Friday, February 20, 2015

Washington's Prying Eyes

As the U.S. government maintains its uneasy silence about the kidnapping and probable murder of 43 students in Ayotzinapa, Mexico—or, for that matter, about the estimated 100 thousand Mexicans killed since the recommitment to the drug war in 2006—it is worth remembering that the United States maintains the largest and most elaborate international surveillance network in the world. Which, then, is the more troubling interpretation of events: that U.S. State Department and National Security Agency (NSA) officials know who is responsible for these horrific crimes but are choosing not to say, or that despite untold billions of dollars of investment in spy programs like PRISM and Boundless Informant, Washington still has no clue?

Edward Snowden's 2013 revelations about the NSA's global surveillance practices sparked outrage around the world, but nowhere more than in Latin America, where U.S. efforts to project its influence have long been concentrated. Anger rose as the scoops piled up: that the NSA's Fairview program colluded with local telecom companies to steal Brazilians' Internet and phone data; that secret NSA listening stations were operating out of Panama City, Bogotá, Caracas, and Mexico City; that the Agency had tapped into the personal emails and texts of Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff and Mexico's then-president Felipe Calderón; that the spying targeted not only drug trafficking and suspected terrorism but also corporate matters and everyday citizens' private lives. Now that the dust has settled, we should ask: Did the NSA disclosures, and the criticism they provoked, represent a historic break in hemispheric relations? Or was this just business as usual, another insult added to the ongoing injury of U.S. hegemony in the Americas?
 
 
 

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