According to a report by David Kravets, the incident setting off the idea was of an ordinary purse snatching in 1976 in Baltimore. A young woman passed by walking alone to her suburban home had her purse snatched and the assailant fled with it. The assailant Michael Lee Smith was apprehended weeks later, the court case instituted against him continued for three years, leading to a 10-year prison term. "Almost 35 years later, the court's decision -- in a case involving the recording of a single individual's phone records -- turns out to be the basis for a legal rationale justifying governmental spying on virtually all Americans. Smith v. Maryland, as the case is titled, set the binding precedent for what we now call metadata surveillance.
This raises an interesting question though. The surveillance programme concerns surveillance of persons within the United States who were in contact with "terrorists" during the collection of foreign intelligence by the US National Security Agency (NSA) as part of the war on terror (David E. Sanger & John O' Neil January 23, 2006). Senior officials at the security agency determined that there is a "reasonable belief" that one party to a call between someone in America and someone overseas has a link to Al Qaeda, inside or outside the US. In light of global-terrorism incidents, this makes a lot of sense, in particular events leading to and onward 9/11. The tragic event that has changed the face of political relations between nations persuaded President George W. Bush to authorize the NSA to engage in a warrantless-wiretapping program.
Germany has summoned the US Ambassador to answer to the wiretapping claim. Merkel complained to President Barack Obama in a phone call after receiving information her cellphone may have been monitored. The White House said the US isn't monitoring and won't monitor Merkel's communications -- but didn't address what might have happened in the past.
The implications here are frightening. It means no one, and absolut ely no one, is safe from surveillance of a most intimate and/or professional nature.
The advance of technology has, no doubt, allowed for surveillance in a world ridden with terror at levels not possible before. It has on the other hand raised serious ethical issues. The questions raised are not limited only to the legality of the procedure but on a more basic level; can an over-excited government push the boundaries to a degree where any level of the loss of its citizens' privacy becomes necessary? Where phones are wiretapped of international leaders violating the "reasonable belief" clause, some serious inquiry is called for. According to a report, Germany, France demand 'no-spy' agreement with US. However this too can be violated if clause of "reasonable belief" is-no?
To set the record straight, it was much earlier, on June 6, 2013, that the Guardian reported that the NSA is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America's largest telecoms providers, under a top-secret court order issued in April. "The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an 'ongoing, daily basis' to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries." According to details the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) granted the order to the FBI on April 25, giving the government unlimited authority to obtain the data for a specified three-month period ending on July 19. The law on which the order explicitly relies is the so-called "business records" provision of the Patriot Act, 50 USC section 1861.
Relations between nations are built on trust and mutual respect and if lacking drives a wedge between the best of them. The world has come a long way. These allegations are a far cry from the days of Watergate, which included testimony provided by former staff members in an investigation conducted by the Senate Watergate Committee, revealing that President Nixon had a tape-recording system in his offices and he had recorded many conversations. He resigned.
Charles de Gaulle summed up international relations beautifully: "Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first; nationalism, when hate for people other than your own comes first.''
The writer is a lawyer, academic, and political analyst. She has authored a book titled A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan. Her Twitter handle is @yasmeen_9