Executive Director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee
Andrey Komarov - Head of International Projects, CERT-GIB CTO, GRPOUP - IB Oleg Nechiporenko - Retired Intelligence officer, Colonel, veteran of Intelligence Services department of KGB
Presenter Washington - Carmen Russell-Sluchansky
Presenter London - Brendan Cole
Presenter Moscow - Evgeny Sukhoi
1st Segment: Legal Focus, Government Overreach
Basic question for starters: was what Edward Snowden did an act of a national hero, in respect to the interests and protection of the Nation, or was it a harsh violation of ethics and law? Should he be prosecuted on US soil, and CAN he, for now the public eye’s attention is very much drawn to the issue of government surveillance of almost every citizen?
The NSA/PRISM revelation of course is a huge scandal. But will it produce coverage similar in scale to that of the Lewinsky or Iran-Contra scandals? I mean, this is, after all, a bipartisan scandal in which two successive administrations are equally complicit. Can we call it illegal surveillance, anyway? Under Patriot Act laws (by the way supported by Democrats and Republicans in Congress, and championed by both Obama and Bush administrations) the US government can require companies to provide private confidential information of customers only if it's approved by a special obedient court. But the truth is that this court usually rejects one request out of a thousand.
Is the US government becoming a global scapegoat for national security paranoia, or could that solely be the result of many other stories with 2nd Segment: Security vs Freedom Focus
Polls have shown more than 50% of the US population or OK with being monitored as long as it prevents terrorism threats in the future. So... it’s alright in the end? What if we were to learn not just metadata was being collected by PRISM, but also the contents of a phone call? How much of a game changer would that prove to be?
How deep does this rabbit hole go? If for once we have the consent of the population to tap phone calls and emails, as in ‘since I have nothing to hide, no harm is done’, then what will be happening next? Have the government monitor all of our movements? Not just through the GPS coordinates of our mobile phones, but simply make an obligatory nationwide requirement for all citizens to be wearing geo-loc bracelets? Where does the individual’s freedom come in in this equation? What if some of us feel unsafe even more, knowing Big Brother is watching, following and listening to you at all times? Do we have any say at all?
TO NECHIPORENKO: After the cold war a lot of people expected modern technology to make people free. Via Internet you can now watch television stations from other countries or read newspapers from hostile countries, or contact authors, whose books could bring you to jail some years ago. But in reality these same technologies make you very “unfree.” Now the government can know everything about your emails, your phone calls, your personal habits and preferences. So, where is freedom in today’s world? A question to all of the experts: what if YOU were the security chief of the US with a huge lot of foreign threats and unlimited gov’t resources? Wouldn’t YOU do the same to maximize your chances?
“The PRISM of snooping”
Shahid Buttar Executive Director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee
Karis McLarty- International human rights and civil liberties lawyer.
Andrey Komarov - Head of International Projects, CERT-GIB CTO, GRPOUP - IB
3rd Segment: War on whistleblowers
TO NECHIPORENKO: The American authorities fight back hard in these recent whistleblower scandals. They even wanted to accuse Snowden of spying for China – simply because he made his revelations from Hong Kong. Mr. Nechiporenko, you have a long cold war experience of intelligence work, can you tell us who are these people – spies or public activists? TO NECHIPORENKO: What was the fate of the failed agents during the cold war? Are the punishments, which people like Manning and Snowden face (if caught) comparable to the punishments inflicted on foreign agents during the cold war?
With millions now seeing Snowden as a hero, will there be more ‘copycats’ revealing state secrets to random people they meet? How, do you think, would people react to the same kind of information - will the Brits now change tactics should more whistleblowers appear? The UK is a pioneer of national security, with CCTV everywhere possible, but if you remember in the 2005 London tube bombings ‘bobbies’, police more than often accepted the fact it’s more important to stop a man rather than keep your population happy. Is it time to relax yet? no?
Is the PRISM story too complicated for the average American? Does the American public really care about the violation of personal freedom and privacy? Especially, when the government implies that only people of certain religions and ethnicities are affected by what Obama calls “modest enrichment of privacy”?