Sunday, 16 June 2013

Letter to the US Ambassador to Japan @AmbassadorRoos

So, I fired this off to Ambassador Roos a couple of minutes ago. I could have gone on, but seems to me that there is only really one pertinent question that I have a right to ask: is the US spying on me and my fellow residents of Japan? It's naive of me to expect a reply, but before I begin ascribing evil intent to the higher ups, I should at least follow protocol.

But I don't know what the protocol is for complaining about the surveillance state, so I just wrote an email, sent it to the only US embassy email address I had and put Mr Roos' twitter handle in the post headline. Someone in the know should read it.

Full transcript as follows, and a little easy listening too:

To John V. Roos, US Ambassador to Japan


Speaking as a resident of Japan, tapping away on my Apple computer, reading my Amazon tablet and posting this letter on gmail (and my Google-powered blog), it occurs to me I need to ask whether the US government been monitoring, recording or (dare I say) spying on my actions.

I realise that you are under no obligation to answer such a question, one that I naively posed to you in tweet three days ago. You probably have a policy not to comment on matters of intelligence, and certainly a wise one would be not to respond to every nutty tweet you receive (especially one from me), but I'm not talking about The Third Man cloak and dagger intelligence no doubt perpetrated by every great power given half a chance.

No, this is a question about spying on an entirely different scale, as I'm sure you appreciate. The recent allegations from former NSA operative Edward Snowden of widespread data-mining of millions of Americans have really disturbed me. I hope the allegations disturbed you and turn out to be untrue, because taken at face value they paint a picture of a surveillance state that, by its very existence, has quashed the democracy it was supposed to have been safeguarding.

But of particular concern to me, is that while it appears recent US laws have enshrined, at least theoretically, a legal framework to decide whether a surveillance operation on US citizens may go ahead, there is not even that flimsy theoretical protection for non-US citizens. In other words, foreigners, innocent of any crime, or even suspicion of committing any crime, are fair game to have their data recorded and used at the US government's whim, with no legal recourse. This doesn't strike me as very democratic, if true.

Maybe writing this open letter is an act of folly, but beneath my smart-ass blogger shell beats the heart of an idealist who still believes the United States has a core decency capable of turning the ship of state away from the totalitarian rocks it appears to be hell-bent on striking.

It's sad that it has come to this, that I have reason to ask: Is the United States government spying on the general public of Japan?

Given recent revelations, it's a reasonable question that I hope you will see fit to answer.

Patrick Sherriff,


Ἀντισθένης said...

This is where you go wrong: "the heart of an idealist who still believes the United States has a core decency capable of turning the ship of state away from the totalitarian rocks it appears to be hell-bent on striking."

There's never been any evidence from the US for that kind of optimism. Even joining WWII was about taking Britain's commercial empire. America has always been "re in tooth and claw."

Anonymous said...

Glad you did this and wonder if they will reply or ignore it. I think this is a question many of us have been wondering about.


Dave said...

I am afraid even without waiting for the answer of Mr. Roos, the answer is a pretty clear: yes the US is spying on you (or would, if it tickled their fancy) and no, you do not benefit from any of the protections commonly afforded US citizens by the US constitution.

The US Supreme Court has ruled time and again that all these protections only applied to citizens and, in some very limited specific cases, to non-citizen residing on US soil.

Not only have US agencies always intercepted, tapped and otherwise interfered with the communication and data of non-citizens in perfect legality (toward US laws), but there has never been the start of a controversy about that aspect of their practices. The only reason some concerned US citizens care about the current scandal is that US citizens might have ended up in that surveillance net "by mistake".

Patrick Sherriff said...

1st Greek Blogger Dude, even if what you say is correct, it's only fair to hear the official side. I've yet to hear an explanation, apology or anything other than backstabbing from journos who didn't get the scoop or who want to ingratiate themselves with the administration. Would like to know what the official line is, if they have one.

Madam Fox, thank you. I fear we all in our hearts know the answer. Sigh.


Yeah. But I can't be the only one who believes nationalism has had its day.