Personally, as a non-US citizen outside the US, I feel incredibly uncomfortable that the US govt spies on me and everything I do online as much as it can. As far as I know, Ecuador or any other government doesn't yet exercise such monitoring, I'm pretty sure they don't poke into my facebook messages or worse, can look at my Gmail hosted emails.
I know that the big deal is that US citizens got spied on [because that's illegal .. apparently], but to me, it's equally bad that innocent civilians around the world have their data up for grabs. You never know when and where and how this kind of stuff can be used against you. I don't like the fact that the US can make laws within their borders and get access to my data (which may even practically be hosted outside their borders). So where it's convenient, i.e. US citizens cannot be spied on, the concept of a nation state is invoked, but then non-US citizens basically have no right to privacy, not even the ones their governments give them, because the US can look at anything. Not cool.
Why don't we look at it from the perspective that the US government can pretty much see what any online Ecuadorean is up to. That's a big enough offense in itself, Ecuador is just working on of buying some surveillance stuff, the US has already been doing this for years. Smells like a smear campaign.
Again, I just find it interesting how quickly this became about Snowden this and Ecuador that, etc. rather than the central debate which is on my mind "What about my data ?!!"
The US government can obviously spend a lot of marketing $$$ and basically keep repeating "Snowden = Traitor" until everyone believes it and don't even remember why. It's almost like 1984 ... I'm scared.
Forget installing a shah of Iran or propping some dictator in a South American country. They can now do the same at an arms length. Just collect dirt on all foreigners, wait until they get into power, then use whatever dirt you collected over many years to blackmail that person to do things that are in the self interest of the people at the NSA instead of the self interest of the people that duly elected that representative.
This whole situation is a legitimate threat to democracy in this country, but Congress may try to put checks and balances in place to slow the rate at which it erodes democracy at home. However, of more immediate importance is how this is a legitimate threat to democracy everywhere outside the US.
Many Americans may hear the NSA say things like "We don't do anything illegal and coercive with this information at home" and may believe them. But do most Americans think it is reasonable to coerce elected officials or other countries using any information gathered by the NSA? Should we not be asking the NSA if they actually do that?
This is one of the questions I most want to see asked:
"General Keith B. Alexander, has the NSA ever wittingly used collected information on any foreigner elected to office by his or her citizens to coerce or blackmail that duly elected official to pursue policies that may not be in the interest of the citizens that elected them?"
This is the first article that I see on HN front page about surveillance in Ecuador. If we got this everyday, I would agree that it is a misdirection.
Every day I see stories in the front page about the revelations itself. So I don't think we're getting too distracted. Right now:
The NSA Can't Tell the Difference Between an American and a Foreigner (foreignpolicy.com)
Lawyers said Bush couldn’t spy on Americans. He did it anyway. (washingtonpost.com)
New leak shows NSA harvests To, From, and Bcc lines of e-mail data (arstechnica.com)
Let's keep it healthy.
Look, when a dog bites the hand of its owner and then bites the neighbor, the greater outrage is that it bit the hand that feeds it.
You're not looking at this from an objective perspective, because you're the neighbor and well, understandably pissed.
Now me? I would put down the dog. But that's just me and it's probably not going to happen.
What makes you more anxious, when you lose something you owned or when you lose something a friend lent you? When the latter happens, all I wish for is that it were mine (or that it's an item easily replaceable with money.)
It seems the government has long forgotten the good manners it's Founding Fathers taught it. I can only hope the American people at large have a bit more sense.
Venezuela does it at phone level, I wouldn't be surprised that Ecuador does the same considering that they are very close in terms of political vision.
People love human-interest stories. You see this all the time. In any news story where there's anything resembling a central figure, the stories will be mostly about that person, not about the overall event.
Combine that with the difficulty of asking hard questions, and you get what we see. The government probably doesn't even have to exert any kind of overt pressure.
That may change, but I don't see a lot of concrete results in that direction, yet.
> Are there any places left on earth that actually do respect basic civil liberties?
I would really like to know the answer.
1. Antarctica. South Pole. Parts of Siberia and Alaska. Essentially where it's too much trouble to reach you.
2. On a boat. If you got enough money, go cruising for the rest of your life.
3. International Space Station.
4. Jungle. Desert. Mountains.
5. A key rule to remember is that the nail which sticks out is going to get hammered in. Don't stick out and you'll find you have all of the civil liberties you lost. Be smart about it and you can live in the middle of Washington DC and be freer than any man who has ever lived. The notion that somebody has to give you that freedom is bullshit. You have to fight for it. And you have to do it intelligently, but not sticking out. Get my drift?
That has about as good privacy as a goldfish bowl, if the bowl is hooked up for intensive medical monitoring of its inhabitants.
Do you want the power to piss off prominent and powerful government agencies without serious repercussions? You'd have to move somewhere without prominent and powerful government agencies, because we've yet to figure out a way to effectively limit their power.
I don't think there is a place where there is 100% of both (respect for civil liberties and do not do any surveillance) and also not sure a place free of surveillance would by any better in practice, except in theory (to confuse a Yogiism). As many things, it's a balance which needs to be struck and it remains to be seen where that will be or if it's pendulum-like.