As the Washington Post revealed, the surveillance programme of the United States government, PRISM, was cooperating with enterprises like Facebook or Google. The U.S. went too far and so did President Obama.
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„You can’t have 100 percent security and also have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience. We’re going to have to make some choices as a government.“
When President Barack Obama spoke about PRISM, a surveillance programme by the U.S. National Security Agency, he unfortunately was right. Neither was the extent of the use of this surveillance programme very surprising. The most surprising thing in the whole story is that it seems that the U.S. government had directly access to the servers of certain IT enterprises, namely Google, Facebook and Apple. In fact, there is no possibility to be absolutely safe from terrorism and it seems that the federal government needs some kind of intelligence service to improve security. But the U.S. government and U.S. Congress went too far and so did President Obama.
The attacks in London and Paris earlier this year as well as the attacks of Oslo and Utøya and the fact that they could not be prevented by security forces although the surveillance programmes mentioned were in effect indicate that surveillance is not the universal tool to prevent terrorist attacks. Nevertheless politicians present it in a way as if it were. But terrorists do not generally use social networks like Facebook or Google+ and I would be surprised whether one could identify a terrorist by the tracks he or her downloads from iTunes Store. But think of terrorists that do not use any kind of social network. Imagine them avoiding every single piece of technology. While they are capable of hiding, while they turn invisible, everyone else is observed and generally is a suspect.
The N.S.A. started the mentioned programme, PRISM, in the presidency of George W. Bush and continued, even intensified, its surveillance in the presidency of Barack Obama. It is one of the xenophobic measures by the U.S. government since it targets primarily foreigners. To emphasise: foreigners. U.S. citizens remain unsupervised because of the first Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but the most important servers are located in the United States and therefore underlie U.S. laws.
This surveillance is unacceptable. Because of the USA PATRIOT Act foreigners are treated like people of the second class. This law which was ratified by the U.S. Congress in 2001 is still used to discriminate foreigners. When Mr. Obama started his 2008 campaign Europe hoped for an improvement of the American-European relations. PRISM is undermining this relationships and the authority of President Obama. I supported the Obama campaign in 2008 and 2012 and I am still supporting the President. But the European Union must not ignore PRISM and other possible mass surveillance programmes. And therefore, Mr. President, stop those measures immediately and force the N.S.A. to delete the content it has collected. No matter what the costs are.