Blogposts by Mark Gibney

Mark Gibney

Belk Distinguished Professor at University of North Carolina-Asheville and Distinguished Visiting Professor at Lancaster University.

23 December 2013

“Everyone does it”: NSA Spying and International Law

Seemingly lost in the daily revelations uncovering massive levels of National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance – wiretapping and metadata collection alike – is the issue of who is responsible for these violations of the human right to privacy. The quick and ready answer is the United States and certainly no other country is anywhere near as well placed (or, apparently, as intent) on gathering information on what literally billions of people in the world are doing each day – whether it be who they talk to and email, where (physically) these individuals might happen to be at any given time and who is with them, and finally, what people say, believe and perhaps even think.

Yet, although the U.S. should shoulder the lion’s share of (moral) blame and (legal) responsibility, matters are not nearly as simple as this. For one thing, one of the common refrains, at least by defenders of such surveillance programs, is that “everyone” does it, which seems to suggest that the United States is no different from any other country.

Under this scenario, the United States spies on Germany – but Germany also spies on the United States. In that way, if all are responsible no single country could, or should, bear special responsibility.  (more…)