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Discussion Question, Raj Sanghvi

The Little Bully that Couldn’t

Raj’s Response:

I think it’s safe for us to say that there is no one, enemy or otherwise, who is exempt from American observation. First and foremost, we need to backtrack. The “allegations” that we bugged Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone arose as a result of leaked N.S.A. documents (thanks, Snowden). It horrifies me that an intelligence agency whose budget is just a hair short of the entire GDP of The Bahamas couldn’t properly hide the bugging of this thing. It doesn’t even have a QWERTY keyboard. I could probably bug that with a few paper clips and a roll of duct tape and still have time to shred the documents in her own office. Berlin is irate, and probably rightfully so.

The head of the NSA said he didn’t tell Obama about it until 2010, which is reasonable considering the world of intelligence gathering is shrouded in black lines and word-of-mouth information. But he still knew in 2010. Three years ago. And did nothing. Obama’s administration is really talented at using convincing words without really saying anything, this time asserting through Jay Carney (who arguably has the worst job in the country: personal damage control for the President) that “the United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of the chancellor.” Which is cute, reassuring, and entirely misleading. Currently, no, we are not monitoring Chancellor Merkel. We stopped a few months ago because as soon as we realized certain N.S.A. data was stolen (thanks again, Snowden), we halted the program immediately because we knew there was a chance it would become public knowledge. But that doesn’t change the fact that we’ve been doing it for years.

Our astounding ability to simultaneously play the world’s good cop and the world’s bad cop notwithstanding, a line needs to be drawn somewhere. Apparently 300 million people isn’t enough fuel for the intelligence machine, because we’ve managed to piss off the two titans of the European Union (sorry, France), not to mention Italy, Spain, Sweden, Brazil, and Mexico, through a reckless and impractical use of surveillance. We’ve reached a disconcerting level of paranoia if we can’t trust allies, with whom we should and can expect trust and open communication when it comes to the security of either nation. It’s unacceptable and it’s counterproductive.

I had a friend once. He and his mother were on good terms. Because of this, he would leave the door to his room open. His mother took advantage of that, continually barging in unannounced because she believed that, as his mother, she had every right to do so. She was only looking out for her son, right? So she went on generally disturbing the sanctity of his space and using her entry as an excuse to take a glance around the room to see what she could find before walking out. She would never really find anything incriminating, though, because my friend was a good kid. After this went on for a little bit, he grew irritated. Maybe he was the child, but couldn’t his mother have the decency to knock first, or at least directly ask him a question if she was suspicious about something? So he started locking his door. Now his mother knows nothing.

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