‘Entirely non-transparent’: NSA will continue gathering ever-increasing amount of private data

‘Entirely non-transparent’: NSA will continue gathering ever-increasing amount of private data
While the NSA remains one of the most secretive organizations in the United States, its surveillance around the world will only get worse and worse, political cartoonist and columnist Ted Rall told RT.

After a number of leaked documents revealed the scale of American spying on French citizens, US President Barack Obama called the French leader on Monday to ensure him that the US had “begun to review” the way they gather intelligence.

RT:President Obama called President Hollande about this – and admits there are legitimate questions about US intelligence gathering. Does he have the answers though?

Ted Rall: It is pretty hard to undo listening to tens of millions of phone calls, isn’t it? At this point, I think what is shocking the French and the Brazilians is not just the extent to which the US is spying on their people, but also the fact that they consider themselves to be US allies - and if this is the way the US treats its friends, well, what is the point of being a friend?

RT:French politicians and high-profile business leaders were allegedly monitored by the US. Why would the NSA target them?

TR: Obviously the only people that know are the Obama administration and the top officials at the NSA, but my speculation would be that industrial espionage might be part of the target. I mean, why else would we be interested in business leaders, and certainly in terms of the CIA and the NSA who have been revealed to be cooperating closely on drone strikes and other matters, obviously have a joint interest in knowing what is going on in the highest corridors of power.  It is just in the past, there was sort of a presumption that we weren’t going to be quite as brazing about our espionage and this sort of goes too far, I think for most world leaders. 

AFP Photo / Boris Roessler 

RT:The US State Department has claimed the NSA's operations are transparent, but said it isn’t a black-and-white issue. "I think we can use any definition of transparent we want," said Deputy Press Secretary Marie Harf. What do you think President Hollande’s reaction to this claim would be?

TR: I would imagine he’d laugh the first time he would hear that. I’m half French and I’m laughing. Maybe he is laughing twice as hard. It’s absurd, really. Transparency is not a word that has a lot of different meanings, either it is or it isn’t.

The entire process of the way the NSA makes its decisions is completely not transparent. The entire agency’s budget is off the books. It officially does not even exist in government directories and the court that governs its decisions, the so-called Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Acts (FISA) court, has barely been revealed to exist. We’ve just seen the very first few declassified court decisions coming out of it. It is non-adversarial which means that the defendant, the person who would be spied upon, has no voice or advocate whatsoever. It is only the prosecutor - the government - who gets the voice, which is why the court approves 99 percent of requests put before it. So yeah, there is no transparency in this matter at all.

RT:The EU is set to introduce new legislation limiting data transfers to the US. Will that be enough to prevent the NSA from snooping on France and others?

TR: I do not think so. I think that as long as the NSA is around they’re going to be gathering an ever-increasing amount of information. The film 'The Lives of Others' about the East German Stasi was quite popular in art houses here in the United States. And everybody here keeps saying that East Germans would love to have had this level of intrusion into people’s personal lives. It is going to get worse and worse.