US Working to Kill UN Resolutions to Limit International Surveillance

This story should get more publicity than it has.

Posted on November 25, 2013 at 1:51 PM • 33 Comments

Comments

Brent LongboroughNovember 25, 2013 2:06 PM

Bruce, thanks for the pointer, but they have a poisonous pop-up demanding I register. Thanks, but no thanks.

zoomieNovember 25, 2013 2:29 PM

@Brent

Place mouse cursor on web page's greyed out area -> ctl-a -> ctl-c -> open editor -> ctl-v -> read (-> [optional] open Reddit burn account -> post text and include link to source)

NicNovember 25, 2013 2:31 PM

FYI: The Adblock plus filters to kill the annoying registration overlay pop-up are:

thecable.foreignpolicy.com##DIV[id="TB_overlay"][class="TB_overlayBG"]
thecable.foreignpolicy.com##IFRAME[id="TB_iframeContent"]

After that the whole article is available for viewing restriction free (it actually always downloads to your PC regardless of registration/paywall state and get covered by a whole screen pop-up).

Frank RizzoNovember 25, 2013 2:53 PM

re: popup. You are not running noscript?

If you did it would block the wapolabs script, which is causing the popup.


AnuraNovember 25, 2013 3:11 PM

I'm at work, can't install plugins, can't even use a browser other than IE. Hell, they block bugmenot.

...

I think we should move to a no spying treaty: you agree to not spy within our borders without our knowledge and consent, we agree to not spy within your borders without your knowledge and consent. We can be selective about who we allow, e.g. North Korea, Iran, China are one thing, U.K., France, Germany, Brazil, etc. are another.

I have all sorts of ideas, none of them will happen without the US public voting out the Democrats and Republicans. But, people are very loyal to their respective brands of right-wing authoritarian, so it won't happen in the near term. "Third party? That's throwing your vote away" - until people realize that voting for a Democrat or Republican is actually throwing your vote away, nothing will change.

Brian M.November 25, 2013 5:05 PM

The diplomatic battle is playing out in an obscure U.N. General Assembly committee that is considering a proposal by Brazil and Germany to place constraints on unchecked internet surveillance by the National Security Agency and other foreign intelligence services. American representatives have made it clear that they won't tolerate such checks on their global surveillance network. The stakes are high, particularly in Washington -- which is seeking to contain an international backlash against NSA spying -- and in Brasilia, where Brazilian President Dilma Roussef is personally involved in monitoring the U.N. negotiations.

The stakes are high because the NSA has been running around like a two-year-old, and the Congress things that it needs yet more money to fix things. And if the NSA isn't allowed to run rampant, then their game is up. There was a recent article about how much waste is hidden in their accounting. Sad, really sad.

CallMeLateForSupperNovember 25, 2013 5:52 PM

Happiness is having Permanent Member status. The U.S. can kill any UN resolution simply by voting "no". So, assuming the article is true, I would guess that the U.S. prefers to gut any resolution ot doesn't like and them vote "yes", rather than use its Silver Bullet while standing essentially alone.

Dirk PraetNovember 25, 2013 5:59 PM

@ BP

I wonder what the concessions Brazil and Germany made were?

We'll need the full text of the resolution for that, but I doubt it will contain any wording that would explicitly curtail the US's extraterritorial spying. From what I can make of it, they basically moved the issue forward to next year's report to be produced by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. From where anything tangible will undoubtedly be delayed again. Just look at the Warsaw summit on the environment last week and those before that. Same story.

The UNGA and the UNSC in their present form are absolutely powerless to achieve any results whatsoever if the US or any of the other permanent members are against it. However cleverly they disguise their real stand or have their sycophants - struggling to stay relevant on the international scene - do their bidding for them.

For now, the only interesting thing about the Brazil-Germany resolution and the leaked US confidential paper is that at least we know who stands where on what. And which is that the US does not want international law to get in the way of anything their own lawmakers have decided they can do outside their borders. A trademark of an imperialist power, and very reminiscent of a similar attitude found in 18th and 19th century Britain.

JacobNovember 25, 2013 6:02 PM

@CallMeLateForSupper

The permanent memebr status applies only to the UN Security Council. This surveillance notion is brought before the general assembly, where the US has only one vote among the 190+ member states, and has no veto power.

AndyNovember 25, 2013 6:51 PM

it just keeps getting more and more disgusting all the time. Is the phrase "if in a hole, best to stop digging" not known in the US?

AnuraNovember 25, 2013 7:01 PM

@Andy

We don't want to appear weak. That's the biggest fear in America, appearing weak, which can happen from apologizing or admitting we were wrong. That would make us seem European (I don't know exactly what that means, but that's besides the point).

Clive RobinsonNovember 25, 2013 8:58 PM

@ Anura,

    That would make us seem European (I don't know exactly what that means, but that's besides the point)

Look up "cheese eating surender monkeys" for an indication of what it's supposed to mean from one perspective.

The thing that realy realy scares the US string pullers is not appearing to be weak but the consiquences of the US Dollar ceasing to be the recognised "international trading" currency.

