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Spying on You: If not Big Brother, then Big Brother’s Brother! (Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland)

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Now that the U.S. Congress has reigned in the NSA’s bulk collection of U.S. phone data, can Americans rest easy about being spied upon? Using the analogy of Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train, Gazeta Wyborcza columnist Mariusz Zawadzki writes that like two men who agree to murder the wife or mother of the other, the NSA and Britain’s GHCQ, while constrained when it comes to spying on their own citizens, can spy on the nationals of the other and share the data, thereby escaping any penalty for breaking national data laws.

For Gazeta Wyborcza, Mariusz Zawadzki lays out perhaps the greatest threat to the privacy of the world’s citizens, including Americans – ‘cross surveillance’:

I find conspiracy theories of all sorts amusing, but there is one I came up with myself and choose to believe. It is in regard to mass surveillance, a practice of the U.S. government and other governments we have come to know about thanks to Edward Snowden.

Before I lay out the foundations of my theory, I feel obliged to recall the film I drew inspiration from: Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train.

Two passengers who by happenstance meet on a train share a similar problem. Guy despises his wife, and Bruno his father. While discussing their plight, Bruno suggests a cross-murder: he will kill Guy’s wife and Guy in exchange will kill Bruno’s father.

It is to be the perfect murder, as neither have a motive to kill. Guy doesn’t know Bruno’s father, and Bruno doesn’t know Guy’s wife. Both would have irrefutable alibis since Guy would not have killed his wife, Bruno would not have killed his father, and witnesses would confirm that at the time of the murders they were both far from the crime scenes. Since the killers don’t know one another, it would never occur to anyone to connect the two murders.

So much for Hitchcock. For those unfamiliar with the film, I won’t reveal whether the cross-murder is actually carried out or if it turns out to be perfect. Instead I will return to my conspiracy theory of mass surveillance.

Snowden, a former systems administrator as NSA, i.e.: U.S. signals intelligence, two years ago revealed that collected in U.S. government database are logs of phone calls made by millions of American citizens. The largest mobile phone networks had been forced by a secret court in Washington to hand over in bulk all phone data on their customers.

Civil rights activists lamented that this violated the right to privacy, the Constitution, etc., but President Barack Obama reassured Americans that “no one is listening to your phone calls.” The NSA database doesn’t contain audio recordings of telephone calls, but only dry information about when, where and who the caller spoke to. In addition, this information is rarely accessed. Only when Mr. X is regarded as a suspect is the database checked to see when, where and who he spoke to.

It is similar on the Internet. The American Constitution doesn’t allow mass surveillance of its citizens. Therefore, there is no question that the NSA – without a court order – would knowingly and on a massive scale read the e-mails of Americans.

Such are the assurances of the Obama government, and 99.9 percent of the time, one can believe them.

The United States is, after all, a country of the rule of law, which means it tries not to violate the law, even when committing some villainy. That love of the rule of law has recently – in the 21st century – become visible. Therefore, those suspected of terrorism were tortured in Stare Kiejkuty in Poland, and not in the United States, where it would be illegal.

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More Surveillance Powers? ‘We Must Demand Proof’ of Effectiveness (Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland)

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So if the president says that his government doesn’t record phone calls on a massive scale, then it’s the truth. What’s more, last week the U.S. Congress passed and Obama signed a new law that limits the powers of the NSA: phone call data will no longer be stored in government databases, which instead will reside in the archives of cell phone providers. When Mr. X becomes a suspect, the government will then have to apply to the phone provider for his phone records.

Even Snowden – currently a fugitive in Moscow – said this was “great progress.” So can Americans breathe a sigh of relief knowing that Big Brother isn’t watching them?

According to my conspiracy theory, absolutely not!

One has to remember that the NSA has its “hands tied” only when it comes to U.S. citizens. Foreigners can be surveilled without any restriction. Not only can the agency store information about when, where and who they call, but it also records the contents of their conversations. And, without breaking U.S. law, they can read the e-mails and examine the nude photos of foreigners – whatever their hearts desire.

READ ON IN ENGLISH OR POLISH, OR READ MORE ON MASS SURVEILLANCE AND GLOBAL PERCEPTIONS OF OUR NATION AT WORLDMEETS.US, your most trusted translator and aggregator of global news and views about the United States.

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William Kern, founder of www.worldmeets.us, is the inventor of trans-copyediting, a system for checking the accuracy of translated copy into multiple languages. Since 2005, managing a team of dedicated volunteer translators, Kern has edited, packaged and posted thousands of columns of news and opinion about America from publications around the world and from every major language, including Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Polish, Swedish, Spanish, Hungarian and Farsi. From the height of the Iraq war to the annexation of Crimea right up to today, Kern and his team have provided intelligence to the American people by opening up a whole new media world.

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