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Part 2 of 2
Hector Avalos is professor of religious studies at Iowa State University and the author or editor of six books on Biblical studies and religion, including his recently published work, The End of Biblical Studies. Join us for a fascinating presentation detailing how the more we discover about the ancient world, the less reliable we find the Bible.
From the dust jacket of The End of Biblical Studies: Hector Avalos calls for an end to biblical studies as we know them. He outlines two main arguments for this surprising conclusion.
First, academic biblical scholarship has clearly succeeded in showing that the ancient civilization that produced the Bible held beliefs about the origin, nature, and purpose of the world and humanity that are fundamentally opposed to the views of modern society. The Bible is thus largely irrelevant to the needs and concerns of contemporary human beings.
Second, Avalos criticizes his colleagues for applying a variety of flawed and specious techniques aimed at maintaining the illusion that the Bible is still relevant in today’s world. In effect, he accuses his profession of being more concerned about its self-preservation than about giving an honest account of its own findings to the general public and faith communities.
Israeli officials and experts are expressing disappointment over Washington’s decision to reduce military aid to Egypt in response to the events that followed the ousting of Egypt’s first freely elected President Mohammed Morsi on 3 July.
The New York Times said on Wednesday that Israel believes the US aid is an integral part of the 1979 peace treaty with Egypt, and an essential condition for maintaining stability in the region.
Regarding the US decision, “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said he would speak only ‘in general terms,’ but made it clear that any withdrawal of aid was a concern.”
The newspaper quoted an Israeli official speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, who warned that, “the implications of punitive cuts in Egypt’s aid could go far beyond the issue of Israeli-Egyptian relations.”
In a radio interview last week Netanyahu explained that: “peace was premised on American aid to Egypt”, which makes it a “most important consideration [for Israel]. And I’m sure that’s taken under advisement in Washington.”
In the wake of revelations over the last few months about massive NSA surveillance programs that violate the privacy of millions of innocent Americans, members of the congressional Intelligence Committees have begun to draft legislation that they say will reform these authorities. There’s just one problem – unlike reform bills proposed by other members of Congress, the Intelligence Committees’ bills might do more to entrench domestic surveillance programs than rein them in.
At a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing last month, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) described her proposals, and one thing is clear: they won’t fix anything. In fact, they may even make government surveillance worse. They include:
- Legalizing the warrantless wiretapping of people known to be located in the U.S. for 7 days where that surveillance began abroad; and
- Legalizing queries of U.S. persons’ names or e-mail addresses without probable cause, so long as it is for “articulable foreign intelligence purposes.”
These changes would represent significant expansions of the NSA’s domestic surveillance authorities under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, an already overly broad law that authorizes the suspicionless surveillance and collection of millions of Americans’ communications, including the contents of their emails.
Sen. Feinstein’s proposal also wouldn’t reform the bulk collection of Americans’ call records but actually put Congress’s stamp of approval on the unconstitutional and indiscriminate surveillance program. Her tweak to the program includes:
- Changing how the NSA accesses Americans’ phone records but NOT limiting whose records are swept up in the NSA’s bulk telelphony metadata program, under Section 215 of the Patriot Act.
The purpose of this reform, according to Sen. Feinstein, is “to change but preserve [the] program.” She is clear that she has no intention to fix the law or to rein in the dragnet collection of Americans’ call records. These changes would merely limit who can access the records and would codify the requirement that there be a “reasonable articulable suspicion that a phone number is associated with terrorism in order to query it.” This does not limit the current “3 hops” rule that may be sweeping up millions of additional Americans’ numbers into NSA databases or add any additional privacy protections.
To be fair, Sen. Feinstein’s proposals do include reporting requirements, such as making public the number of phone numbers queried by the NSA each year, and accountability measures, such as Senate confirmation of the director of the NSA. While these proposals for increased transparency and oversight would be important additions to these surveillance programs, they do not fix them. They do not stop the NSA’s mass surveillance of millions of innocent Americans.
- Ending bulk collection of Americans’ information under Section 215 of the Patriot Act;
- Prohibiting suspicionless, dragnet collection of Americans’ communications under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act;
- Increasing transparency of domestic surveillance programs with public reporting by the government and private sector, and limiting the issuance of gag orders associated with national security informational requests; and
- Allowing public judicial review of the NSA’s sweeping surveillance programs.
