Obama and his administration face rising tensions in Congress as he is criticised for the level of secrecy held over NSA surveillance programmes. Meanwhile the European Commission voices its concern at such a violation of privacy, particularly for EU members.
Tuesday night was a tough one for Obama’s administration, with dismay increasing in Congress as many politicians were briefed for the first time about the government’s spying programme Prism. Alarm bells were rang by many politians in both parties as they came face to face with the extent of the data-spying.
Democrat Elijah Cummings, on coming out of the briefing commented
“we learned a lot [but] I’m not comfortable”.
Republican Tom McClintock from California stated “going back to the days of British rule we have sought to stop the authorities bargain in on people’s privacy just in case they found something…the fourth amendment was passed to make sure that never happened and it is time to make sure it does not ever happen again”.
In congress anger was also directed at the 29 year old whistleblower Ed Snowden for his releasing of top secret information to the whole world.
There has been an official FBI investigation launched into the Prism leaks. Even though Snowden revealed himself publically by choice and offered his reasons for releasing the highly classified information about NSA, the Federal Bureau is nevertheless conducting a full investigation, interviewing his girlfriend and family, as well as searching his former home.
Snowden left his job and girlfriend in Hawaii 3 weeks ago and fled to Hong Kong where he released NSA’s documents to the British newspaper The Guardian along with cameraman Laura Poitras. He supposedly chose these two people due to their active pursuits in condoning civil liberty.
Many in Congress, such as Republican House Speaker John Boehner have denounced Snowden as a “traitor” and some such as Erin shark insist that Snowden should be charged with treason.
The firm that Snowden worked for has announced that he is fired due to “violations of the firm’s code of ethics”.
However despite strong desires to bring Snowden to trial, Obama and co now have their own legal battle to deal with. The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against the administration, on the grounds that the mass collection of private data is completely illegal. They are calling for such activity to cease and for a “data purge” to be effected.
the US government of acting in a way that was "akin to snatching every American's address book".
Rep.Adam Schiff, head of the House Intelligence Committee said “there’s very little trust in the government, and that’s for good reason…We’re our own worst enemy.”
A number of senators have put forward legislation requiring for the US government to “to disclose the opinions of a secretive surveillance court that determines the scope of the eavesdropping on Americans' phone records and internet communications.”
European Officials have spoken out against the NSA’s breach of privacy, particularly with regards to the personal data of European citizens.
The European Union's Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding has called upon the US government to provide a detailed explanation both of the programme. She stresses
that it "could have grave adverse consequences for the fundamental rights of EU citizens".
Jan Phillip Albrecht a German Green Lawmaker who is responsible for the overhaul of the EU’s outdated protection laws stated: "we need to step back here and say clearly: mass surveillance is not what we want".
Associate director Dr Ian Brown, of Oxford University's Cyber Security Centre, told the BBC
that "European data protection laws put restrictions on how data gathered about people, including social networking data, can be used…The firms will now face serious questions from national data commissioners and even potentially from individual users in Europe over whether they followed all the European data protection laws that are supposed to stop things like this happening."
Internet giants try to save face
In the documents released by Snowden, internet giants such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft, were said to have granted the NSA access to private data. The organisations themselves have denied any involvement in or knowledge of the surveillance programmes.
Google’s chief legal counsel has written the US Justice Department requesting permission to disclose its precise interaction with NSA to prove that it had not given up mass data to the organisation. Twitter, Microsoft and Facebook have also encouraged such “opportunity” to save their reputation.