worried about the U.S. spying. Some 63 percent of the Germans thought their country’s relations with the United States might be shaken by the PRISM incident.

It also raised fears in German business circles that U.S. intelligence agencies might disclose the technical and commercial secrets of German firms it has obtained to their rivals.

Though the Germans were infuriated at the U.S. snooping, they also knew better than to expect any changes from the U.S. side, German analysts said, adding Germany still needed information provided by foreign intelligent agencies…

INT’L VOICES CANNOT BE NEGLECTED

Analysts said no matter whether the United States change its approach, or whether other countries could force change, the PRISM incident hurt U.S. relations with other countries. On this issue the United States should make some changes.

Rothkopf said what the PRISM incident had disclosed, especially the mass surveillance carried out by the United States on European countries, had not only harmed the U.S. relations with its European allies, but also damaged the standings of the Obama administration, which had sought to portray itself as different from its predecessor.

The expert said the surveillance programs might have initially had a reasonable purpose: to protect the state security. However, as most planning and implementation was carried out privately, it had reduced the regulatory measures to a ridiculous “rubber stamp.” From this perspective, he said, these kind of scandals had not been disclosed too many times but too few.

Rothkopf said that according to U.S. government data the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) received 1,789 applications relating to the government’s snooping actions in 2012, among which the FISC only rejected one. From here it was obvious the court which provided legal oversight of the U.S. secretive surveillance programs might be the most ineffective regulation mechanism, he said.

As a result, as Manach puts it, Snowden’s disclosure has proved people have the right to expect the United States to investigate the actions of the National Security Agency, and better regulate its intelligence agencies.

Excerpted; full article link here: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/indepth/2013-07/14/c_132540052.htm

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