The good news is that dozens of members of Congress – like Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) – are already hard at work to pass fixes that would take big steps toward reining in the NSA’s domestic surveillance programs. And don’t forget that Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) got the House within 7 votes of defunding the bulk call records collection program altogether this summer. The momentum for reform is strong.
Despite this, Feinstein and some of her colleagues in the Senate and House Intelligence Committees are working on a proposal that would expand the NSA’s domestic surveillance authorities. In just a few short hours, the Senate Intelligence Committee will mark it up in secret, without even publicly releasing the initial draft language.
Americans are tired of excessive surveillance and secrecy. It’s time for Congress to legislate on these programs in the daylight and to pass real reforms.
- Political Moves: How Dianne Feinstein Cut Off One Of The Few Attempts At Actual Oversight By Senate Intelligence Committee (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Feinstein’s Senate Committee Defends NSA Phone Surveillance, Pushes Bill to Retain It (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Feinstein’s NSA ‘reform’ bill would expand snooping powers (EndtheLie.com)
That’s the conclusion of single payer advocate Dr. Quentin Young, national coordinator for Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), in his just released autobiography – Everybody In, Nobody Out: Memoirs of a Rebel Without a Pause.
“Had I been in Congress, I would have unequivocally voted against Obamacare,” Young writes. “It’s a bad bill. Whether it’s worse than what we have now could be argued. We rather think because of its ability to enshrine and solidify the corporate domination of the health system, it’s worse than what we have now. But whether it is somewhat better or a lot worse is immaterial. The health system isn’t working in this country — fiscally, medically, socially, morally.”
Young rejects the idea that President Obama should have compromised on single payer in the face of industry opposition.
“I don’t have any sympathy for the idea that the president had to compromise because his opposition was strong,” Young writes. “Winning is not always winning the election. Winning is making a huge fight and then taking the fight to the people — re-electing people who are supporting your program and defeating those who aren’t.”
Young first met the young Barack Obama in the mid-1990s at social gatherings.
At the time, Obama was lecturing at the University of Chicago Law School and practicing law.
“We did not become bosom buddies after a few of these social gatherings — I just viewed him as a nice, bright guy living in the neighborhood,” Young says.
When Obama ran for the Illinois Senate, Young supported him.
“I was happy with his views on health care,” Young writes. “He recognized that major reform was necessary and indicated support for a single-payer approach. No blushing friend, I took every opportunity to solidify his position. While not an official adviser, I tried to influence him as much as I could. My colleagues and I sent him notes touting the advantages of single-payer and the form it might take and talked with him and his staff about it whenever I had the chance.”
“I felt I did influence him,” Young said.
When Obama ran for the Senate in 2003, Obama told the Illinois AFL-CIO:
“I happen to be a proponent of a single payer universal health care program. I see no reason why the United States of America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, spending 14 percent of its Gross National Product on health care cannot provide basic health insurance to everybody. And that’s what Jim is talking about when he says everybody in, nobody out. A single payer health care plan, a universal health care plan. And that’s what I’d like to see. But as all of you know, we may not get there immediately. Because first we have to take back the White House, we have to take back the Senate, and we have to take back the House.”
But just a year later, Obama had flipped and came out against single payer in Illinois.
“I was very disappointed by his move to the right to keep the insurance companies in command,” Young told the Springfield State Journal Register in 2004. “I’m not accusing him of lying or misconduct. I’m accusing him of a lack of courage.”
But despite Obama’s “lack of courage,” Young supported Obama in his run for U.S. Senate and later for president. Young was just setting himself up for more disappointment.
At a town hall meeting in Portsmouth, New Hampshire in August 2009, Obama was asked whether he supported a universal health care plan.
“First of all, I want to make a distinction between a universal plan versus a single-payer plan, because those are two different things,” Obama said.
“A single-payer plan would be a plan like Medicare for all, or the kind of plan that they have in Canada, where basically government is the only person — is the only entity that pays for all health care. Everybody has a government-paid-for plan, even though in, depending on which country, the doctors are still private or the hospitals might still be private. In some countries, the doctors work for the government and the hospitals are owned by the government. But the point is, is that government pays for everything, like Medicare for all. That is a single-payer plan.”
“I have not said that I was a single-payer supporter because, frankly, we historically have had a employer-based system in this country with private insurers, and for us to transition to a system like that I believe would be too disruptive. So what would end up happening would be, a lot of people who currently have employer-based health care would suddenly find themselves dropped, and they would have to go into an entirely new system that had not been fully set up yet. And I would be concerned about the potential destructiveness of that kind of transition.”
