Revelations made by former CIA analyst Edward Snowden have opened a Pandora’s box and created an international scandal which could easily continue for some time. The United States government’s vast espionage network has not only focused on U.S. citizens, but various countries around the world as well, including many in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The Brazilian daily O Globo recently published documents describing in detail the U.S. surveillance program in the region, which apparently was not only devoted to gathering military information, but commercial secrets as well.
The newspaper reported that U.S. espionage targeted the oil and energy industries in Venezuela and Mexico, and that the most spied-upon country in Latin America was Brazil. The documents indicated that another priority target was Colombia, where surveillance focused on the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces-Army of the People (FARC-EP). Other countries which were continually monitored, albeit to a lesser degree, were Argentina, Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Paraguay, Chile, Peru and El Salvador.
According to the documents obtained by O Globo, between January and March this year, U.S. National Security Agency personnel monitored the region using at least two programs: Prism – which allows access to e-mail, online conversations and internet voice communication provided by companies such as Facebook, Google, Microsoft and YouTube – and X-Keyscore which can identify the presence of a foreign visitor in the country based on the language used in e-mail messages.
Demands made by Latin American countries that the Obama administration provide an explanation of its participation in the incident with Bolivian President Evo Morales’ airplane, reflect regional indignation. Statements from a variety of leaders described the events as unacceptable violations of international law.
SNOWDEN’S REQUESTS FOR ASYLUM
Speaking with Granma, Cuban professor Alzugaray commented on offers of asylum made to Snowden by Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia, saying that no other region in the world is in a better position to take such a stance vis-à-vis the United States. Latin America and the Caribbean, he emphasized, have been a primary target of U.S. intelligence operations and have suffered first hand the consequences of this policy for some time. Although Snowden’s revelations surprised no one, denouncing such espionage is a way of letting the U.S. know that it cannot act with impunity in the region.
The professor pointed out that the Snowden case has brought attention to the expansion of ‘national security’ operations both within the U.S. and internationally, and to the practically unlimited power intelligence organizations have acquired. Some sectors within the U.S. government have reacted with panic, concerned with what more Snowden could reveal, while others have attempted to distance themselves from the phenomenon, he said.
The 29-year-old technician who leaked details of the government’s secret surveillance of telephone calls and internet messages is for Dr. Alzugaray “a time bomb that could explode at any moment and oblige the administration and Congress to review and reduce the autonomy of these intelligence organizations, from Homeland Security to the NSA, the CIA, the FBI and others.
Snowden is not, however, the only concern. The list includes Bradley Manning, the soldier who sent Wikileaks thousands of diplomatic e-mails and other documents about the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, who is currently being prosecuted in military court.
U.S: spying around the world is nothing new. The Spanish daily La voz de Galicia recently summarized the numerous precedents, going back to the Civil War (1861-1865) when Abraham Lincoln authorized supervision of information transmitted by telegraph. His Secretary of War Edwin Stanton invaded the privacy of citizens, detained journalists and decided what messages could be sent.
Professor Alzugaray recalled the warnings issued by U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961) about the power of the military-industrial complex and the Church Committee hearings after the Watergate case and the war in Vietnam.
He commented that the Snowden case appears very similar to that of Daniel Ellsberg who revealed the Pentagon Papers in the 1970’s, “Ellsberg himself commented to the Washington Post that the U.S. is not the same as it was in his time and that Snowden’s flight was totally legitimate. It is no surprise that many governments and progressive political forces are sympathetic to the young man and are wiling to offer him asylum.”
Given the situation, an unrepentant U.S. government continues to keep an eye on its southern neighbors, putting them in its line of fire.