Once upon a time, there were rumors about a global surveillance network — Echelon. When the European Parliament decided to look into the matter, it turned out it did indeed exist. For years to follow there were rumors about US intelligence organisation NSA and its new capabilities to “collect it all”. And a few years ago, the Snowden documents exposed exactly that.
Then followed a state of resignation.
In 2013/14, it was brought to light that the NSA might have compromised the international clearing system for bank transfers, European run SWIFT. It’s a bit odd, as the US can have as much information about European bank transfers as they want, in accordance with the EU-US TFTP agreement. Newer the less, there were strong indications of something going on. This time the European police agency, Europol, didn’t even bother to look into the matter. In a European Parliament hearing Europol director Bob Wainwright explicitly said so. (The hearing is quite surreal. It’s all on video here. »)
In Germany, politicians softened their tone against the US/NSA when threatened with limited access to US intelligence. It also turned out that under the level of political polemic, the BND had been working very closely with the NSA all the time. And in Sweden, according to the Snowden files, SIGINT organisation FRA has access to NSA superdatabase XKeyscore. Swedish politicians (including the Greens, who are now in government) will not even comment on the legality of this.
The European Court of Justice has invalidated the EU data retention directive, finding it in breach of fundamental human rights. Never the less most EU member states are upholding (and in some cases implementing) data retention, leading national constitutional courts to object. But data retention fits well with US surveillance systems, so it seems to be less important if it is legal or not.
I could go on, but I better get to my point.
Politicians and intelligence bureaucrats are sending some pretty clear signals these days. They do not care about what is legal or not legal. They do not care if being exposed. They do not even comment on issues that ought to be fundamental in a democracy. The message is: This is the way it is. Live with it.
If there was ever need for a broad political movement against mass surveillance, it is now.