“All right? So I’m not promoting a single-payer plan,” Obama said.
In March 2010, Congress passed the Affordable Care Act — Obamacare — by a narrow margin.
“PNHP’s policy experts did a line-by-line examination of the bill and, while acknowledging that it contains some modest benefits that make changes around the edges of our existing system, basically gave it two thumbs down,” Young writes. “To this day, much to the chagrin of many of our friends who wanted reform, I remain adamant in my rejection of Obamacare.”
“Why? We want a system that excludes the private insurance companies,” Young writes. “ We demand such exclusion not because these companies are good or evil (although we think they’re pretty evil). Rather, the reason to exclude them is that they don’t address the needs of the American people.”
Young also rejects the idea of a “public option,” pushed by Democrats such as Howard Dean. A public option “would not have made any significant difference on the overall impact” of Obamacare “contrary to the view of many progressive who believed that it would,” Young says.
“Since WWII, we have learned a lot about disease and certainly have had dramatic improvements in what we can do,” Young writes. “I’m talking about surgery of the heart, vaccination, nutrition issues. All these things have been largely defined in the last half-century. We’ve had something approaching a 12-year life expectancy rise just from scientific intervention.”
“We have all this knowledge, all these options, but we have a very backward financing and delivery system and the result is a great deal of human suffering,” Young says. “And that’s why we remain opposed to the Affordable Care Act. We think we have a winning proposition despite the reality in Congress. Polls repeatedly vindicate our position. A solid majority of the public and 59 percent of doctors support the single payer approach.”
“President Obama could have made it happen,” Young says. “He could have stuck to all the virtues of single payer. And I won’t deny he may have been defeated in the first round. There’s no question that this fight has been dirty and it’s going to get dirtier.”
As two new US ‘Hunter’ drones are set to start traversing German airspace next Monday, the army remains firm that they will be used solely for training drone operators rather than spying purposes, and will not be carrying weapons.
The Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) facility was officially opened at Vilseck Army Airfield on Monday by 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command (JMTC). A letter of agreement between US and German authorities allows them the use of two ‘air bridges’ in the east of the country to train operators, it will be the first time a US unmanned aerial vehicle will fly beyond the limits of military training areas.
Hunter MQ-5B systems will span the distance between Hohenfels and Grafenwoehr, in the south east of the country, about 100km east from Nuremberg. Hohenfels is approximately 100km further south from Grafenwoehr.
The project has sparked concern after news began to leak out this summer. The US army has been channeling its efforts into gaining approval for the mission since 2007. “Some reports came out before we even knew we had approval,” Brig. Gen. Walter E. Piatt, JMTC Commander told Stars and Stripes.
Local communities have expressed apprehension about US drones being in German airspace. Germans are concerned about potential violation of their freedoms after the drones come into operation. The recent scandal surrounding NSA spying activities in Germany and the protests that followed, has heightened public skepticism.
“It’s a big issue here in general, and it’s a very German topic,” Constanze Schulze, a reporter for ARD Bavaria stated. “There are many discussions going on about unmanned units, and of course there is some concern. I think that’s why you see so many reporters here [in Vilseck]. Everyone is talking about it.”
Politicians have also expressed concerns. Reinhold Strobl of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SDP) said that the public was informed “too late” and that there was “inadequate” information provided by the German authorities and US military ahead of the deployment. If it was not for test flights conducted in July, the politician says, Germans would have been left completely in the dark.
Other politicians complained about the noise, saying that drones that reach 175kph “have the volume of a lawn mower,” according to Peter Braun, the mayor of Schmidmühlen.
Richard Reisinger from the Christian Social Union Party (CSU) also said that the way the public was informed about the issue lacked transparency. “What happens to the collected data?” he asks, expressing concern of potential risk of information misuse that would violate privacy.
When Snowden’s leaks were first revealed, German Chancellor Angela Merkel claimed that she learned of the US surveillance programs through press reports. However, it later came to light that Germany’s BND intelligence service sends “massive amounts” of intercepts to the US and UK daily. Such revelations sparked a wave of protests across Germany calling on the government to provide more privacy and stop US spying activities.
Hunter MQ-5B are currently the largest and most advanced of their type, and will not be armed, and will be controlled from the ground. The distance apparently reflects that which soldiers would have to navigate in Afghanistan, operators said. The vehicle will travel between approximately 11,000 and 14,000 feet in the sky.
