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Letter to Attorney General demands information on secret spying program

It was revealed last week that the Obama administration had carried out two massive spying programs, one of which primarily target foreigners (PRISM) seizing emails, chat records, and more; and a second (unnamed) which targeted the majority of U.S. citizens seizing so-called "telephony metadata" that allowed the Obama administration to track most U.S. citizens on a daily basis.

I. EU Upset About U.S. Monitoring, Demands Information


Some U.S. politicians have cheered the whistleblower, who recently outed himself in Hong Kong.  Others have pushed to cover up the mess in the name of "national security", including some of Mr. Obama's allies who hold prominent posts in the Republican Party.

The latest development comes from the European Union.  Viviane Reding, the European commissioner for justice and fundamental rights, wrote a letter to Attorney General (AG) Eric Holder demanding information about the program.

Viviane Reding
Viviane Reding, the EU commissioner for justice and rights [Image Source: Reuters]

In her letter, obtained by Reuters, she writes:

I would request that you provide me with explanations and clarifications on the Prism program, other U.S. programs involving data collection and search, and laws under which such programs may be authorized.

It appears that U.S. citizens aren't the only ones who were left in the dark by the Obama administration.  Even top officials in the U.S.'s EU ally states have expressed confusion, saying they were not informed of the PRISM spying.

Commissioner Reding finds that extremely frustrating given that she worked so hard in 2012 to draft stricter new rules to safeguard law-abiding EU citizens from spying by foreign governments or corporations.  AG Holder and Commissioner Reding are scheduled to meet tomorrow (Friday) at a ministerial gathering in Dublin, Ireland.

Eric Holder
AG Eric Holder will be forced to talk to the EU this Friday. [Image Source: AP]

Data privacy has been an issue that has plagued the EU.  The EU has worked hard to create more transparent law enforcement and surveillance, giving citizens unjustly targeted avenues to appeal.  But those efforts are at risk as the U.S. is suspected of spying on EU citizens.

In her letter to AG Holder. Minister Reding asks the Obama administration official to detail how many EU citizens were targeted, what kinds of information were collected, and how citizens could appeal the targeting.

II. Europe Grows Frustrated With Its Orwellian Ally

The idea of being able to "appeal" government spying is a relatively foreign idea in the U.S. police state, where many citizens have grown complacent to the notion that the government accesses their data.  

Today under the Oct. 2001 USA PATRIOT Act, citizens are prohibited from even being told they're being spied on.  And under the act there's virtually no route to appeal; most court challenges have fallen flat.

That's bad news for the average law-abiding American who has now discovered the government is storing information on their location and phone-call contacts on a daily basis (the aforementioned "metadata").

By contrast, EU citizens have been much more vocal about preserving freedom in the form of privacy protections for law-abiding citizens.  As a result, the EU's government -- while not perfect on privacy issues -- has behaved far differently than the U.S. government, fighting to protect its citizens from unjust foreign or domestic spying (Coincidentally, the program was first published in the EU, in Britain’s Guardian newspaper).

EU flags
The EU is intent on protecting its citizens from unjust U.S. spying. [Image Source: AFP]

The EU is under pressure from businesses to fight the spying, which represents uncertainty to data firms in Europe.  Comments a minister to Reuters, "The storage of the data in the foreign servers and related legal uncertainty constitutes a real impediment."

President Obama
The Obama administration has shot down EU data protection efforts. [Image Source: AP]

But so far the U.S. has rejected EU requests to clarify and narrow its spying on EU citizens.  There were major talks in 2011 to adopt a transatlantic data protection agreement that would restrict the U.S.'s right to seize European data under the PATRIOT Act.  But ultimately Europe wanted its citizens to have similar protections on U.S. soil, a term U.S. authorities were unwilling to accept.  The talks have since made virtually no progress.

Sources: EU Rights Commissioner, Reuters



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RE: Clown show
By Oceanryder on 6/13/2013 1:14:49 PM , Rating: 2
I think government distrust is part of the American Zeitgeist; everyone has a little. What's amusing to me is that most of the people I see feigning shock and surprise are the same readily providing personal information/behavior on social media sites and other internet outlets (i.e. search engines, commercial sites). Frankly, I think the anger is a bit misdirected.


RE: Clown show
By Nephiorim on 6/13/2013 1:22:02 PM , Rating: 2
Oceanryder: Agreed.

However, privacy is a modern invention. Once upon a time before big cities etc when people actually still lived in communities there wasn't any privacy either. So I don't really get what the fuss is all about anyway :)


RE: Clown show
By BRB29 on 6/13/2013 1:38:39 PM , Rating: 1
People used to have sex outside in front of others too until Christianity arrived.


RE: Clown show
By Nephiorim on 6/13/2013 1:45:01 PM , Rating: 2
BRB29: Civilization is contingent on privacy? I don't know. I think we were all more civilized with one another when we still had proper social control and were a bit less individualistic.

Is reductio ad absurdum really the best you can do by the way?


RE: Clown show
By BRB29 on 6/13/2013 3:07:03 PM , Rating: 1
No i was simply agreeing with Nephi.


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