Mt. Vernon Register-News

November 2, 2013

U.S. needs new rules for intelligence gathering


The Register-News

---- — The reported eavesdropping by the United States on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s telephone conversations underscores the cold reality that the country’s intelligence gathering activities have even reached as far as the top leader of a friendly country.

If distrust toward the United States grows stronger among its allies, this could have an adverse effect on U.S. diplomacy. The administration of President Barack Obama should do its best to mend relations with Germany and other countries.

Still, it is unthinkable to expect the United States to scale back its eavesdropping activities. It would also be dangerous to believe this.

With the spread of Internet and mobile phone services, intelligence gathering via wiretapping has become more important for intelligence organizations. Especially since the Sept. 11, 2011, terrorist attacks on the United States, the NSA has continued to be at the forefront in wiretapping in terms of technology and scale.

U.S. intelligence gathering activities have certainly benefited allies regarding antiterrorist measures, which is why they have offered their cooperation, including data sharing.

Intelligence gathering is vital to ensuring national security.

If the United States curbs its eavesdropping activities, this would end up benefiting China and Russia, which have been engaged in their own intelligence gathering. Terrorists fearful of U.S. monitoring would also benefit.

We believe the United States should review the methods of its intelligence gathering activities both at home and abroad, as well as rules on keeping secrets.

Washington has announced that it will reexamine the nation’s intelligence gathering activities as a whole by the end of this year. Congress will go along with this move. We will be closely watching whether the review will lead to the establishment of a new intelligence gathering system.

Countries believed to be targets of U.S. eavesdropping will always need to devise anti-espionage measures. There is always the possibility that any country will conduct eavesdropping on leaders of what they perceive as hostile countries. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is no exception, though the government has denied he was a target of such activities.

We live in a time when communication can be tracked at any time and place. It is essential that diplomacy be conducted based on this premise.