Spying on Folks

The news that Edward Snowden has landed a job in Russia is most welcome. Some think that the man should also be awarded a medal for the work he has done in exposing how the servants of the world – the democratic governments – spy on their masters – the people- apparently to protect the people.

The latest Snowden revelation seems to be this; in the United Kingdom information from Google and Yahoo’s private networks is intercepted by GCHQ, who then passes the information to the National Security Agency of the United States of America. This was reported in the Washington Post but failed to make much impact in the United Kingdom (whose taxpayers pay GCHQ to apparently spy on them thus), presumably because of the UK’s obsession with a phone hacking trial in which editors of red top newspapers are accused of doing something that seems quite similar but less widespread to what GCHQ has been doing.

I do not know whether Mrs Rebecca Brooks and Mr Andy Coulson, accused of phone hacking in a show trial at London’s Old Bailey, will be found guilty or not guilty when the trial ends several months from now. They are accused, let us remind ourselves, of instructing or permitting or conspiring to gain information from people’s private telephone conversations without the consent of those that were eavesdropped upon. They then, it is alleged, printed stories in the newspapers, about the results of such spying.

I fail to see the moral difference between their activities and those of GCHQ, save that GCHQ obtained the information and instead of publishing it, sent it to a foreign power, that does not have the best human rights record and has been prone to activities like rendition, holding people for years without trial and similar practices.

Ultimately we must decide; will we risk our safety from external threats in order to have our freedom, or will we subvert of freedom in order to be safe from external threats, making ourselves subject to internal threats from those we elect to govern us.

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