Spying an international pastime

James Farmer

Edward Snowden’s latest revelations from Moscow show that the Australian government tried to tap the Indonesian president’s phone in 2009. This news was not taken well by the Indonesian government, which withdrew its ambassador to Australia in retaliation to the revelations. These revelations are nothing surprising, but they do shift the focus of spying revelations off of the U.S. for at least a little while. Ironically, in the furor over spying allegations, many have forgotten one important fact: every country spies.

While the U.S.’s program of spying on citizens, rather than government officials, may be unique (though it probably is not), it is definitely not alone in spying. Some spying agencies around the world are so well known and famous that they will ring a bell to the average GSU student. The Mossad, MI-6 and, of course, the U.S.’s own CIA are all renowned for their espionage capabilities. These famous organizations don’t just exist for show; they are actively spying on other states on an hourly basis.

Spying is a crucial part of the intelligence operations of a country, as relying only on what other governments want to tell you will leave a state in the dark as to the realities of global politics. Other states have to at least pretend to be offended when spying allegations arise, because they don’t want to admit that they are spying and compromise the programs.

That is not to say that spying is right or wrong or even justified. It is just the realities of international politics in which we live. This is a reason that many governments around the world feel threatened by Edward Snowden. He, like Julian Assange before him, threatens to reveal the secrets and activities of governmental spying agencies, ending all attempts by governments to “play stupid” about what is going on.

So next time someone goes on a tirade about how the U.S. government is terrible because of these spying allegations, just remember that the U.S. only looks that way because it got caught. In the grand scheme of things, it is probably one of the more tame spying programs in the world.