US President Barack Obama sent the NSA chief, General Keith Alexander, to Capitol Hill Tuesday in order to persuade politicians that spying by way of PRISM was acceptable and should not be abandoned. A motion tabled by Justin Amash had the US administration running scared.
It seems Obama's pressure won out but only just. Aljazeera reports "The House of Representatives voted 217-205 on Wednesday to defeat an amendment to a defence bill that would have limited the NSA's power to collect electronic data to individuals under investigation. It also would have ended "authority for the blanket collection of records under the Patriot Act".
The vote followed a motion by Justin Amash. Amash tweeted after the vote: "We came close (205-217). If just 7 Reps had switched their votes, we would have succeeded. Thank YOU for making a difference. We fight on." Early in the day, he tweeted: "When's the last time a president put out an emergency statement against an amendment? The Washington elites fear liberty. They fear you."
The NSA, National Security Agency, have been carrying out warrantless spying on citizens at home and abroad for years. European partners have been in the quagmire up to their grubby little necks. PRISM, the spy mechanism, is being sold to people on its ability to prevent terrorist activity. That of course is a flawed argument.
Would be terrorists will simply shift their activities elsewhere, away from prying eyes of intelligence officers. Terrorist events such as the Woolwich soldier murder in the UK and the Boston bombings in the USA were not prevented. Neither was the massacre at the Sandy Hook school in December 2012.
We already know that the British government used its US related spy technology to spy on its supposed allies at a G20 summit in 2009. We now know that Germany has been involved deeply too. All in all a set of crooks running our countries. Crooks we must call them when they break the law, spying on citizens without a warrant. Little wonder the British government wanted to bring in the Data Communication Bill which would legalize their snooping activity.
Politicians seem to have forgotten lately that they are only public servants. The military too is there to serve, not to hold military coups, like the one playing out in Egypt. They should not be spying on those they serve - period. Young people should be trying to protect their freedoms as it is they who will face the full force of censorship and restrictions in life if spying becomes the norm. Give it 10, 20 or 30 years and the west could be a very draconian place to live. Hell it could happen much sooner.
Friday the trial of wikileaks whistle blower Bradley Manning continues in the USA, the falsely called Land of the Free and home of the Brave. Manning is being portrayed as "evil" by the prosecution. His defence claim he was naive and troubled but the prosecution claim he knew exactly what he was doing and happily supplied the enemy with secret information. He is another "dead man walking", like Julian Assange and Edward Snowden if the USA ever get hold of those whistle-blowers.
Manning's defense closed their arguments Friday and the prosecution will now start their character assassination and verbal onslaught. Most people believe this trial is a kangaroo court as Manning is doomed. We shall have to wait and see if that assumption was correct.
One piece of good news is some supporters of Bradley were in court. They cheered him as court recessed, with one man calling out "You're a hero, Bradley, as far as I'm concerned." Several others murmured support for Manning in what became a loud buzz. An angry judge bellowed "Gallery, that's enough!".
Bradley already faces up to 20 years in jail for reduced sentences he admitted earlier this year.
The prosecution wants to portray Manning as a man who revelled in any glory leaking secrets attracted, not caring that they were seen by a group of "anarchists". Once again the claim that leaked information was seen by Osama Bin Laden was voiced but there is no independent proof of that.
The Home of the Free and Land of the Brave may have to re-name itself but at least there are some brave American individuals such as Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning still out there.
After a weekend of revelations that the US spy on the online activity and communications of European officials diplomatic relations are in free-fall. Monday the BBC reports that:
France, Greece and Italy have been the "targets" of US spying operations, according to the latest files leaked to Britain's Guardian newspaper. Citing a document by the National Security Agency, it says America's non-European allies were also targeted.
US Vice President Joe Biden talked with Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, late last week, both countries confirmed. Washington was sketchy on details, but Correa claimed that Biden asked that Ecuador refuse asylum for former NSA analyst Edward Snowden, reported the BBC.
