Colum Lynch -- a respected columnist and one of the few journalists to cover the UN and make it interesting -- has a scare headline posted today at Foreign Policy in The Cable:
I keep thinking how Brazil and Germany were never motivated to mount a resolution like this when the Russian opposition's cell phone conversations or the Belarusian opposition's cell phone and Internet conversations were put online by the secret police and a hundred other things like that even inluding the open Russian plan to capture all metadata during the Olympics to oppose terrorism but also any anti-Kremlin protest. None of that moved these diplomats before because they know the UN, and didn't want to go up against Russia or China.
The US is a softer target.
So hence this resolution, really opposing the US and nothing else. By invoking it as a backlash against Snowden, they can get even Russia and China to tacitly agree because those authoritarians know that like all UN rights agreements, they have absolutely no intention of implementing them. And few countries -- least of all Germany or Brazil -- will ever have the guts to hold them to account around it, even though their privacy disruption is far worse.
Then there's the fact that the claims Snowden has made about the NSA have never been validated with actual cases and court decisions.
What I've been saying about the "Snowden revelations" and in particular the case of the alleged bugging of the Brazilian president's telephone conversations is that Rouseff should bring her case to the Human Rights Committee, the treaty body of the UN that actually already has plenty of privacy language to work with in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
She doesn't need a new resolution. Let her bring an actual case -- something that has been non-existent throughout the Snowden saga anywhere, in any venue (there is already one failed court case against the NSA run by the ACLU, which is having another run at it). And see if it could even be adjudicated! Merkel, too. Or, if they are concerned about never having had interstate complaints on the ICCPR (although there's no reason not to try one), let individual citizens of Germany or Brazil brings cases where they prove their privacy was eroded.
I wonder even with the tendentious review this might get in the HRC, if they could make their cases, given that...the content of their talks has never been revealed nor has it been confirmed that their calls were eavesdropped on in real time. No one has ever come up with a single case of an individual who can show his personal privacy was deliberately violated such as to harm his rights.
I'd love to be there when the HRC examines a case involving an indignant complaint that somebody listened in on...a Brazilian oil company -- the kind of oil company that NGOs usually scream about as a terrible violator of indigenous rights and environmental rights. Imagine, the HRC, at the UN, admitting that oil companies, of all things, have privacy rights. Go ahead, I'll wait, as they say...
As for the "global privacy right" -- I am hoping this isn't going to turn into a "global blasphemy law" which it could all too well become in the hands of certain UN members. As I wrote, be careful what you wish for, Germany...when you re-open freedom of expression language for negotiation at the UN.
No one would want extra-territorial *anything* nor making the US compelled to uphold it if it weren't for this anti-US campaign triggered by WikiLeaks and Snowden's hacker and activist-journalist friends. As we know, if they made an extra-territorial push for an end to reprisals for human rights advocates, as states at the Human Rights Council attempted to do yesterday, that would be killed by South Africa -- yes, South Africa! -- because they were mad at the ICC's "excessive attention" to Africa's mass murderers -- the ICC has tended to prosecute African tyrants rather than tyrants from elsewhere around the world. Maybe the others are harder to reach, i.e. like, oh, Russia, over its mass murder of Chechens and Dagestanis -- Russia, where Germany has vested business interests and a friendly foreign policy, or Iran, where a decided international lobby antagonistic to Israel wants to friend up this tyrant on the basis of promises, not performance.
(No, those countries haven't ratified the ICC statute, but then neither did some of the African states -- they got Security Council referrals that would be impossible on other regions of the world given the Russian and Chinese vetoes.)
Look, if you think this resolution is really in good faith, and really about privacy, you don't know how the UN works.
Germany has many other more effective ways of displaying its wrath, if it thinks its complaints about the encroachment by its long-time partner, the NSA, are founded. For example, yesterday we learned of the billions Germany has harvested in Internet business - they had a banner year in sales. A good chunk of their revenue comes from amazon.de -- hey, an American company, with servers located in America, whose innovation and cost reductions due to scale they can utilize to make profits. You don't notice Germany shutting down amazon.de or demanding that Amazon suddenly place all servers with German data on German territory under German control -- or it may come to that, and even Jeff Bezos' ownership of the Washington Post and considerable lobbying clout may not stop it.
