Well, This is Awkward Isn’t it?
Ecuador Offers US Human Rights Aid as the NSA is Compared to the East German Secret Police
Perhaps as a testament to America’s current reputation abroad, the authorities in Ecuador made an audacious move in the case of NSA-leaker Edward Snowden and basically snubbed President Obama by renouncing it’s trade deal with the United States. Basically, this serves as a clever way to preempt any attempt by the US Government to threaten the South American nation by economic blackmail.
An even more bold move came from government spokesman Fernando Alvarado who, according to Reuters said:
“Ecuador will not accept pressures or threats from anyone, and it does not traffic in its values or allow them to be subjugated to mercantile interests,” government spokesman Fernando Alvarado said at a news conference.
In a cheeky jab at the U.S. spying program that Snowden unveiled through leaks to the media, the South American nation offered $23 million per year to finance human rights training.
The funding would be destined to help “avoid violations of privacy, torture and other actions that are denigrating to humanity,” Alvarado said. He said the amount was the equivalent of what Ecuador gained each year from the trade benefits.
For an Administration that mouths off about their dedication to human rights, to be lectured by the Ecuadorian authorities in such a gloriously sarcastic way must be pretty infuriating. To be sure, Ecuador has some problems of its own, but its interesting nonetheless to see a a nation much smaller than the US resist the sort of intimidation trotted out by a US Senator on Wednesday in relation to the two countries’ trade agreements.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, an article recently came out in McClatchy in which a former lieutenant colonel in the East German secret police (the Stasi) said about NSA phone and internet data gathering methods exposed by Edward Snowden, “You know, for us, this would have been a dream come true…So much information, on so many people.”
The article goes on to detail the German reaction to the scandal and provides an even more damning quote from Mr. Schmidt:
Against that backdrop, Germans have greeted with disappointment, verging on anger, the news that somewhere in a U.S. government databank are the records of where millions of people were when they made phone calls or what video content they streamed on their computers in the privacy of their homes.
Even Schmidt, 73, who headed one of the more infamous departments in the infamous Stasi, called himself appalled. The dark side to gathering such a broad, seemingly untargeted, amount of information is obvious, he said.
“It is the height of naivete to think that once collected this information won’t be used,” he said. “This is the nature of secret government organizations. The only way to protect the people’s privacy is not to allow the government to collect their information in the first place.”
So not only have our government’s tactics become comparable to those of the East German secret police, they’ve even managed to infuriate one of our closest and most reliable European allies, not to mention one of the only countries in Europe that still holds significant economic and diplomatic clout on the world stage. In other words, we’ve seen the dual effect of the United States turning against its own principles: anger from our allies, and nose-turning defiance from those whom we disagree with. With this knowledge, and the point that Stefan Wolle, the curator for Berlin’s East German Museum makes that “when a wide net is cast, almost all of what is caught is worthless. This was the case with the Stasi. This will certainly be the case with the NSA”- the notion that these programs by the NSA will benefit us crumbles like a burning building.
However, another item that’s been equally interesting is to see President Obama’s rhetoric surrounding the case, “I am not going to be scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker”. It’s almost as if he’s not that concerned with retrieving him anyway, so long as he stays out of the United States for good. When he says “My continued expectation is that Russia or other countries that have talked about potentially providing Mr Snowden asylum recognize that they are a part of an international community and they should be abiding by international law”, he must realize what he’s saying is little more than hot air, as leaders like Vladimir Putin couldn’t give a damn what an American President wants him to do.
So, does he actually care about what Edward Snowden does? If the documents are already in the hands of The Guardian and The Washington Post, what does it matter at this point?
Who knows? Perhaps the President has privately resolved to pardon Snowden once his final term is over. After all, he would have no more legislative battles or matters of state to worry about. And if he wanted to secure a slightly better legacy with civil libertarians than the absolutely awful one he currently has, I couldn’t think of a better way to do it.
Am I being a little too optimistic about this?
Unfortunately, yes…I probably am.