As the news of the NSA snooping program broke here in the US, it simultaneously broke throughout the world, and it did not take long for the leaders of our allies and enemies alike to respond.
Europe is in an uproar, and the common theme from the governments abroad is that the privacy of their citizens is supremely important. The European Union wants to make sure that the basic privacy rights of their citizens have not been violated, and they need concrete proof of that fact from Washington. Does anyone else see the sad irony of the E.U. being more vigilant about privacy rights than the good ol’ US of A? Yikes.
In Great Britain, the media erupted, wanting to know exactly what their government knew and when. The British had been trying to (legally) pass measures which would allow them to do similar things to what the NSA program has done. The problem for the British government is that these measures were voted down each time, and the British public is outraged to learn that their government was working with the NSA even though the programs had been legally blocked.
In a corner of England, Julian Assange erstwhile, founder of Wikileaks, was encouraging Snowden to try and make his way to Latin America. “Latin America has shown in the past 10 years that it is really pushing forward in human rights. There’s a long tradition of asylum.” Assange, who received asylum from Ecuador, has been living in the Ecuadorian consulate for the last year because the British government has said that they will arrest him the moment he steps onto British soil.
In Germany, the response has been even more dramatic, as they recall their years under Soviet domination. One German politician has gone as far as to say our government was using “American style Stasi-tactics”, reminding the world that the NSA snooping program reeks of Cold War era totalitarian corruption and secret police forces. Chancellor Angela Merkel has a meeting scheduled later this week with President Obama where she plans to discuss the revelations about the snooping program and what it means to US-German relations.
In Russia, the reaction has been more muted than in other parts of Europe, but Russian President Vladimir Putin did respond to the scandal in an interview with Russia Today. He said that surveillance “is becoming a global phenomenon in the context of combating international terrorism”, and that “such methods are generally practicable”. He also noted however, “the question is how well those security agencies are controlled by the public.” So, while obviously enjoying the opportunity to dig a little at the current state of political affairs in the US (which he does again when speaking about protest movements), Putin seems in general agreement with the NSA policy – which should engender some introspection.
If Russia’s reaction was muted, China’s was almost nonexistent. While Hong Kong seems to be fairly interested in how this story plays out, much of that likely has to do with the fact that Edward Snowden is currently hiding there. Mainland China seems mostly unconcerned. In all likelihood, the media there has not been too interested because this type of thing would not be scandalous government behavior in China. However, for some Chinese citizens Snowden has become an icon.
The world is watching, fellow citizens. How will we respond?
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