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Vol. 77/No. 42      November 25, 2013

NSA ‘revelations’: US gov’t spies to
further interests of ruling class
(front page)
A new round of leaks from Edward Snowden, the former contractor who had access to top-secret U.S. government files, documents the massive extent of National Security Agency spying on government officials and others around the world, including in Germany, France and Mexico. The leaks set off a round of official complaints, accompanied by more discreet pressure for new trade and diplomatic privileges from Washington. The revelations reaffirmed increasing skepticism among workers towards the U.S. government and its enormous spy network.

“All states subscribe to the principle enunciated by Lord Palmerston, the 19th century British foreign minister and prime minister,” conservative writer Max Boot said in the Oct. 25 issue of Commentary. “We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies,” Palmerston said. “We” — he meant each country’s capitalist rulers — have “interests” (rival class interests, he diplomatically demurred from pointing out).

These interests, Boot noted, are both political and economic.

Every government does it, he said, other governments “just don’t have the resources or capability to spy as effectively as the NSA does.”

The leaks by Snowden are the most extensive in U.S. history. And there are likely more to come.

Working people sense that if Washington goes to such lengths to spy on its erstwhile allies, it hasn’t the slightest qualms about doing that and more to militant workers and others who organize resistance to attacks on living standards and rights.

The Guardian newspaper in the U.K. reported Oct. 24 that the NSA had 35 “world leaders” under surveillance. That same week numerous reports of NSA spying, including targeting the personal cellphone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, appeared in Der Spiegel, Le Monde, and other media.

NSA also targeted Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, former Mexican President Felipe Calderon, officials of the European Union, the Pope and millions of others.

Le Monde reported that the NSA “collected more than 70 million French phone records between early December 2012 and early January 2013.”

The NSA has also been conducting operations aimed at “stealing industrial secrets and intellectual property,” for example, on Brazil’s state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro, reported the New York Times.

In the ongoing fallout and recrimations, it has come out that Brazil spied on U.S. officials, Australian snoops targeted Asian countries, French and Spanish spies targeted their own citizens and funneled the information to the NSA, and moles from Communications Security Establishment Canada spied on Canadians.

The public protestations were coupled with “a more calculated political response by Ms. Merkel and France’s president, François Hollande,” the Times said, that “may have a broader diplomatic and economic effect.”

Paris, Berlin and other rivals of Washington sought to mobilize nationalist outrage to press for “reforms” and elbow others out of the way for a closer relationship with the U.S rulers, including wider access to the very type of spy information they are complaining about.

Despite public statements of outrage, what Merkel would really like, Deutsche Welle’s news agency wrote, is for Germany to be accepted into the “Five Eyes” — Australia, the U.K., Canada, and New Zealand, led by Washington — with special spy-data sharing arrangements that limit surveillance on their top officials and allow each government’s spy agencies access to information on people in their countries.

Leaker seeks clemency

Snowden has seized on the disputes to argue that calls from the left and right for “reform” of NSA spying is supposed proof his leaks are helping the U.S. government clean up its act.

Snowden released two statements from his temporary asylum in Russia, a “Manifesto for the Truth” and a “To whom it may concern” letter he delivered to Hans-Christian Stroebele, a Green Party member of Germany’s parliament, who visited him.

“Instead of causing damage, the usefulness of the new public knowledge for society is now clear,” Snowden wrote in his manifesto, “because reforms to politics, supervision and laws are being suggested.”

Snowden asked that he be granted clemency and allowed to return to the U.S., offering to testify before Congress.

The response from the Obama administration; Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee; and Mike Rogers, her House counterpart; was swift: no way. Surrender, face the charges and go to prison.

While there is bipartisan agreement in Washington that NSA spying is essential to the defense of U.S. capitalism, there are growing pressures to seek some face-saving “reforms.”

Obama hosted a White House meeting with a delegation of “business leaders” at the end of October, who told him that the flap over Snowden’s revelations could “lead to billions of dollars in lost business,” the Times reported Nov. 4.  
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