But nary a word, because that's business, and that's money, and Germany and the US are heavily intertwined there.
Instead, what we get is this ding at the UN, which "doesn't matter" in a sense that it is just rhetoric," even though people like Dianna PoKempner, who has decided to make Human Right Watch's crusade against the NSA an aggressive personal project, think this is "soft power" that NGOs can manipulate via international fora to get their way. That's because they might fail at more more mundane work through democratic institutions at home with factions that oppose their anti-Western positions and leniency with tyrants like Russia and China.
BTW, I'm one of the human rights advocates who learned about these private negotiations before Lynch's article, but it didn't seem appropriate to leak the negotiating position of the US. Nowadays, there's a determined lobbying clique of NGOs starting with Electronic Frontier Foundation, Access, and other radical Internet activists who don't believe in private negotiations by states -- in fact, they don't much believe in states, period. They whined and whined about the secret negotiations of the TPP -- even after hackers got ahold of the secret documents somehow, we're not told -- either a bad-minded state party or leftist political party faction in a state leaked it, or it was actually hacked, we don't know.
But negotiations should be secret because that's how states can reach accommodations and compromises. The time to get your country to have a position you can support is before the international conference, at home, through the democratic process.
International negotiations, particularly those involving undemocratic states or states with very different positions, have to be done in secret to reach agreement. That's an axiom of international diplomacy that works -- and it works on the Disability Rights Treaty as much as the TPP.
It's ok to have secret negotiations in a hostile world where there are numerous enemies to basic universal human rights and values. The animus driving this issue about "secrecy" isn't really based on any value of transparency because it's more about anarchy -- these radicals do not accept that elected, legitimate liberal states like the US and Germany or even for that matter Brazil, whose record as a demoracy is not as good, should be able to negotiate in good faith on behalf of their citizens -- because they are elected.
The elected part bothers the anarchists because it goes against their brutal, nihilist grab for power themselves (anarchists who always oppose governments and try to make you think they are against big government and just for lovely little local collectives always forget to tell you the PS to the memo -- that in overthrowing others, they get in power, and are far less accountable or transparent themselves because they don't believe in voting or due process or democratic procedure -- they are all about coercive, collectivizing takeovers and pretend "consensus".)
At the UN, the leftist forces in Germany and Brazil in particular -- where parliamentarians wear Snowden masks and Glenn Greenwald has safe haven -- have succeed in pushing the Snowden backlash into the complicated and dull procedures of UN committees.
This is actually a process that long preceded Snowden, as this same concerted claque that pushes the extreme "Internet freedom" agenda at the UN -- against copyright, against intellectual property, against trade, against sovereignty of states, against any criminal oversight of the Internet to oppose terrorism and crime -- has been very busy already trying to undermine what they see as an "unacceptable' historical US control over the Internet and force through various measures.
When Elaine Donahoe, the ebay president's wife, an Obama campaigner and fund-raiser, was rewarded with an ambassadorship to the UN Human Rights Council, these radical NGOs leveraged the obvious interest in Silicon Valley in defeating pro-copyright and anti-piracy legislation (SOPA and PIPA) and under the guise of "Internt Freedom," got various measures put in -- here's the background on the "Internet Freedom" resolution. This let in dangerous wording that in fact brings in more state control under the invocation of the concept of "development" (i.e. in the technocommunist model, by states, or in the technolibertarian model, also by states they capture).
If this wife-turned-ambassador was getting her appointment in the Bush era, as a Bush fund-raiser, and her husband was the head of some less beloved Silicon Valley corporation, imagine the furor of the NGOs that business was using international fora to get its way in the marketplace. Not so when it's ebay -- as we're seeing about ebay founder Pierre Omidyar's support of Greenwald and others in a new radical media project.
