Spying Isn’t Always In Our Interests

Rothkopf is in the camp that feels the NSA’s snooping has gone too far:

Yes, many governments spy. But so too do all countries have armies, police forces, and tax codes. In each instance, the question is not whether to pursue the activity — it is how to do it, how to limit it, and what values should underpin it. Our spying has overreached. We took risks we shouldn’t have for rewards that were too limited. Even when there were perceived threats that seemed to warrant these activities (and that cannot be the case in some of the recent examples we have encountered of spying against friends and companies), many of those threats may themselves not have been so great to warrant the risks associated with spying. What if the NSA scandals result in a more fragmented global Internet? What if they are used as an excuse by repressive regimes to violate their own citizens’ privacy? What if they are used as an excuse to deny U.S. companies access to their markets? What if they are used as an excuse to justify similar actions against the United States?

Keating doesn’t think we can brush off the NSA’s wiretaps as spying as usual:

Even if allied governments assumed this type of spying was going on, the scale of these programs, the targets involved, and the newness of the type of spying mean the governments involved have to come up with some sort of political response. Those who brush this off as no big deal should also think about how we would react if the situation were reversed. Yes, we know that there are foreign spies, including those from friendly governments, operating within the United States. But if credible reports emerged that the Mexican government was tapping Barack Obama’s BlackBerry or that France was monitoring thousands of American phone calls, do we really think American news outlets and politicians would just brush it off as the price of doing business? (Also, someone should ask Jonathan Pollard if a little espionage between friends is no big deal.)

At this point, it also seems highly doubtful that Brazil, Mexico, and Germany would be the only governments the U.S.  is conducting this type of surveillance on. We’re likely to see more shoes dropping and a lot more diplomatic impact.