US interests above the law?
Updated: 2013-10-25 07:04
German Chancellor Angela Merkel looks at her mobile phone during a session of the Bundestag, the German lower house of parliament, at the Reichstag in Berlin. US President Barack Obama sought to assure Merkel on Wednesday that the United States is not monitoring her communications. [Photo / Agencies]
Four months back in Berlin, US President Barack Obama told Germans that Washington was not spying on ordinary citizens.
Now, he is responding to their chancellor about the alleged tapping of her cell phone by the United States. The US president assured her his country "is not monitoring and will not monitor" her communications. Although he did not say "was not".
After all, as German Chancellor, she is no ordinary citizen.
Nor are the presidents of Brazil and Mexico, but both were victims of snooping by the National Security Agency. As were French diplomats in Washington and at the UN, as were the European Union mission in Washington and European embassies.
But there has not been even that meager reassurance for the millions of ordinary American citizens whose e-mails and phone data have been captured by the NSA, nor for the French citizens whose 70.3 million phone calls and text messages were allegedly swept up, even recorded, by US spy agencies.
President Obama promised he had not authorized any spying on Mexico. But the Mexican government found it has been "systematically" eavesdropped by the US.
Countries like China and Russia, who may fall in the category of American "rivals", can only imagine the extent of US eavesdropping. Besides "Highland", "Vagrant", "PBX" and "Prism", how many other US spying projects are in operation?
The White House says it is reviewing US intelligence-gathering practices so as to "properly balance" legitimate security concerns and privacy expectations.
But such a balance is out of the question, because US security concerns, real or otherwise, always outweigh everything else. In former US president George W. Bush's words, his country would do "whatever it takes" to protect its interests.
Civilian casualties of US drone attacks, therefore, are just "a hard fact of war", in White House spokesman Jay Carney's words. The White House deems such attacks "precise", and "effective", the huge cost of innocent lives is swept under the carpet.
The Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan, for instance, are not areas of armed conflict, so sovereignty concerns aside, the drone strikes there are extrajudicial executions and against international law, not to mention that such strikes victimize innocent civilians.
Unfortunately, US security is turned into the ultimate license to kill.
(China Daily 10/25/2013 page8)