Washington is running scared of Snowden and utilizing any means possible to back him into a corner; as more revelations make waves in Europe and beyond it is easy to see why. The BBC noted:
A German magazine says a document leaked by Mr Snowden shows the US bugged EU offices. Spiegel magazine says a September 2010 "top-secret" document of the US National Security Agency outlines how the agency bugged offices and spied on EU internal computer networks in Washington and at the UN. The document explicitly referred to the EU as a "target," the magazine reports.
Spiegel also carried a report that begins: Overzealous data collectors in the US and Great Britain have no right to investigate German citizens. The German government must protect people from unauthorized access by foreign intelligence agencies, and it must act now. This is a matter of national security.
Sunday the fall-out from the bugging allegations looked to set impact negatively on EU / US relations. The head of the European parliament has demanded "full clarification" reports the BBC. If Spiegel's claims are correct key EU premises in America were bugged.
Monday claims that the NSA and the US government would respond to spying allegations through diplomatic channels may be too little too late. Western leaders, such as Germany's Angela Merkel are angry that their officials and people have been treat as potential "enemies", or at least that is the face they are showing the world.
Do you blame Snowden for this mess or the Western governments that have abused their powers to spy on free citizens in the West?
It is clear that many people in Europe do not see Snowden as a problem. They see him as part of a possible solution. His leaked documents include information the public have a right to see; it is not only suitable for the eyes of a select few.
Data sharing may be common practice, but it is now abundantly clear those spying have crossed the proverbial red line. Mr. President, the "little people " are not happy. Having a supposed liberal US president spying on citizens is shameful. Even the reasons for Obama's oft voiced hope that the European Union will not crumble are now suspect.
Der Spiegel's claim that the NSA agency spied on "EU internal computer networks in Washington and at the 27-member bloc's UN office in New York" is shocking. French leader Francois Hollande and German leader Angela Merkel are angry, recalling that the US has been using old "cold war" methods to spy on its allies. The UK has remained silent, no doubt due to their snooping activity and involvement in various spy systems.
It is not clear who is telling the truth.
If you have any sympathy for whistle-blower Edward Snowden, you have to feel for the guy. Whatever his whistle-blowing motives were, he faces a tough life for the foreseeable future, perhaps for as long as he lives.
Holed up, as far as we know, in an airport terminal in Moscow, he is a man with no country. This week the security guards who patrol the airport accommodation made it clear to the media they were sick of "the American." As journalists roam the motel and airport buildings, hoping for a glimpse of Snowden, security is tight.
Will Ecuador bow to pressure from its North American neighbor?
Julian Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since June 2012 and looks set to remain there for the foreseeable future. It could be as long as ten years before he leaves the embassy. This is because, should he step foot outside of the embassy now, he will be arrested and extradited to Sweden. Julian believes that from there he will soon be on a plane to the USA where he is wanted in connection with his Wikileaks Cables.
There is nothing new in the case of Julian Assange except as far his backers go. Many people support Mr Assange but only a handful put up sureties which prevented him being held continually in prison in the UK. When Mr Assange entered the Ecuadorian Embassy he let those people down. He left them high and dry.
Since then there has been an ongoing dispute as to whether or not the people who assured bail should have to pay up. Now it has been decided that they do have to.
Nine people who together put up £140,00 cash look set to lose their money. The nine include prominent people such as a Nobel prize winner and two members of the British aristocracy. The bail was posted in December 2010 but was forfeited when Assange entered the Ecuadorian Embassy.
Of course he is not on the run as such. Neither are his whereabouts unknown. It is the British Establishment, no doubt with string pulls from the USA, that is preventing him leaving the embassy. How these facts would stack up in a court of law is a puzzle to say the least.
