Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Matter of Trust

Trey Smith

Germany and France are to spearhead a drive to try to force the Americans to agree new transatlantic rules on intelligence and security service behavior in the wake of the Snowden revelations and allegations of mass US spying in France and tapping of the German chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone.

At an EU summit in Brussels that was hijacked by the furore over the activities of the National Security Agency in the US and Britain's GCHQ, the French president, François Hollande, also called for a new code of conduct agreed between national intelligence services in the EU, raising the question of whether Britain would opt to join in.

Shaken by this week's revelations of NSA operations in France and Germany, EU leaders and Merkel in particular warned that the international fight against terrorism was being jeopardized by the perception that mass US surveillance was out of control.

The leaders "stressed that intelligence-gathering is a vital element in the fight against terrorism", a summit statement said. "A lack of trust could prejudice the necessary co-operation in the field of intelligence-gathering."

Merkel drove the point home: "We need trust among allies and partners. Such trust now has to be built anew … The United States of America and Europe face common challenges. We are allies. But such an alliance can only be built on trust."
~ from Germany and France Warn NSA Spying Fallout Jeopardizes Fight Against Terror by Ian Traynor ~
Folks in the EU have reason to be upset. Their supposed allies -- the USA and UK -- have been caught spying on them. EU leaders weren't all that concerned when the spying concerned average citizens -- they became outraged when they learned that they too were being targeted. Understandably, they are demanding change.

But how can one trust agencies with the capabilities of the NSA and GCHQ? Diplomats can say all the right things and our own president can promise not to spy on "our friends" anymore. New rules and regulations can be negotiated. Heck, they can even be ratified. All the things one would expect can be done to "mend the fences", but, at the end of the day, will it mean actual change?

Once the genie is out of the bottle, it becomes very difficult to put it back. If you have the capacity to spy on anyone of your choosing, who is to say you won't continue the practice? Let the politicos hammer out new rules of engagement, while you work behind the scenes to make your spying operations ever more difficult to detect.

The point here is that the NSA and GCHQ repeatedly have shown that they are not to be trusted to follow even their own rules and their nation's laws. By their very nature, they are entities that should be distrusted at all turns. When they say, we won't spy on you anymore, why should anyone believe them? Therein lies the vexing problem (of their own making).

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