India signed on dotted line on Snowden

India signed on dotted line on Snowden

In the current eye of the storm in global media and diplomatique is Edward Snowden; the celebrity whistleblower has become a rage. Former employee of...

niloptal basuIn the current eye of the storm in global media and diplomatique is Edward Snowden; the celebrity whistleblower has become a rage. Former employee of a private security contractor in new National Security Agency infrastructure in United States for storing and processing 'Meta data', he has spilled the beans. Snowden's revelations have woken up the world to gigantic overarching capabilities of the "Prism" programme to access and mine billions of pieces of information about communication records of individuals; telephone conversations, internet activity, etc. Snowden's revelations truly allow citizens of the world to have a peep into the chilling world of 'big brother'.

While we are awestruck by his act of extreme courage and sensitivity to human freedom, there are more important questions of principles which are shaping contemporary world and politics. What makes Snowden's documents particularly appalling is very transformation of United States; which once claimed and was perceived as bastion of 'liberty' with the statue serving as defining icon of the country to a National Security State which does not care for individual freedom and human right, particularly the right to privacy.

Snowden has now revealed the extent to which founding principles of US have been sacrificed to paranoia over possible acts of terror. Collection of 'meta data' becomes all the more chilling with abandoning of checks and balances which are associated with a functioning democracy. The Prism programme under which all these 'meta data' are collected from telephone and Internet companies allows the NSA to store and mine this data from the entire world and examining these without any oversight from either the judiciary or the legislature.

The espionage infrastructure in the US changed beyond recognition with National Security Letters (NSL) and Foreign Intelligence Service Act (FISA) orders. Though NSL existed earlier, its very nature has changed beyond comprehension after enactment of Patriot Act in the aftermath of 9/11. Virtually any security agency like the FBI, Homeland Security, CIA, NSA, etc. can issue such letters or orders without any meaningful judicial oversight. Entities which are served with such letters cannot disclose them in public domain.

Special FISA courts which exist are not open to public scrutiny. In fact, data reveal that out of 1800 requests made by the security establishment all were granted, which makes these 'kangaroo' courts virtual rubber stamps of intelligence and security entities. It is this unilateralism which has provoked a widespread condemnation against the Security State both inside US and across the world. However, the discourse within the US has been regrettably confined to whether the intelligence agencies are snooping on US citizens. What this programme means for the rest of the world, including some of the closest allies like the EU, is of least concern. Predictably, there has been strong reaction.

Within US itself, the Obama administration has been at the receiving end. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has been actually found to be lying to a Senate Committee, a cognizable offence under US laws. But what has happened in the aftermath of Snowden's revelations is shocking and bares the crudity of the US security State. Fangs have come out loud and clear! And, paranoia as well! History is replete with instances where defence of their 'tunnel' vision forces rulers to adopt such blinkered views which eventually end up in directly confronting civilisational and universal values of democracy and freedom.

the gurdianBut if the revelations by themselves were not damning enough, subsequent behaviour of the US administration and their plain bullying was obnoxious. After having attempted to downplay ramifications of what Snowden exposed showing abject disregard for privacy and freedom for people of the world; President Obama himself put up a brave face, claiming "there will be no wheeling-dealing". No pressure to hand over Snowden widely painted as a 'fugitive' from law will be mounted.

But unprecedented US coercion of nations is evident. Bullying of European nations � France, Portugal, Spain and Italy � to refuse free airspace to the aircraft carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales and forcing him to land at Vienna airport in the belief that his plane was carrying Edward Snowden from Moscow was nothing short of piracy. Expressing unambiguous solidarity with Morales, in Cochabamba Summit, Venezuela, Argentina, Ecuador, Uruguay and Suriname have squarely condemned the US and the CIA for having staged this piracy. Morales went to the extent of saying that closing down US embassy in Bolivia was possible.

This development has left many red faces. The French have apologized while Spanish foreign minister has disclosed that they were given information by those failing to admit outright that it was the CIA. Ironically, U.S. hosts former president of Bolivia, Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada who is wanted in Bolivia, not for information leaks, but to face charges for killing 60 persons who were protesting selling Bolivia's resources to U.S. corporations. Lozada escaped Bolivia in 2003; to this day the US refuses to accept Bolivia's extradition request for him!

The US goes on lecturing to the world on human rights; but is, in effect, denying Snowden what has been enshrined in Article XIV of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: "Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution". US credibility has nosedived where the respectable German newspaper Der Spiegel has described this security State `soft totalitarianism'.

And now in contrast Venezuela and Nicaragua have offered asylum. President Maduro stated:"As head of state of the Bolivarian republic of Venezuela, I have decided to offer humanitarian asylum to young Snowden � to protect this young man from persecution by the empire". In this intense atmosphere of coercion and bullying, protests are punctuated with duplicity. Otherwise, how can we explain the behaviour of these European nations? But in this grim international political landscape, if somebody has stood out in exhibiting servility to US, it is none other than our Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid.

While our citizens and netizens were crying hoarse over US snooping and complaining against American companies like Google and Facebook which, after promising confidentiality of communication, were all along parting with information to the US government, Khurshid gave a clean chit speaking a language which echoed the statement of US Secretary of State John Kerry.

While forging strategic partnership with the US, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had claimed that this was 'enlightened nationalism'. Today, its real face is visible; are citizens of this country prepared to accept this chicanery? Manifest destiny of the 'empire' to govern people of the world seems to have exhausted; Snowden and Latin governments symptomise this spirit. Nehru's India must rethink.

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