“The air bridge will only be used for transit between the two training areas,” according to Col. John Norris, Commander of the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels. He added that “no UAS will carry weapons through the air bridge.”
Drone operator Sgt. Carson Wilson reiterated that Germans had no need for concern. “We’re here to let people know the camera is only to avoid obstacles, not to watch what people are doing,” he said.
“Although we only use UASs at JMTC to train Soldiers — they are not armed, nor do they record data when in flight,” said Piatt. “We understand that our German neighbors have concerns and we want to make sure we address those concerns.”
On Tuesday, an open house was hosted that was aimed at alleviating any worries the German population may have over the presence of US drones. On Wednesday, local media were invited to explore the new facility.
“I wanted to invite our German neighbors and members of the press to come in and see the facility, see and handle the UAS aircraft that are flying at the Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels training areas and speak directly with the soldiers who maintain and fly them,” Piatt said.
During the event, two other types of UAS were displayed alongside the Hunter: the Raven and the Shadow. The vehicles were accompanied by their respective operators, maintenance crews and translators for each one. So attendees would be informed about what the training would entail, maps of the air corridors were on display alongside the vehicles that would navigate the routes.
JMTC officials said that the training with UAS is just one of many US army tools in the area, alongside fire ranges and simulation resources to prepare forces for conflict and battlefield strategy.
“Hopefully, this shows that we aren’t keeping any secrets here,” Piatt said.
On August 15, Horacio Cartes, a millionaire, businessman, and alleged drug-trafficker assumed the presidency in Paraguay, leading the Colorado Party back into power after a four-year interruption from its 61-year rule by Fernando Lugo, who was deposed last year in a “parliamentary coup.” Cartes has been investigated by the U.S. government for money laundering and drug trafficking, according to this 2010 U.S. diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks.
Since Cartes started his term eight weeks ago, several announcements have been made regarding Paraguay’s social and economic policy that are worth noting.
Only a week after having taken office, Paraguay’s Congress –in which the Colorado Party has a majority in both houses– granted the president the power to deploy the military within the country to carry out policing activities. Despite opposition from human rights organizations who fear a return to dictatorship-era military operations, three days later Cartes ordered 400 military personnel to areas in which disputes over land tenure are ongoing. On August 28th the military entered an elementary school with demands to interview children on the whereabouts of suspected rebels and arrested several land rights activists and peasant leaders in the area.
The military powers granted to Cartes are especially alarming in a country that spent most of the 20th century either in political turmoil or under brutal dictatorship. The increased militarization of the Cartes regime is occurring in a context of growing discontent over public sector layoffs and privatization plans.
Paraguay lacks an adequate system for collecting taxes and has a hard time financing social spending. With few mechanisms for distributing wealth and increasing what little there is of social services to the population, any gains from high economic growth rates that Paraguay has been experiencing this year and last are likely to benefit mostly the wealthy.
Seventy-seven percent of Paraguay’s land is still owned by 1 percent of the population and poverty reduction has been slower in Paraguay than in other countries in the region. The UN’s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean and Paraguayan government’s estimates for poverty in 2011 and 2012 have differed, with figures ranging between 32-50 percent, but showing a significant reduction during Fernando Lugo’s unfinished presidency. Cartes claims that his government’s “obsession” will also be to fight poverty and increase social spending.
But a little over 10 days ago Cartes announced a massive layoff of 4,000 government workers. This week he announced that another 15,000 layoffs are expected by December. Cartes says that the government lacks the funds necessary to pay the salaries of all 258,000 government employees. Despite accusations from at least one opposition senator who insists that layoffs are being used to strengthen the power of the Colorado Party, the Cartes government maintains that there is no persecution involved in the layoffs, and that it is implementing a system based on meritocracy. Additionally, according to this Associated Press interview with Treasury Minister Germán Rojas, public workers’ salaries will cease to be adjusted to keep up with inflation.
Cartes’ government has used the argument of budget shortfalls to defend a move toward privatization. A bill introduced in mid-September and currently waiting for approval from congress would open Paraguay up to the privatization of infrastructure services in the transport, electric and sanitation sectors, including the dredging of the Paraguay River; construction of, and tolls for, roads, railroad and electric services. Cartes has framed his bill as a “public-private alliance,” but five of the largest unions in the country and the center-left opposition Frente Guasú insist on the “privatizing” nature of the bill, also criticizing it for granting the executive complete decision-making power over concessions, and the guarantee that losses will be covered by the state, not the company. The first three days of October have been met with protests and roadblocks throughout the country in response to mounting anxieties over privatization and one-time cuts to teacher’s salaries following their month-long strike.
