Since the Edward Snowden revelations about NSA spying began, the scope of the surveillance dragnet continues to expand with each new release. First, it was citizens who became outraged after the real-time capabilities for surveilling every form of their digital communications were confirmed. After which, foreign leaders and diplomats were revealed not to be immune. Later, serious questions were raised about how surveillance of foreign nations went beyond “national security” and indicated that economic and political reasons were of equal, if not paramount importance.
The latest documents covered by Glenn Greenwald’s colleague, Laura Poitras, for The New York Times, highlight economic surveillance, as well as how loose are the dots which NSA claims need to be connected for the good of the nation.
As discussed in the video below, these documents also reinforce the close working relationship between the Five Eyes alliance to form a network of global surveillance that likely cooperates in order to circumvent local laws and constitutions. You see, it wasn’t the NSA of the United States spying on American lawyers working on trade agreements, it was their close partner Australia who actually conducted the surveillance . . . then shared that information – ironically enough – with lawyers at the NSA. While some media are downplaying the significance of these findings, they reveal the potentially vast ramifications for those who do any type of business abroad.
First paragraph: American lawyers are now among “those caught up in the global surveillance net cast by the National Security Agency and its overseas partners.”
To quickly summarize — The Times’ James Risen and Laura Poitras had a look at documents from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Those documents show the NSA’s counterpart in Australia had conducted surveillance on Indonesian government officials seeking help from a U.S. law firm on trade talks.
From the piece we learn:
– The Australian Signals Directorate offered to share info from its spying with the NSA.
– The Australians asked the NSA for legal guidance since information it would come across was covered by attorney-client privilege.
The piece prompted subsequent headlines like this: “US law firm representing Indonesian government caught in NSA spying web.” (Via RT)
Which is all a little scary-sounding — with the underlying suggestion that just having trade and economic insight is enough for an American business to be spied on.
A tempting story line, especially considering how it fits into an already existing narrative about the NSA and Snowden-leaked documents. (Via euronews)
PRESIDENT OBAMA: “You can’t have 100% security and also then have 100% privacy… We’re gonna have to make some choices as a society.” (Via The Guardian)
The narrative — that despite what the U.S. government says, spying isn’t just for national security interests.
In fact — The New York Times piece pretty bluntly suggests its report “underscores the extent to which the N.S.A. and its close partners engage in economic espionage.”
But The Washington Post‘s Orin Kerr pokes a few holes in the piece: Namely, that despite the fact we know the Australians sought legal advice — and got it — from the NSA, we don’t know what that advice was. Nor do we know what actual intelligence ended up being shared.
So he concludes, “It seems to me that the story here isn’t ‘NSA helped spy on U.S. lawyers.’ Rather, the story here is more like ‘Australian government obtained legal guidance from NSA General Counsel’s Office on what to do…”
Meanwhile the Australian government has denied any suggestion that it spies for commercial purposes. Australia, by the way, is part of the so-called “Five Eyes” alliance, which also includes the U.S., U.K., Canada and New Zealand. The alliance regularly exchanges intelligence.