Vaughan Smith, a friend of Mr Assange who offered him sanctuary at his country mansion for more than a year represented the nine at Westminster Magistrates Court. Today the judge gave his verdict. It was that they had to pay up. He said: "I accept that they trusted Mr Assange to surrender himself as required. I accept that they followed the proceedings and made necessary arrangements to remain in contact with him. "However, they failed in their basic duty, to ensure his surrender. They must have understood the risk and the concerns of the courts. "Both this court and the High Court assessed that there were substantial grounds to believe the defendant would abscond, and that the risk could only be met by stringent conditions including the sureties."
Technically he is probably speaking the truth but it seems unfair.
The nine backers now have until November 6 to hand over a total of £93,500.
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, wanted in Sweden for alleged sex crimes, has been holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. He belives that he will soon be extradited to the USA should he give in and allow himself to be moved to Sweden. With that in mind he has no plans to go anywhere. His voluntary incarceration in the Embassy has already lasted 100 days. It now seems that it could last ten years unless the stalemate is broken.
Ecuador have granted Assange asylum in that country but are unable to transport him there. If Julian steps foot outside of the embassy he faces immediate arrest.
This means that the UK is spending a great deal of money and police officer time in order to ensure that he does not manage to flee the UK. When you consider the amount of wrong doers who often escape the law the situation is farcical. For the UK government it has either become a principle or they are working on behalf of the US administration. There are no other conclusions we can draw.
Yesterday Assange spoke by video link to the UN. He again reiterated his belief that it is the US who are his biggest threat. He is in a no win situation. Either way he faces a long period of voluntary incarceration, a life almost on the run in Ecuador or extradition to the USA and or Sweden and jails terms. With no assurances that he will not be extradited to the USA in the future being made Assange will not surrender.
UK Foreign Secretary, William Hague is to meet with the Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino.at the UN in New York. They will discuss Mr Assange and how both sides can forward in this matter. That will not be easy. The UK is sticking by its statement that Assange will be arrested should he leave the embassy and Ecuador maintains it has made a firm commitment to Julian.
Julian Assange has been fighting extradition from the UK for some time. Those on the "right" of politics tend to believe he should just give up the fight and go to Sweden where he is wanted for alleged sex crimes. Those deemed by some in the UK to be "left wing liberals" have supported Assange's attempts to avoid extradition.
The case of Julian Assange is complicated. His fear appears to be that from Sweden he could be easily extradited to the US where he is wanted in connection with his online Wiki leaks cables. Viewed by those in the US administration as an enemy of the State his fate in the US is hard to guess. However in a worse case scenario he could face the death penalty. He could also face an extended spell in Gitmo, the notorious Guantanamo prison, whilst he awaits his trial and his fate.
As June 2012 drew to an end Mr Assange entered the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and there he has stayed. Those who had posted bail lost a great deal of money. People so minded however still tend to support Mr Assange. Matters came to a head yesterday when UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said that he could send in officers to remove Mr Assange from the Embassy. Whilst he quoted a forgotten law to explain the reasoning behind this, feathers were soon flying.
Today, August 16, 2012 the Government in Ecuador responded with a statement. It quite rightly viewed such a posible entry into an embassy as a violation. Consider what Hague would say should such an intrusion occur in a British Embassy abroad and it is easy to agree with them.
Protesters were outside of the embassy this morning as Mr Assange's immediate fate was decided. In the end the Ecuadorian government have granted him asylum. Diplomatic relations between Ecuador and the UK have plumetted. The two countries are now fixed in a stand off. If Mr Assange leaves the building he will be immediately apprehended by British authorities. This of course means that an expensive and extended police presence around the embassy will be neceassry.
Whilst the UK maintains that their mission is simply to ensure that Assange faces justice for his alleged crimes in Sweden most people doubt that is true. The monumental effort that Great Britian is undertaking to make sure that Assange leaves the UK indicates a more sinister reason, that is extradition to the US.
A flurry of diplomatic activity will now see the Ecuadorian ambassdor in Sweden summoned to meet with authorities there. The matter is far from settled. Is the US administration pulling extradition strings to ultimately move Assange to the States? Yes it would seem that way.
Eileen Kersey manages TEK Staff Blog