While in London on Wednesday, US Attorney General Loretta Lynch made several comments that the European privacy laws were making it harder to stop terrorist attacks. She also stated her comments were not aimed at the UK, though. According to IBT, the US chief law enforcement officer shared the stage with Theresa May, saying that the two countries shared a “special relationship”. May, the UK Home Secretary, has caused a stir recently as well.
Many around the world became aware of May when she ironically stated the UK government had been secretly spying on it’s citizens since 1984. Sadly, the admiration did not continue as Lynch critized the EU as a whole. She said the EU’s unwillingness to cooperate would make it more difficult to prevent massacres like the incedents in Paris and San Bernadino. She took the time to specifically mention the recent defeat of the Safe Harbor act after 15 years and call the move “disappointing”, because it was based on inaccurate information.
Unlike the EU, the UK and US governments seem prefectly happy to keep violating the individual rights of their citizens in the name of national security. After Snowden revealed how extensive the spying was in 2013, more people started to care about their privacy. Does protecting the country mean that citizens are not entitled to their personal privacy? Attorney General Lynch implies such.
In an effort to appease privacy minded individuals, the Obama administration has said that they want to protect the civil liberties of citizens, and any data collection would be transparent. Whereas that is a nice sentiment, it is hard to see how spying like this and personal privacy can exist in the same space. Many feel the choice is mutually exclusive. Gathering information may be essential to preventing future terrorist attacks, and some may be acceptable. Fear mongering and shaming other groups because they do not agree with you, is not.
Over the generations, many things have been done in the name of national security, but that does not mean they are right. An example of this, is what happened in the US during World War II. American citizens of Japanese descent were placed in to internment camps because it was feared they would be sympathetic to Japan, instead of the US. Interestingly, most of the Japanese-Americans were OK with this move, because they did not feel it was appropriate to complain. In the future, will the domestic spying programs be viewed in the same light? We will have to wait some time to find out.