The last eight weeks in Paraguay have stirred up controversies, anxieties and memories of an unpleasant past. While it is impossible to know what the outcomes of Cartes’ policies will be, militarization, massive layoffs, and privatization have often been followed by increased inequality, greater poverty, and major discontent among the populace in other countries where governments have pursued a similar path. It is these types of neoliberal policies that coincided with a collapse in economic growth throughout Latin America in the 1980s and 1990s, and it is the rejection of these policies that has led to the repeated election of center-left governments in much of Latin America since the end of the ‘90s, (including Paraguay’s own recently-ousted president Fernando Lugo) that gives us some notion about what could be in store for Paraguay’s future.
In Latin America, opposition to military intervention in Syria reflects the wariness of a region long beset with U.S. interventions of its own
As political attention has shifted from a potential U.S. military strike against Syria to a potential agreement on the dismantling of Syria’s chemical weapons arbitrated by Russia, all eyes are on the United States, the Middle East, and key actors in Europe.
But what has been the reaction in other parts of the world?
In Latin America at least, which holds two rotating seats on the UN Security Council, the reaction reflects the wariness of a region long beset with U.S. interventions of its own.
By and large, Latin American nations have opposed a military operation against Damascus. Regional blocs like the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) have passed resolutions calling for negotiations and a cessation of hostilities.
A leading opponent of the “military option” is Argentina, which along with Guatemala currently represents the region at the Security Council.
Throughout the years of conflict in Syria, Argentina has maintained an anti-intervention and anti-military approach regarding the international community’s involvement. Specifically, the Argentine government has pushed for dialogue between the warring parties within Syria. Hector Timerman, the Argentine minister of foreign affairs, notes that his country has proposed initiatives such as “a weapons embargo, humanitarian assistance, and an emergency meeting of the General Assembly” to address the ongoing violence.
Allegations that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against civilians did not sway Buenos Aires’ stance. In August, Timerman declared that “Argentina will never propose or support a foreign military intervention. The Argentine people will not be complicit in new deaths.” An August communiqué released by his ministry emphasized that “for the Republic of Argentina, the conditions are not present for a foreign military intervention since in spite of the time that has passed and the hundreds of thousands of victims, all the mechanisms established by international law have not been utilized.”
In early September, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner met with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon during the G-20 summit in Saint Petersburg, Russia. She reportedly proposed to the UN leader that the chancellors of the 15 member states on the Security Council travel to Syria to see if a ceasefire could be achieved. At the time of this writing, no further development has been reported on this proposal.
Argentina’s opposition to military intervention in Syria fits with its previous history of keeping out of foreign conflicts. Ariel Gonzalez Levaggi, executive director of the Centro Argentino de Estudios Internacionales (CAEI), a foreign policy think tank in Buenos Aires, explained that “Argentina has a tradition of neutrality that was modified in the 1990s but has continued during the era of Kirchner rule. The Argentine government was against the invasion of Iraq, the attack against Libya, and now Syria.”
It is worth noting that some Syrian expatriates in Argentina occupy positions in governmental offices. The extent to which this Syrian community is influential enough to affect Argentine foreign policy is under debate. In early September around 50 members of the Syrian community in Buenos Aires protested against U.S. military intervention outside the Syrian embassy.
Some Argentine analysts have declared that escalating the war in Syria could have detrimental effects for Argentina, particularly in terms of energy. In a September 7 article published in the Argentine daily La Nación, experts explained that an expanded war could increase the price of oil, which would hurt the South American state’s already dire economy. One analyst explained how, since 2009, Argentine exports to the Arab world have grown by 20 percent, and prolonged warfare could hurt Arab countries’ demand for Argentine exports.
Argentina’s anti-intervention stance is in line with the positions of most other South American governments. At a UNASUR summit in Suriname on August 30, they signed a declaration condemning “external interventions” in Syria and calling for a peaceful resolution to the conflict. CARICOM’s Secretariat passed a similar resolution in early September, condemning the use of chemical weapons in Syria but also urging the international community not to engage in military actions against the Assad regime.
Not all Latin American nations share this view, however. Guatemala, which holds the region’s other Security Council seat, has openly expressed its support for U.S. intervention in Syria. “We clearly and definitely support the decision that the U.S. president has taken so that chemical weapons, which cause mass deaths, will not be utilized again,” said President Otto Perez Molina on September 1. “That is Guatemala’s position.”
