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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 Nephiorim on 6/13/2013 3:22:56 PM , Rating: 2
Since when is being social a bad thing? Sure beats anti-social egoism any day.

Also your statement regarding Europe consisting of primarily mono cultures is dead wrong. I need only point to a city such as Amsterdam where, on a population of 800k, there are 176 different nationalities present. Amsterdam is a culturally diverse city and has been since before the USA even existed as a country. Is Europe as diverse as the USA? Maybe not. But to say the countries the EU consists of are monocultural is oversimplifying it.

RE: Clown show
By Ammohunt on 6/13/2013 3:53:39 PM , Rating: 2
“The government shares the social dissatisfaction over the multicultural society model and plans to shift priority to the values of the Dutch people. In the new integration system, the values of the Dutch society play a central role. With this change, the government steps away from the model of a multicultural society.”

Minister Piet Hein Donner
June 16 2012

The result of a direct threat to the Dutch mono-culture...just one example.

RE: Clown show
By Nephiorim on 6/13/2013 4:25:23 PM , Rating: 2
2011. He resigned not much later. The cabinet also fell and new elections were had. The current coalition no longer includes his party. I'd say that says enough about how the Dutch people feel about his views :)

RE: Clown show
By Ammohunt on 6/13/2013 4:01:27 PM , Rating: 2
Since when is being social a bad thing? Sure beats anti-social egoism any day.

When the rights of the social collective override the rights of the individual.

Note* See The Borg first appearance in Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Q Who?"

RE: Clown show
By Nephiorim on 6/13/2013 4:27:19 PM , Rating: 2
Being social works both ways. In a truly social society other people will also make sure you are treated fairly and that your rights are being respected. Again, this requires trust.

RE: Clown show
By Ammohunt on 6/13/2013 4:31:17 PM , Rating: 2
Sorry, history has proven time and time again the naivete of such a statement.

Trust us! we are from the government!

RE: Clown show
By Nephiorim on 6/13/2013 4:36:28 PM , Rating: 2
I never said it should be blind trust. If you don't trust government then at least trust the checks and balances to ensure government functions. If you don't trust those, build better checks and balances.

RE: Clown show
By Moishe on 6/14/2013 3:56:40 PM , Rating: 2
Socialism theoretically tries to guarantee that every person gets the same thing... but that's a pipe-dream and even the most foolish know is unattainable.

The result of socialism is that the government oppresses the people. They take from those who produce resources and gives them to the those who do not. Instead of lifting up those below, they bring down those above and everyone is forced to be "equal" on a lower level.

Producers lose the incentive to produce, so they are less productive. Slackers get more stuff for free, so there is less incentive to be productive. Everyone loses... except for those in power, which is a small group of elites.

RE: Clown show
By Nephiorim on 6/14/2013 4:01:45 PM , Rating: 2
You are confusing socialism and communism. No worries, it happens a lot.

RE: Clown show
By flyingpants1 on 6/16/2013 4:37:29 AM , Rating: 2
You are both confusing socialism and communism with their depictions in western media, possibly The Simpsons.

RE: Clown show
By Reclaimer77 on 6/16/2013 6:03:53 PM , Rating: 2
Being social works both ways. In a truly social society other people will also make sure you are treated fairly and that your rights are being respected. Again, this requires trust.

Well it's official: you're an idiot.

RE: Clown show
By Nephiorim on 6/17/2013 3:20:43 AM , Rating: 2
Name calling and not even an argument of why I'd be an idiot. By doing this you're invalidating everything you say here, every opinion you have. Love it when you do my job for me :). Very social of you ;)

"This is from the It's a science website." -- Rush Limbaugh

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