Leaving aside how egregiously extra-legal, unrestrained, and unchecked the NSA’s domestic surveillance is, today’s news from Glenn Greenwald in the French paper Le Monde is a window into what NSA spying looks like with zero constraints.
According to the article, the NSA recorded 70.3 million French phone calls between Dec. 10, 2012, and Jan. 8, 2013. We’re not talking meta-data here. These were recorded and collected, and the NSA targeted not only terror suspects but also French politicians, private businesses, and – unquestionably – ordinary French citizens.
According to the BBC, France is outraged. The “foreign ministry has summoned the U.S. ambassador” over the news and “Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said he was “deeply shocked” by the claims made in the Le Monde newspaper.”
The Obama administration responded to the news by saying essentially, “so what?”
“As a matter of policy we have made clear that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations,” said National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden.
This isn’t the first NSA revelation reported by Greenwald for foreign audiences. It was also reported in Brazilian outlets that the NSA spied on a Brazilian oil company, which drew into question NSA claims that it does not engage in spying for economic purposes. The Brazilian government was quite vexed.
And the NSA also hacked the email of Mexico’s President Felipe Calderón, among other expansive spying practices in that country, according to Der Spiegel.
Some commentators on the NSA revelations from Edward Snowden like to claim the NSA has free rein to spy on the world, even if there ought to be minor legal constraints on domestic surveillance. This twisted logic implicitly maintains that only Americans have rights.