This week we joined human rights groups from around the world urging Congress to investigate & dismantle the United States’ National Security Agency’s communication surveillance program and prevent the creation of global Internet and telecommunications based surveillance systems. The broad coalition includes over 160 organizations and individuals signifying the impact of United States mass internet and telecommunications surveillance programs on citizens around the world.
In the aftermath of the NSA revelations, it has been extremely disappointing to witness the reactions from US top officials. To date there has been no word about the violations of fundamental rights of non-US citizens. By focusing on US citizens only, the authorities have displayed a blatant disregard towards the rights of non-US citizens around the world. This greatly impacts US global role in Internet freedom, privacy and human rights. The United States Government should understand that foreigners who use US-based Internet services are not fair game.
It is ironic that while the United States government has proactively promoted open access, freedom of expression, privacy and anti-censorship initiatives around the world, it stands as the worst offender of privacy rights. There is great disparity between speech and actions, which will have grave repercussions on policy and law-making in countries that have had a more ‘regressive’ view on these subjects. In all likelihood, advocates will be told: if they can, why can’t we? Guarantees and protections in law will certainly not serve as a sufficient counter argument. The fact of the matter is: what right does the US have to assume a higher moral ground over other countries and call for transparency, better policies, laws and open environments around the world when it certainly doesn’t practice what it preaches.
No citizen should be deprived of the right to communicate their personal thoughts. The idea of mass surveillance not only violates the right to privacy and human dignity, but threatens the very fundamental human rights of freedom of thought, opinion, expression and association. The fundamental human right to privacy as per Article 8 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
The Congress should realize that human rights are universal and Internet users around the world are entitled to the same rights to privacy as are US citizens.
Find the letter here