Tag Archives: brazil

The ShortReport – Snowden Update


Announcement: I’ve almost hit 1000 unique visitors guys, woohoo! To celebrate, I’m launching a new feature called The Short Report! The idea is I give you a quick breakdown on what’s happening on a particular issue, linking to articles as I go. This way you can read a short summary if you’re pressed for time,  or read further in depth analysis and commentary by following the links provided. I’m going to try and keep them around 300-600 words. Please let me know any suggestions/criticisms. 

NSA Prism illustration

Just a quick update for you all on the Snowden and mass surveillance scandal – a couple of weeks ago I wrote about the Five Eyes, a network of major western powers who work in tandem to spy on peoples private communications. Some of these countries are now “complaining” about the NSA’s programs. Edward Snowden has revealed further details about Australia’s links to secret US Spying program,  identifying a number of operations such as one dubbed “ThinThread”.

Mr Snowden also said that the “Five Eyes” partnership is organised so that authorities in each country can “insulate their political leaders from the backlash” when it became public “how grievously they’re violating global privacy”.

Rather unsurprisingly, Cuba’s Raul Castro has criticized the U.S and backs allies on Snowden’s bid for asylum, accusing the United States of employing a “philosophy of domination.

These actions demonstrate we live in a world in which the powerful feel they can violate international law, violate the national sovereignty of other states and trample on the rights of citizens.

The U.S. responded to these Latin American countries with hostility, suggesting they will use trade sanctions to “to send a very clear message that we won’t put up with this kind of behaviour.”

The US claims that these countries have undermined “the importance of trust.”

Snowden has also revealed how the GCHQ in Britain Soaks up mass Internet data. The Tempora system is the signal intelligence community’s first “full-take Internet buffer,” according to the whistle blower.

It snarfs everything, in a rolling buffer to allow retroactive investigation without missing a single bit…if it routes through the UK, we get it.

He also accused Germany’s federal intelligence agency, the BND of working with the NSA to collect signals intelligence.

Further leaks from Snowden have revealed Brazil has been victim of cyber espionage by the NSA. Brazil has asked US to explain this internet surveillance, saying they received the reports from Snowden “with deep concern.

Brazil appears on the charts of the American agency (National Security Agency, or NSA) as a prime target for the espionage of phone calls and other data, alongside nations like China, Russia, Iran and Pakistan.

If that has happened, these companies broke Brazilian law and acted against our Constitution, which safeguards the right to privacy.

It seems that US attempts to block Edward Snowden are ‘bolstering’ case for asylum, and in fact giving the whistle blower stronger allies. Evo Morales stated that the forced plane-grounding debacle will never be forgotten in South America.

The issue however, is one of a lack of safety for Snowden if sent back to the US. For instance, a lack of transparency means tainted justice for Bradley Manning, and many fear a similar fate for Snowden if he is extradited. Daniel Ellsberg, who was charged under the espionage act in 1971, suggested Snowden was right to run, for:

He would almost certainly be confined in total isolation, even longer than the more than eight months Manning suffered during his three years of imprisonment before his trial began.

One lesson of the Pentagon Papers and Snowden’s leaks is simple: secrecy corrupts, just as power corrupts.

After two years of preparation the US-EU free trade talks are beginning amid this spying row. However, more leaked information is showing that the key European players in these discussions are just as guilty as the US when it comes to unlawful surveillance.

In the meantime, things are still getting worse in the US. In Secret, a court vastly broadened the powers of the N.S.A. — judges have expanded the use in terrorism cases of a legal principle known as the “special needs” doctrine, and carved out an exception to the Fourth Amendment’s requirement of a warrant for searches and seizures, officials have said.

Nonviolence and protesting

Nonviolence and protesting

So I’m sure you’ve all been following the increasingly violent protests breaking out around the world. These last few years have seen many revolutions throughout the Middle East, recently Turkey and now even Brazil. And I suppose it would be rather ignorant to assume that this current trend is different to any other period in history.

Demonstration and revolution are fairly regular events in human society it seems.

Seeing the violence these demonstrations have instigated however, has disheartened me somewhat. I understand that a riot is the physical manifestation of frustration. I am pleased by the push for progress, the desire for equality and secularism. But being a person who believes that we can absolve our problems with democracy, with peaceful civil disobedience means that I still feel we could achieve so much more without the use of aggression.

But this begs the question – why should we adhere to pacifism? It’s a difficult question to answer, because we often find nature to be inherently violent. From the explosive eruptions of distant stars, to the gruesome murder we witness every day in human society. Violence, therefore, is simply a part of nature.

But is this necessarily the case?

I think this is a rather absurd argument against pacifism to be honest. Everything is part of nature, by the very definition of nature. Rape is a part of nature for instance, yet we look upon those who commit such acts as savage monsters, and rightly so of course. But we can see how such behaviour accrued by the impartial force of nature herself.

Another example – killing in nature exists, because protein is a more condensed form of energy. This is just one reason animals will kill one another. You don’t need to spend as much time grazing on grass, and digesting it, than if you were to kill another animal and steal its accumulated energy. And as a direct consequence, most living organisms are programmed through millions of years of evolution, to fight against such aggressors trying to steal our accumulated calories.

Hence violence began in such a manner, through a struggle to survive.

But I make the argument that violence is not necessary to humanity – not anymore at least. And we can find many examples throughout nature where it is pacifism that makes a species successful. Yes, violent action has played an integral role to humanities success to date, but I think it is no longer necessary to the future of humanity. In fact, I believe it is quite the opposite in fact.

Just as violence exists in nature, so too does non-violence.

Reciprocity, mutual benefit, kindness and empathy – this is the future of humanity in my eyes. And I think such qualities are just as inherent to human beings and their success then violence ever was. In modern times, nonviolent methods of demonstration have been a powerful tool for social protest and social/political change. Mahatma Ghandi, César Chávez, Martin Luther King, Leymah Gbowee – all bear testament to the power of nonviolence and civil disobedience.

A recent example stemming from the protests in Turkey, also shows us the power of pacifism. One man stood in Taksim square in defiance of the police crackdown of protestors. Within hours, hundreds had joined him.

Imagine if thousands joined, imagine if the whole nation stood with this man in solidarity? A million people wanting to be heard, is much more powerful than a hundred men with guns trying to silence them.

If we speak loud enough, we will be heard. But if we fight, if we kill, if we destroy in the name of freedom and peace – how does this make us any better than those who wish to oppress us?

What we need is cooperation; we need a common goal to unite under. And we mustn’t be afraid, for the “only thing to fear, is fear itself.”