Prism: Everybody Was in on the Act

Looks like everybody was in on the act with complying with the National Security Agency’s spying around the world according to secret files. The Guardian newspaper of the UK has just obtained secret files from Edward Snowden detailing the full extent of the affair. The affair was revealed just about a month ago now, but it now seems that Prism had everybody doing their dirty work.

Prism: NSA

Prism: NSA

Microsoft aided and abetted the National Security Agency to get around the problem of intercepting web chats via the portal, adding that they stated that they had no option to opt out of the affair. Pre-encryption access was already enabled via the same portal and in particular via Hotmail. The FBI was working closely with the NSA and Microsoft to gain access to 250 million users worldwide in the new storage service called SkyDrive. After Microsoft acquired Skype in July 2012, the number of calls being collected and monitored by Prism was multiplied by three! Apparently all information that was collected by the NSA via this means was then shared both with the FBI and the CIA. Skype has about 663 million users in the world alone. Up until last July, monitoring of audio calls was possible by Prism on Skype. After that date, it was also possible to access video via Skype and not just eavesdrop but see what was going on in the conversations. Skype had always prided itself on the fact that it was impossible to tap into the system and listen in on conversations. Obviously, people should never have believed that. Remember impossible is nothing, apparently.

Obama is coming in for increasing slack and criticism regarding the Prism program since companies that have been involved in the shady monitoring of private individuals around the world are being questioned by users as to the protection of their privacy today. Those companies wish to be able to reveal the full extent of their dealings with the NSA and the Prism program so that they can allay fears of their users. Microsoft stated that they only passed on information and data "in response to government demands and we only ever comply with orders for requests about specific accounts or identifiers". Seems like somebody is trying to either pass the buck, or downplay their full role in the whole affair. We only have to look back at the latest Microsoft slogan which is “Your privacy is our priority”. Yeah, right! Did they get wind of something coming or knowledge that all was to be revealed?

The companies that have been revealed as playing a major role in the Prism program are those that are used daily by billions around the world: Google, Microsoft, Apple, Skype and Facebook amongst others.

This information is revealed at a crucial time when Edward Snowden has issued a statement saying that he will remain in Russia, seeking help from human rights organizations to gain a safe passage to Latin America. He has been grounded at Sheremetyevo airport since June 23rd and has made numerous requests to countries around the world for political asylum. All have been refused for the present time except one: Venezuela. Nobody will allow Snowden safe passage out of Moscow airport since he no longer has any travel documents as the US administration cancelled his passport almost immediately in the wake of the whistleblowing scandal. Why can’t they just do like anybody else and rustle up a passport like they do for exiled wealthy people that are evading taxation in their country of origin?

Just last week, countries such as France and Spain as well as Portugal refused to allow Evo Morales, President of Bolivia, to fly over their territories forcing the Presidential plane to land in Vienna, where he was stranded for 13 hours, under the belief that he had Snowden on board. That in itself was pretty rich from a country like France that prides itself at having (in their opinion) invented human rights during the French Revolution and when we consider that President François Hollande went into great theatrics over the discovery that France had been spied on, vociferating that he wanted to call off the US-EU trade deal talks (at least for a cooling-off period of two weeks).  Snowden stated that: "Never before in history have states conspired to force to the ground a sovereign president's plane to effect a search for a political refugee. This dangerous escalation represents a threat not just to the dignity of Latin America or my own personal security, but to the basic right shared by every living person to live free from persecution”. Here, here! Where did the freedom of speech go and where did the right to live in a society that protects its citizens? Can we call Snowden’s revelations an act of treason?

Snowden has accused the US of carrying out an “unlawful campaign” and denying him his right to asylum. He went on to add that “the scale of threatening behavior is without precedent”, which certainly would leave one to surmise that what he has revealed already is not a patch on the information that he actually has. But, despite accusations that Snowden has revealed secret information to the world, and in particular to the enemies of the US, the man is not a traitor. Surely, he has done everything that anyone should do. The right to a private life and to privacy in society is a fundamental principle on which the nations that are shouting the loudest have built their democracies, isn’t it? Where did the Bill of Rights go? What happened to the habeas corpus? Why did the Universal Declaration of Human Rights get written at all?

Prism: the right to privacy?

Prism: the right to privacy?

Just a few things to muse over:

  • Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human

RightsNo one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile”. Snowden has been subjected to that.

  • Article 12

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks”. Millions have had this article overlooked by the NSA.

  • Article 13

Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State”.

Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country”. Snowden has had that right revoked.

  • Article 14

Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution”. Except Edward Snowden, perhaps?

  • Article 15

Everyone has the right to a nationality”.

No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality”. Edward Snowden has been deprived of that nationality that went with his passport being cancelled.

Where are the defenders of the Declarations that we were proud of signing now?

Whatever happens, it looks like Edward Snowden is a man on the run, or at least he would very much like to be able to start a gentle jog somewhere.

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