There's a lot more boring background to this at the UN that few people have been paying attention to, which basically involves this same gang, with mainly Soros and other "progressive" funding, going to the UN to get language favourable to their ideological positions into various resolutions and mandates -- mainly because no one else bothers to show up and give some pushback to their blatantly sectarian maneuvers.
They have been particularly active at the international bodies that have aspirations to control the Internet -- the International Telecommunications Organization and the Internet Governance Forum. Brazil has pushed the latter heavily, just hosting the meeting, to get its own brand of socialist control over Internet affairs -- gathering all the usual anti-American fans in the process.
The IGF feigns support of what they call the "multi-stakeholder approach" -- as long as the stakeholder are things they like and control -- and it's important to note that ALL these NGOs are UTTER HYPOCRITES because FOR YEARS they've been in the Global Network Initiative with the likes of Google and even Facebook claiming to promote Internet rights. They were never, ever bothered by Google's massive data-vacuuming and Facebook's privacy-busting all those years. Instead, they sat by quietly while the GNI secretariat was mainly silent about things like the Internet being entirely shut down in whole countries or Internet journalists being jailed -- real freedom issues. Instead, they pushed for things like the right to keep a Youtube of a disabled boy being humiliated and bullied online in Italy despite a court action -- in the name of "freedom of expression" -- which was really a business issue for Google to keep their California Business Model intact (let everyon upload freely, chase over copyright or legal issues later, after the ad revenue is scoopd up). You don't hear so much about GNI anymore... in fact, EFF dramatically left it, funny...
This gang has promoted Frank La Rue, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression, through various Soros-funded evenings like this one at NYU, and its his decidedly anti-American antagonism which has driven the Internet resolutions at the UN seeking a) absolute encryption for non-state actors, regardless of whether they commit crimes b) rejection of law-enforcement access to the Internet in the legitimate pursuit of crimes c) blessing of non-governmental human rights groups forever as never being involved in crime and worthy of such power -- a position that comes out of Frank's understandable but not universal experience of being a leftist activist lawyer in oppressive Guatemala in the 1980s.
Which brings us to Germany -- where Merkel, as I've said acidly a number of times, still hasn't gotten over the fact that the NSA didn't disclose the content of phone conversations that we have not verified they monitored.
Yes, it's hard to believe -- although CNN did ask the questions of the leftist German journalists who broke this story in the first place -- that this is not verified. We don't have any sample conversations. We don't know what she thought or what her position was internally on the even of important events like NATO summits. We haven't learned of any fact other than that her number was in a list of numbers held by the NSA which they may have scanned for meta data.
BTW, few noticed part two of the story of Norway, yesterday, where first Snowden's adversarial journalist-activist supporters Laura Poitras an Glenn Greenwald claimed there was a purported NSA scanning of millions of Norwegian phone calls (or phone transactions -- we never are told accurately if these "millions" in fact contain the thousands of back-and-forth "calls" that a person typically engages in during a week of texting, liking, sending links, etc. on his cell phone). But...Come to find out even later in the day that it was Norway itself scanning its own conversations, then sharing them. Even the Kremlin's RT.com had to correct this. (Or, especially RT.com given that the anti-Norway campaign by Russia has gone on for awhile unrelated to Snowden, as part of a hate-on-the-West strategy).
But why wasn't the story *reported* from the get-go by journalists being skeptical of the usual Snowden Team active measure, and asking questions directly about it?! Is Richard Orange going to run a correction?
Norway -- let alone Germany -- were never moved to launch privacy resolutions at the UN over their own activity, all these years, including sharing with the NSA.
So here we all are. A tendentious portrayal of the US as some "killer" of privacy that Russia and even Germany and even Norway killed long ago, without a whimper from the NGO gotcha-gang all this time -- but suddenly, when WikiLeaks and their Russian supporters have an opportunity to exploit Snowden backlash even further in pursuit of their anti-American goals, they obviously seize it.