Spying, Double standards and brutality

By Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan for the Saudi Gazette.

Some European allies are furious at the United States for spying on their leaders - the US monitored Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone for a decade, the US tried to monitor 60 million Spanish telephones within one month and the US collected millions of French phone records. The US operates more than 80 snooping centers worldwide and continuously harvests data. 

The US was not the only guilty party. Documents suggest that Canada, Britain and Australia allowed the US Central Intelligence Agency to place eavesdropping equipment in their embassies to spy on North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies.

Canada seems to have been caught doing the same trick. Brazil complained about “this grave and unacceptable violation of national sovereignty” after reports surfaced that Canada spied on Brazil’s mines and energy ministry. Canada was trusted by friendly countries which do not expect to be spied on, even for commercial secrets. 

Human rights organizations in Canada and the US are also alarmed by the spying done by the governments on their own people. 

US agencies conduct massive surveillance on people through the Verizon network and through  Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo and Apple. They did so under the USA Patriot Act, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and the FISA Amendments Act. 

The Canadian Security Intelligence Act confers similar powers on the government but the Canadian Security Intelligence Service or the Solicitor General must get a Federal Court judge’s permission before acting.

CSIS exchanges information with agencies in 151 countries while Canada has signed a mutual legal assistance treaty with the United States and 33 countries.  The Communications Security Establishment Canada also helps CSIS, Royal Canadian Mounted Police and other security agencies. Its work is secret and focuses, the Toronto Globe and Mail reports, on telephone records and Internet data. Following reports that CSEC sometimes operated outside the law, the Canadian government set up a watchdog over CSEC. The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association is suing the government for violating Canadian law.  

It’s part of the ongoing US war or terror. The US, to circumvent its own laws, set up cells in allied countries to question and torture suspects it had kidnapped or arrested.

Its favorite jail was in Guantanamo Bay which the US leased from Cuba in 1903 indefinitely for $5,000 a year  under a treaty it forced on a fragile Cuba. Here the US military is beyond the reach of American law. US agents question and torture any suspect for as long as they want.  But after the media and human rights organizations highlighted this atrocity, the US asked client countries to lend their soil for such abuse. 

The standard US response to allegations about its misconduct is to refuse to comment or to deny them. When former Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev confronted former president Dwight Eisenhower on US spy flights over the Soviet Union in May 1960, Eisenhower denied the allegation. Only when Khrushchev thundered that the Soviet Union had shot down a U-2 spy plane and captured pilot Francis Gary Powers with pictures of Soviet military establishments did Eisenhower admit the US guilt.

The US has practiced double standards, internally and in its dealings with other countries, from its very inception. This used to happen mostly in Latin America, but after the Second World War, the US started doing so throughout the world.

The most dramatic example now is the use of drones to kill people the US suspects of being terrorists -  those who oppose the US policies that cause death, oppression and destruction to Muslims and those who wish to retaliate against the US.  These drone  attacks also kill innocent people, as Amnesty International and other agencies have stated. The Pakistan government protests that this intrusion by US planes to kill people violates its sovereignty. Normally it would be considered an act of war. But the US, with a straight face, asserts that what it is doing is legitimate and lawful.

If a foreign government sent its planes into US air space to attack Americans who authorize or implement policies that kill their people and devastate their lands, the US would unleash a war straightaway. If foreign citizens, victims of American policies, retaliated against the US in any way, the US would call it terrorism and hit back with full force. 
Apparently the US is above international law and the people of other countries do not matter.

Pakistani school teacher Rafiq ur Rehman came to the US with his nine-year-old daughter Nabila and 13-year-old son Zubair to testify to the US Congress that a US drone attack killed his mother, Momina Bibi, and injured his children while they were picking okra in their backyard in North Waziristan.  The Rehmans did not demand an apology or financial compensation. All they wanted was to tell the US legislators their story and ask them to stop this brutality. Only five Congressman attended the briefing. The others just did not care. After all the victims were not Americans. Other human beings do not matter.


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