The US is facing intense heat over its vast, global electronic surveillance programmes. The latest revelation from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden that has caused a global shock wave is that the US and British intelligence agencies have successfully cracked much of the online encryption relied upon by hundreds of millions of people to protect the privacy of their personal data, online transactions and emails. According to newly disclosed documents, the agencies have successfully cracked much of the encryption that guards global commerce, banking systems, trade secrets and medical records and much more. These disclosures caused a global fury as companies and individuals are still trying to fathom the extent of the damage. Some are calling the latest revelation frightening. “These revelations demonstrate a fundamental attack on the way the Internet works,” the Centre on Democracy and Technology. “The NSA seems to be operating on the fantastically naïve assumption that any vulnerabilities it builds into core Internet technologies can only be exploited by itself and its global partners,” it added.
Washington will be forced to do a lot of explaining, and much of that explanation will be unconvincing as nothing can explain such wanton disregard for privacy and hacking into global data. And the official statements are often disproven by subsequent revelations and the credibility of the NSA has suffered serious damage.
Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who teamed up with Snowden to expose the NSA spying, says in an article in The Guardian that he is working on several new NSA stories which will be published soon, as well as another consequential story about NSA spying in Brazil. President Obama is already struggling to contain the damage caused by the previous revelations, with some leaders in his region implacable. Anger is high in Brazil and Mexico about the very personal and specific surveillance targeting Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff and then-leading-candidate (now Mexican president) Enrique Peña Nieto.
The Obama administration has been repeatedly assuring people that massive NSA surveillance is overwhelmingly devoted to stopping terrorism threats. That defence has been rejected in America, where polls have shown that Americans are concerned about state intrusions into their privacy and now consider it a bigger threat than terrorism.
The global fury against NSA spying and the diplomatic kerfuffle it has caused should make the US rethink its spying programme. Obama has promised reforms, but promise alone will not do. It’s difficult to regain the trust Washington has lost, and the moral high ground it occupies on several issues now stands wounded. One positive fallout of the revelations has been that US technology companies have faced scrutiny over their cozy relationship with the US government. They are already trying to distance themselves from the government, though unsuccessfully•