The Need To Know
In 1998 and 2000, the European Parliament Science and Technological Options Assessment (STOA) published detailed analysis of the illegal activities of the US National Security Agency's spying activities in Europe. The Parliament set up the Temporary Echelon Committee, which confirmed the serious allegations that the Echelon spying network existed and was siphoning off telephone calls. Email messages for political and economic gain. However, since it reported in September 2001, the core messages of accountability were largely lost in the clamor surrounding demands for new surveillance powers and capacities in the so called US 'war against terror.'
The summer 2012 revelations by Edward Snowden of the breath taking extent of US spying capacity have shown that we have entered a new and disturbing era where one state has unprecedented power to spy on all others, ostensibly for defense purposes but in practice for political and commercial advantage. We have entered a new era of global surveillance which is almost beyond imagining. Given that the rise of these new American capacities was accompanied by deception and cover up of US practices of torture, kidnap and extrajudicial execution in the ensuing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, trust in any assurances about legal safeguards has been massively eroded. What now lies in store if civilian concepts of legality and proportionality have been replaced by military doctrines and metaphors of "battle-spaces which see?"