Ever since NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed classified information about NSA’s clandestine global tracking system, the US has found itself in a tight spot, trying to explain its way out of what can only be called as one of the biggest conspiracies the world has ever faced. The documents released by Snowden clearly indicate that over the past few years, the US has secretly been tracking personal information about people living both in the US and outside. Details like phone calls, numbers, the locations from which the calls were made as well as the length of individual calls were tracked by NSA. And ever since Snowden chose to reveal this operation, the US has been facing the possibility of severing ties with several countries or being dragged to international court for its actions.
For instance, the US ambassador in Spain had to attend an emergency meeting with Spanish officials who have warned that if reports stating that the US has tracked and continues to track nearly 60 million Spanish phone calls every month are true, then the relationship between the two countries would have to be severed for good.
German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich has also demanded an appropriate answer from the US over the alleged tapping of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone. Germany had announced that it would press criminal charges against the US if the claims were true. It has also announced that it would cut off the US’s ability to suspicious track bank transfers related to terrorist groups.
These developments have come at a time when the European countries with the exception of Spain, are in the process of drafting a resolution in the UN against indiscriminate surveillance of people, terming the act as a violation of human rights. The European Union in Washington would also opt to seek a no-spy agreement with the US over the matter.
In spite of facing all these allegations and accusations, the US has maintained its stand, stating that Snowden’s reports were entirely false and that the US had not collected personal email and telephone records directly from the European citizens. Rather, it states that the information NSA possesses has been collected by NATO allies like Europe and then shared with the US for defense and military purposes.
Lawmakers in the country have also been lobbying for a less stringent and more transparent tracking and surveillance programs in addition to a better insight into the NSA’s core function and responsibilities in the matter. NSA has maintained that the data it had collected throughout the years was aimed solely at protecting the US and its allies from terrorist attacks.
NSA vigorously defends its stance stating that its actions had thwarted several terrorist attacks and as a result, has saved many lives around the world. It also maintains that out of the many billion personal records collected by the agency last year, only a total of 288 suspicious records were reviewed, out of which permissions to view these records were given to only 22 individuals and permissions to view the database that contained these records were given to only 30 individuals. Technical safeguards are also in place to make sure that this data is not available for un-authorized personnel.