For John, BLUF: Everybody does it.
Commentator Marc Ambinder (Harvard, 2001), writes for the magazine The Week, "Why the NSA Spies on France and Germany".♠
I liked the article and I especially liked this quote from a recent French Foreign Minister:
"The magnitude of the eavesdropping is what shocked us," former French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told France Info radio. "Let’s be honest, we eavesdrop too. Everyone is listening to everyone else."There you are. The admission that "everybody does it". That doesn't make it right,♥ and the situation in the former East German Democratic Republic, where the STASI spied on everyone, is a cautionary tale. The real, unanswerable question, even by the Intelligence professionals, is if it makes a difference. It surely did at the Battle of Midway, but apparently didn't at Pearl Harbor. It allowed us to shoot down Admiral Yamamoto, but 65 years on didn't stop 9/11.
The difference, he added, is that "we don’t have the same means as the United States — which makes us jealous."
We need to strike a balance and we need some public examples of rectitude. Some acceptance of inefficiency to say that we really do respect the Fourth Amendment, even as we are hoping our Governent is keeping us safe. For example, shouldn't we feel we can EMail our City Councillors without someone else reading the missive? How about a compromise? It is OK for NSA to store the EMail out in Utah, but our local Government shouldn't be running filters to kick out copies to DPW♦ or the Police without benefit of a Court Order.
UPDATE: Grammer correction—"see" to "else".
Regards — Cliff
♠ Let's be honest, there is a "Special Relationship". This is about France and Germany (and Brazil and Mexico). We and the Brits are in bed together on this. And, England isn't really part of Europe, in a political and cultural sense. They are partnered with CANAM.
♥ In France everyone has a mistress and at a recent funeral for a President of the Republic (François Mitterrand) the widow and the mistress were both at the graveside. That doesn't make it right, although it is very "French".
♦ Department of Public Works.