Ratner: NSA spied on German and French business communications, which may produce the necessary push back on surveillance state
JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore. And welcome to another edition of The Ratner Report.
Now joining us is the man behind the segment, Michael Ratner. He is president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights and a regular contributor to The Real News.
Thanks for joining us, Michael.
MICHAEL RATNER, PRESIDENT EMERITUS, CENTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS: Always good to be with The Real News and with you, Jessica.
DESVARIEUX: So, Michael, really busy week, especially with these new NSA revelations. We have a lot of U.S. allies really angry over these revelations. What has been your take? And can you speak a little bit to what has been brought to the forefront?
RATNER: Well, one very positive thing about the anger of U.S. allies is as the U.S. sort of twiddles its thumbs and the population, while seemingly upset, isn’t really doing much to change it, and while bills are floating through Congress to limit the NSA, it may be that the real changes are going to come about because the U.S.’s foreign allies are really angry about what’s going on and the massive spying that’s been going on.
I want to emphasize one thing about it, which is that the U.S. has justified the spying in large part, and actually almost entirely: this is the way we have to get terrorists. We have to spy on everybody so we can get ahead of the next terrorist attack in the United States.
What has happened in the last week as we’ve looked at what’s happened in other countries–I’ll go over some of those quickly–is that this is not really–or this spying by the NSA is not really at all about terrorism, criminality, or anything like that. This is about business and politics. This is about the U.S. getting advantages and finding out ways in which it can get advantages in business and in which it can understand what the political situations are in other countries so that it can make moves in the way it wants. In other words, it’s about continuation, in a way, of empire, business advantage, and politics.
And let’s look at a couple of examples. This week we saw that Le Monde published an article–again, based on Snowden documents–that the NSA, in one month that they had a graph for, had taken in 70 million recordings of telephone conversations, December 2012 to 2013. As the Le Monde article says, it’s not about terrorism, but about people who work with businesses or politics. It got so bad that President Hollande of France chastises–the word Le Monde used–chastised Obama in a phone call that he made to him a couple of days ago.
James Clapper–of course, head of the NSA–in his usual lies–and he can’t be trusted at all after lying about the fact that there was no–saying there was no spying on an American citizen–calls the French newspaper Le Monde‘s allegations “inaccurate and misleading”, which, of course, is a ridiculous statement, because he’s just a proven liar. But then he goes on to say these are done “to protect the nation, its interests, and its allies”. Well, that’s interesting. Protecting the nation perhaps from terrorism, maybe, but its interests–in other words, its economic interests and its political interests. So that’s France.
Brazil, of course, has been in the papers for a couple of weeks now. The NSA has been spying on official communications of the president of Brazil, her associates, and (here’s the important part, going back to what I said about what this is about) the state-controlled oil giant Petrobras. In other words, they’ve been doing economic spying on the major oil company in Brazil.
And then it comes out that Canada as well decided to get its hand into it, and it’s collected metadata for phone calls and emails to and from Brazil’s Ministry of Mines and Energy. I guess they’re all planning the next terrorist attack against the United States.
What’s interesting, of course, is President Rousseff canceled a meeting with President Obama, refused to come to the United States, has asked her government to set up a new mail system, and now plans to change the underwater cable that routes all of the internet traffic from Brazil through the United States and then all over the world. And they now want a direct link of that cable through Europe, no longer passing through the United States. And she wants an international conference on how to protect internet data.
Then Germany, of course, has been in the headlines recently because Germany complained–president Merkel or prime minister Merkel complained that her mobile phone had been tapped by the United States. The U.S. said in a press conference, Obama said, we’re not tapping president Merkel’s phone. They never answered the question, despite being asked it repeatedly, did they wiretap the phone in the past. They haven’t asked–they haven’t answered that, presumably because that’s what they were doing and only when this came out have they decided to stop going after monitoring of Merkel’s phone.
Today I read a revelation that the NSA has asked all these top-level officials in the United States to go through, share your Rolodexes, give us the phone numbers of all of the top officials in the world you’re talking to, give us their phone numbers, their emails, etc. Thirty-five world leaders’ phone numbers were given by U.S. officials to the NSA, and they were spied on. And it said, share not just world leaders, but political leaders, military leaders, etc., again belying any claim that this is about terrorism.
Then today Italy–or this week, Italy–Italian, U.S., and British intelligence services have monitored Italian telecoms targeting again–look at this–government and companies, as well as suspected terrorist groups–governments and companies.
Mexico–U.S. electronic surveillance in Mexico (again, Snowden documents) reportedly targeted top officials of Mexico, including current and previous presidents, and which–the purpose of which was to get an upper hand in diplomatic talks and–believe this–find good investment opportunities. In a single year, the operation produced 260 classified reports and helped Americans plan international investment.
And then, in the story that, of course, led all these stories a few weeks ago, the NSA bugged the European Union. It bugged their phone calls, their computer networks, and accessed documents. It did that in Brussels, in D.C., and at the UN. And the documents refer to the European Union as a target. The E.U. in response has passed–in the process of passing a new law, data protection law that organizations like Yahoo!, Google, etc., including the U.S., had fought against a year or two ago. It will now probably sail through, again indicating that Europe is getting very, very angry about this.
So I think that what we’re seeing now in conclusion is that this is not at all about terrorism. It’s about business. It’s about politics. It’s massive. And I think we’re really perhaps only seeing the tip of the iceberg. My guess is that we’re going to see more and more articles revealed from the Snowden material. As people may be aware, it appears that Glen Greenwald has left The Guardian and will be perhaps setting up his–an organization that he works for, that a number of these revelations have now come out through other newspapers, from O Globo in Brazil to Le Mondein France, an indication that we’re going to be seeing information coming out all over the world. Very important.
In some way, for me looking at this, revelations finally revealed, it’s like having a Christmas every single day, seeing finally this massive surveillance system perhaps being pushed and pushed and maybe coming to a halt.
DESVARIEUX: Yeah. It’s Christmas for us, too, here at The Real News.
Well, thank you so much for joining us, Michael.
RATNER: Thank you for having me at The Real News.
DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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