UN Will Censure Illegal Spying, But Not US or NSA
UNITED NATIONS – When the 193-member General Assembly adopts a resolution next month censuring the illegal electronic surveillance of governments and world leaders by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), the U.N.’s highest policy-making body will spare the United States from public condemnation despite its culpability in widespread wiretapping.
A draft resolution currently in limited circulation – a copy of which was obtained by IPS – criticises “the conduct of extra-territorial surveillance” and the “interception of communications in foreign jurisdictions”.
But it refuses to single out the NSA or the United States, which stands accused of spying on foreign governments, including political leaders in Germany, France, Brazil, Spain and Mexico, among some 30 others.
The draft says that while the gathering and protection of certain sensitive information may be justified on grounds of national security and criminal activity, member states must still ensure full compliance with international human rights.
The resolution will also emphasise “that illegal surveillance of private communications and the indiscriminate interception of personal data of citizens constitutes a highly intrusive act that violates the rights to freedom of expression and privacy, and threatens the foundations of a democratic society.”
Additionally, it will call for the establishment of independent oversight mechanisms capable of ensuring transparency and accountability of state surveillance of communications.
And the resolution will request the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi PIllay, to present an interim report on the issue of human rights and “indiscriminate surveillance, including on extra-territorial surveillance.”
This report is to be presented to the 69th session of the General Assembly next September, and a final report to its 70th session in 2015.
Chakravarthi Raghavan, a veteran Indian journalist who has been reporting on the U.N. and its activities since the 1960s, both in New York and later in Geneva, told IPS the resolution may help start a process under which the national security interests of every state, international security and right to privacy and human rights of people can be discussed and a balance found in some universal forum.
“Otherwise, the U.N. world order will break down, and no one will benefit or emerge unscathed,” he said.
Much will depend on the follow-up action that the General Assembly resolution calls for, and with what tenacity members pursue it.
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“Frankly, I am not at all clear that some of the nations raising the issue now are really serious,” said Raghavan, editor-emeritus of the Geneva-based South-North Development Monitor SUNS. “If they were, any one of them in Europe would have granted asylum to Edward Snowden, and not play footsie with U.S. in its attempts to have him jailed in the U.S. on espionage charges.”
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