By approving the collection of webcam images of millions of innocent people who were not suspected of committing any crimes or wrongdoing, the NSA and its UK counterpart have crossed a line, if the allegations are true, into rogue, government-within-a-government abuse of power on an almost unimaginable Orwellian scale:
Reaction, as one might imagine, has been sharply critical.
“Secretly intercepting and taking photographs from millions of people’s webcam chats is as creepy as it gets…Orwell’s 1984 was supposed to be a warning, not an instruction manual,” said Big Brother Watch.
Yahoo said in a statement that it “strongly call(s) on the world’s governments to reform surveillance law.” That is not enough, this time. All of the officials who approved this monstrous mass spying on millions of innocent people should be immediately fired, prosecuted and imprisoned, and Congress should begin impeachment proceedings against President Obama if he approved it (again, if the allegations are accurate):
An interview with the reporter who first reported the news:
The documents, leaked to the news media by Edward Snowden, reveal that the spying began during President Bush’s administration in 2008 and continued into Obama’s presidency until at least 2010 (some activity continued until at least 2012). It will be interesting to find out who approved the spying and whether anyone from the Bush or Obama administrations will serve time in prison.
The documents reveal that the vast majority of the images are of people — many of them children — who were not suspected of any wrongdoing. The government’s stated purpose of spying on millions of innocent people, according to the documents, was to gather millions of webcam images — including many thousands of explicit photos — in case some of them might be useful later.
Although highly unlikely, if justice is carried out, innocent people who were not suspected of any criminal activity should be entitled to full disclosure of the images that were collected of them, and they should be provided with opportunities to sue the government for both compensatory and punitive damages.
Update: The U.S. Senate is planning to launch an investigation into the NSA’s role in the mass collection of webcam images:
“We are extremely troubled by today’s press report that a very large number of individuals – including law-abiding Americans – may have had private videos of themselves and their families intercepted and stored without any suspicion of wrongdoing. If this report is accurate it would show a breathtaking lack of respect for the privacy and civil liberties of law-abiding citizens,” U.S. Senators Ron Wyden, Mark Udall and Martin Heinrich said in a joint statement.
I am wondering what parents think about the NSA and GCHQ collecting millions of webcam photos of their children.