It is unsurprising that Guatemala is siding with Washington, as the country’s government has long had close relations with the United States. Guatemala receives significant amounts of aid from Washington ($110 million in 2011 and an estimated $95 million in 2012) and wants to see this kind of assistance continue. Agreeing with Washington’s foreign policy decisions is an easy way for the country’s right-wing government to maintain ties based on security initiatives (like Operación Martillo) and trade (CAFTA).
As a representative on the UNSC, therefore, Argentina has been accurately reflecting the stance against military intervention held by other South American and Caribbean governments. This fits with the country’s drive to forge a regional politics more independent of Washington. Guatemala’s stance, by contrast, harkens back to an earlier era when Washington’s dictates largely set the tone for the hemisphere.
Nevertheless, the final point that needs to be addressed is whether Argentina, or even a united South America and Caribbean, have had any relevance in the decision making process in Washington, Beijing, London, Paris, or Moscow regarding intervention in Syria. The short answer is no.
In Syria, Buenos Aires, Lima, Montevideo, and Kingston have had little influence (or none at all) in what the powers-that-be have decided. While the aversion of Western military strikes on Syria may be considered a relief, the way it was achieved exemplifies how little weight agencies like the United Nations—and particularly the non-permanent members of the Security Council and the Global South in general—continue to have in global security affairs.
W. Alejandro Sanchez is a Senior Research Fellow at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs. Follow Alejandro via Twitter.
Brazilian lawmakers indicated that, in lieu of direct teleconferences with Edward Snowden to gain further insight into allegations of NSA spying in their country, they may seek to seize documents now held by American journalist Glenn Greenwald.
On Wednesday Greenwald spoke to Brazilian senators currently investigating evidence of US as well as British and Canadian espionage in the Latin American country.
The legislators are part of a probe into potential foreign surveillance — the Comissão Parlamentar de Inquérito, or CPI — called into action by President Dilma Rousseff in the wake of initial news reports alleging that even the president’s online communication had been intercepted.
Greenwald, who appeared along with his partner David Miranda, a Brazilian national, broached several topics during the hearing, including the possibility of granting asylum to NSA contractor turned whistleblower Edward Snowden.
So far, Brazil has been vague as to whether it would seriously consider extending Snowden, who is currently residing in Russia, an offer of political asylum.
“There are many nations saying, ‘We’re glad to be learning all this information,’ but almost nobody wants to protect the person responsible for letting the world discover it,” Greenwald told the panel.
In the meantime, Brazilian legislators seem eager to find out the extent of foreign surveillance on the country in greater detail.
To that end, the country’s government — specifically, the CPI inquiry — is now seeking to establish teleconferencing sessions with Snowden.
Asked by the commission to turn over documents obtained through the whistleblower Greenwald refused, citing the need for a separation between journalism and government. His partner, Miranda, also cited that divulging the documents would constitute an “act of treason” and prevent Greenwald from entering the US again.
One Brazilian Senator, Ricardo Ferraço, went so far as to suggest that the government commission seek the authority of the country’s courts to seize documents now held by Greenwald if such communication with Snowden proved unfeasible.
Unlike allegations of NSA surveillance in the US, coverage of the agency’s activities in Brazil have taken on a broader scope, and in particular centered on the country’s economy.
Greenwald himself has shaped the narrative of Snowden’s disclosures through his testimony to Brazil’s government, as well as his work with the O Globo newspaper and Rede Globo’s news television.
In August, the journalist told Brazil’s government that alleged American espionage in Brazil was centered on gaining economic advantages rather than on any national security concerns.
“We now have several denunciations that show that the spy program is not about terrorism. It is about increasing the power of the American government,” Greenwald told senators on Wednesday, speaking in Portuguese.
In the most recent report last Sunday, Greenwald said on Globo network television that Canadian spies had targeted Brazil’s Mines and Energy Ministry, intercepting the metadata of phone calls and emails passing through the ministry.
The impact of the steady stream of surveillance allegations on Brazil has been swift. Last month Petrobras announced that it would be investing $9.5 billion over the next five years to heighten its data security.
Meanwhile, Communications Minister Paulo Bernardo announced that the country’s government was pursuing legislation requiring domestic data exchanges to use locally made equipment.
- Brazilian president postpones visit to Washington over US spying (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Canadian spy agency ‘dissected’ Brazilian Energy Ministry (alethonews.wordpress.com)