Friday, September 13, 2013

How To Skirt the Law

Trey Smith

The revelations about the NSA keep coming! On Wednesday, Glenn Greenwald and his colleagues revealed that the NSA "shares raw intelligence data with Israel without first sifting it to remove information about US citizens." We had previously learned that the top intelligence agencies of the five Eyes (US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada) routinely do the same thing.

On its face, this news is not all that surprising. One would think that allied spy agencies would share some information. But as Greenwald, Cenk Uygur and others have pointed out, there is a much more nefarious reason for the massive amounts of information that change hands: It provides a mechanism for each nation's spies to get around their own nation's laws!

If nation A has a certain prohibition in place, then all they have to do is to turn over the raw data to one of their partners. The outside nation does the dirty work and then shares their findings with nation A. The leader of Nation A can then say, "We aren't looking into this sort of stuff" and, while this statement technically is true, they are receiving and making use of the data nonetheless. It's a wink, wink sort of strategy.

Another import aspect of this latest revelation serves to underscore the two-tiered justice system in America. The federal government can skirt laws with impunity and nothing happens. Multinational corporations can do it too (e.g., setting up an off-shore tax haven to get around paying US taxes) and get away with it virtually unscathed. But not so for average citizens. If we run afoul of the law, we tend to pay for it in spades!

A few years back, there were organized trips to Canada to procure legal drugs for a variety of health issues. As it turned out, you can buy prescribed medicines in Canada for a fraction of the over-bloated prices charged in the US. But the feds put a stop to this by threatening or actually arresting people. We can't have average citizens skirting our laws! No, that's reserved for the government itself or its corporate benefactors!

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