It was what the Invasion of Iraq was actually about.

Put simply Sadam wanted to stop the US embargo on Iraq and let it be known that in return for European help getting the embargos lifted he would in future only trade oil in Euros.

As was noted by the real brains behind the invasion the reason was "we had to it's floating on a lake of oil", refered not to the US need for oil but because of the effect oil pricing in dollars has on the US economy. If the worlds second largest producer of oil switched to Euros then Europe not the US would enjoy the benifits, and the "euro crisis" would not have happened and the US Gov would probably not have been able to bail out the US Banks with other countries gold.

The fact was the US could not invade Iraq on it's own it needed a coalition for political reasons. Nearly all continental European countries quite sensibly did not want to get involved, but unfortunatly the UK was being run by a criminal with delusions of grandure wanting to prove he was a better man than Maggie Thatcher...

The result was that Tony Blair PM cooked up amongst other things the "dodgy dossier" and circular arguments about WMD where each countries intel organisations quoted from the other as proof of reality...

However most UK voters were very much against the "Gurnning japernaps" Blair and his lust for the Iraq War and could see it for what it was a "US Imperialist action". The fact that the rest of Europe did not want to stand behind the "Stars & Stripes" was a clear indicator that the UK public were right to oppose the idea as well.

So the "Euro Skeptic" card was re-worked, the UK for various historical reasons has seen it's European neighbours as "the enemy" and the French particularly so. So this hostility was played up by near jingoistic behaviour of the US portraying the Europeans esspecialy the French as cowards and then contrasting it with the brave British. Thus old nationalistic sentiment (including WWII talk) was brought up and used as a way of swaying opinion.

However in general the average Brit ignored it no matter how hard the Rupert Murdoch Empire pushed it for Bush & Blair (who became known in the UK as "Bush's poodle"). But over in the US with Fox News doing the same, quite a few American's came to view the French "cheese eating surrender monkeys" line as the truth. And likewise all sorts of rubbish about how America stood alone during WWII and single handedly saved the world from the Axis powers got trotted out and not corrected. And this has left an impression on many American minds that "European" means "cowardly, craven and evil" but more importantly as very "un-American" and thus communist etc...

Kim PhilbyNovember 25, 2013 10:17 PM

When it's as simple as ^S Save Page As..., I refuse to believe that falls under the heading of "hacking". It's common sense. No one has said you can't use the built-in functionality of a web-browser (Firefox), have they?

WinterNovember 26, 2013 3:10 AM

@Clive
"quite a few American's came to view the French "cheese eating surrender monkeys" line as the truth."

French politicians were also telling the world how invading Iraq would only increase the number of problems, including terrorism. And they were right on every account.

But as you wrote, the invasion had nothing to do with democracy, nuclear bombs, WMDs, OBL, or terrorism. It was all about pumping up the dollar a few more years.

Meanwhile, the "weak" Euro has gone from ~$0.85 in 2001 to ~$1.35 in 2013.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:EUR-USD_v2.svg

NALNALNALNALNovember 26, 2013 4:20 AM

@ Kim Philby

> When it's as simple as ^S Save Page As..., I refuse to believe that falls under the heading of "hacking". It's common sense. No one has said you can't use the built-in functionality of a web-browser (Firefox), have they?

IANAL but DMCA 1998 appears to ban any circumvention of technical copyright enforcement - so you'd need to argue that the registration popup is nothing to do with the copyright of the article (which I suspect you could do).

Using ../ in the URL you give a browser has had Daniel Cuthbert convicted of computer misuse.

Wesley ParishNovember 26, 2013 5:52 AM

@Clive Robinson

re: And likewise all sorts of rubbish about how America stood alone during WWII and single handedly saved the world from the Axis powers got trotted out and not corrected.

If of course the Soviets had not broken the back of the Wehrmacht at Stalingrad, if the western United Nations forces invading the European continent on D-Day had had to face the full unbroken might of the Wehrmacht, I think the war would've dragged on for another few years. The only advantage the western UN forces had over the Wehrmacht was air superiority; the Soviets only had that towards the end of 1944 but that didn't stop them holding out in Leningrad and breaking the morale of the Wehrmacht at Stalingrad.

And don't get me started on North Africa. American reinforcements were somewhat late on the scene - Libya was liberated by the Eighth Army. El Alamein was fought between the Eighth Army and the Afrika Korps: there were no Americans in evidence.

The only theatre of war in WWII where the United States could have been said to have "stood alone" was in the North Pacific and overall naval control of the Pacific: in South-East Asia (apart from the Phillipines) and the South Pacific islands, they were very much dependent on the Australian-New Zealand connection; I very much doubt they would've succeeded in Guadalcanal if they hadn't been supported by the RNZN and army and likewise in PNG and Indonesia if they hadn't had the Australian forces supporting them. In Burma and Malaysia, the British and the Indian forces were responsible for rolling back the Japanese forces.

As it happens, judging from some retired NZ servicemen's comments I heard in the early nineties, they considered the American forces to be ill-trained, no matter how well equipped they were.

ZigZagNovember 26, 2013 5:58 AM

To become a customer it would be trivial to add a yearly $200 +/- Content Fee to the ISP fee to be disbursed according to hit counts (or something) to content providers.

Except, the cable TV provide which does that already provider STILL bombs us with ads, still spies on us and are proposing TVs that literally watch us as we watch.

I think it's beyond monetization any more. It tyranny and a police state mindset of those in charge.

Even the STASI realized tangible violence on the populace was not the best control method. They saw psychological harassment was far more likely to be unrecognized for what it was to victims and their supporters and thus were less likely to be provoked into active resistance.

CallMeLateForSupperNovember 26, 2013 8:02 AM

@ jacob

You are right, of course. Thank-you for the reminder. I seem to be having a prolonged "senior moment".

So the U.S. has just the one sporting option: savage the legislation. The unsporting option is, of course, ignore/interpret legislation it doesn't like while it goes its own way. (cough... Kyoto)

BenNovember 26, 2013 9:45 AM

It's simpler than you are all making out.

I just right clicked, view source, find URL referenced and then opened it in a new tab. Pop up gone.

Keith GlassNovember 26, 2013 11:20 AM

While the General Assembly can pass whatever they want, only the Security Council has any actual power other than PR and moral suasion. The most the GA can do is produce the equivalent of a Very Strongly Worded Letter of Disapproval.

As for a ban on spying, not gonna happen. EVERYONE spies on everyone else. The US is apparently king of technical "spytech", but both the Russians and the Chinese excel at the human side of the spy business.

David LeppikNovember 26, 2013 4:16 PM

Clearly, the UN isn't going to make all spying illegal. Perhaps not all countries spy, but all powerful countries spy, and any ones that don't are protected by ones that do. Every military needs intelligence.

It's like the Stuxnet worm. It was bad, and nasty, but a much cleaner way to dispose of Iranian centrifuges than all-out war. And as long as war is still legal, nasty things that avoid nastier war also need to be legal.

At the same time, uninteresting citizens of peaceful nations have an expectation of privacy, and see no reason why anyone should need to spy on them. And, as Bruce and others point out frequently, surveillance poisons democracy.

So the question is where to draw the line. There's no Geneva Convention on surveillance. There's no legal distinction between "good" spying and "bad" spying. We need to figure out a legal framework for foreign surveillance, and we need to do it soon.

Perhaps the solution is to make a distinction between military surveillance and non-military surveillance, and make surveillance harmful for non-military usage. Much the way US law lets the government collect intelligence for military purposes, but generally makes it inadmissible in court-- along with any other evidence gathered as a result of that evidence. Though those protections could use some strengthening... and haven't helped us with the NSA, which seems to have only a cursory interest in legality.

When it comes to things like declarations of human rights, people like to keep the rules simple. Bright lines, like "spying good" or "spying bad." But until we can come out and declare "war is murder" we're going to need something more nuanced. And a legal framework that limits the usage and storage of international surveillance strikes me as more practical than a limit on spying itself.

Dirk PraetNovember 26, 2013 6:43 PM

@ Wesley Parish

... if the western United Nations forces invading the European continent on D-Day had had to face the full unbroken might of the Wehrmacht ...

Not even that. If the Germans had had a smart supreme comander listening to his generals instead of a drug crazed lunatic with delusions of grandeur whose staff didn't dare to wake him up, the three panzer divisions in the vicinity would have been ordered to the beaches and the invasion would have been stuck there.

Anselm LingnauNovember 27, 2013 3:19 AM

Then again without a drug crazed lunatic with delusions of grandeur in charge Germany might not have started the war in the first place.

Bauke Jan DoumaNovember 27, 2013 9:05 PM

@ David Leppik

Thanks for the hint, personally, I'm hoping for some Iranian commando to infiltrate the Israeli
high command one of these days and give them all at least a shot of the clap if not something
worse.

After all, better than all-out war, as you so eloquently put it.

CosNovember 29, 2013 6:12 PM

The problem with a registration-required popup isn't that I personally can't get past it, it's that it makes me unwilling to repost it anywhere, since I'd mostly be sharing annoyance. It would also certainly get downvotes on reddit and similar link sharing sites, and not get reshared much on twitter or Facebook, because people don't like getting a popup barrier when they think they've clicked on an article. Which is why this particular article is not going to do well in getting more publicity for this story.

GavinNovember 29, 2013 11:44 PM

The reason the U.S. government wants to kill these resolutions is because they're the only country with a major cyber warfare division that will actually follow the resolutions. Russia is the country that keeps trying to push this stuff through but they won't actually follow the resolution if it does go through just like they didn't follow the chemical weapon sanctions during the Cold War. China and N. Korea certainly won't follow the resolutions. The only country that would be limited by this is the U.S. and that would mean they would have no bargaining chips from keeping the rest of the countries with cyber capabilities from doing whatever they want.

GreggDecember 4, 2013 9:46 AM

As the page is loading click the "Stop" button on your browser (near Refresh). This has always worked wonderfully for me.

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