American Eavesdropping – The Ethics of it

A Modern Uncle Tom
Recently a lot of hue and cry is being made about the fact that an American agency has been spying on a lot of communications around the world. Personally I do not think much of it because if there is nothing to hide in one's doings then one need not worry about being overheard, even all google and yahoo communications. There is often something unethical in a communication one wants to keep secret. Criminals and Terrorists definitely want to do so and it is here this American agency helps by disrupting such activities and making the world a safer and better place. However, it seems that this agency got carried away with its ability to snoop and even eavesdropped on friendly leaders such as Angela Merkel.

True when such snooping is done American laws may not have been broken. It is always possible to carry out the dirty work on foreign soil to prevent that as it is possible to incarcerate fellow human beings forever on Guantanamo Bay.  But, what about the ethics of it all? How does one decide questions of ethics in a complex modern world? The answer is not difficult, just do as the saints and Mystics of lore said a long time ago – Do unto others as you would wish them do unto you.  If this American agency does not mind President Obama being spied upon by a German or European Agency they should go ahead and spy on Angela Merkel. Frankly speaking, I would rather gift my neighbor and friends with fruits and  sweet scented flowers instead.

One thing for sure is unethical. In Hindi that is called – Ek to Chori doosri Sina Jori – that translates as – First do a wrong thing, then act tough when found out – Therefore if a wrong is perceived one must not go about hounding those who have helped uncover it. What else can be done? The answer to that question is again very simple. We all keep doing wrong. It is human to do so. All one has to do is say that one is sorry and that it will not happen again. Just as simple as that! Life is simple if one wishes it to be so. Trying to cover a wrong by acting tough and/or counter-blaming only worsens the scenario and changes a person from a simply intermittently bad and very human one to an evil one, a danger of becoming a part of the axis of evil that spans the globe.

UPDATE: November 2, 2013

Today morning the Times of India , Page 12 carried this report:

" US Secretary of State John Kerry became the first high official of the Obama Administration to acknowledge an American spying overreach saying that the National Security Agency may have gone too far although he insisted eavesdropping was necessary to combat terrorism ------ and -- President Obama is now doing a thorough review --in order that nobody will have the sense of abuse ..we are going to make sure that does not happen in future"

Long live America! 
It is moves such as these that have made America a great nation. This blogger would like to think that this blog post contributed towards this decision seeing the language, identical choice of words, and content of it. There are other past posts in this blog on America and Obama too which too have been surely noted

Uncle Tom can now safely return to being Uncle Sam :)


Vincent said…
Basically I agree with you. But if one is in a helpless position one has to act tough. Edward Snowden has broken American laws and betrayed his own solemn promises. Now he is trying to evade the consequences.

His attempt to know better than the organization to which he owed loyalty has seriously messed up efforts to keep the world safe from terrorism.

The secret information gathered from the spying activities might have been used for corrupt or illegal purposes, but that's how the world is. If he knew of such purposes, he could have taken more honourable actions to salve his conscience.

Do unto others as you would wish them do unto you is a sound rule of ethics. I recently read about another, from Immanuel Kant, German philosopher with very complicated ideas. He called it the Categorical Imperative, and it goes like this:

"Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law."

Or in simple terms, behave in the way that you would wish everyone to behave. Thus, if you avoid all taxation, consider whether you would find it acceptable to live in a country where nobody paid any taxes.
ashok said…
Vincent you have gone back to your original profile image, I kind of liked the last one. It was very impressive.
ashok said…
Thanks for your thoughtful comments Vincent.

An ancient Chinese philosopher put it in negatives - do not do unto others as you would not have them do to you and I think the Buddha had a slightly different version too, that I have presently forgotten.

Just today on Indian TV some persons were questioning a person's loyalty to a certain religious organisation here that he had been in for several years and then walked out after finding it was involved in dishonorable practices. I think in this case his loyalty was to what he believed was the right thing and I think that has to take precedence over loyalty to any human set up. That is how civilisation has progressed since the beginning of time. If laws and practices were always upheld even if wrong we would still have continued with racism, women sans rights, witches on stakes, dictators and feudal monarchs, slavery and a flat earth.
Vincent said…
Yes, walking out would be the honourable thing. But Snowden is guilty of theft, stealing secrets. It was the essential thing in his job to keep those secrets. He could have honourably resigned first, then told the world that things were going on that he personally judged immoral. But he would still have a duty not to betray those secrets.

As for that photo, I now don't think it suitable as a profile image. It was taken from a family snapshot. I hanker for personal privacy, now that I've published my book on Amazon. It's called The Embrace of Gaia and comes at a special low price of 150 rupees in India, but $8 US everywhere else. I'll have to do something to publicize it, but the inspiration for that has not yet arrived.
ashok said…
Vincent even though I wish Eddy Snowden can spend Christmas at home in USA and hope this opinion contributes towards making that possible, far more important is the overall issue of US Eavesdropping and it does seem now as per the update posted yesterday, that it is on the way to being sorted out and rectified. I believe that this blog post has contributed towards this revision along with a lot of other data and a reassment of national interests that goes into revision of policy.

ashok said…
Congratulations on your book, Vincent. Do send the link as a comment here. It will contribute towards publicity. I am certain it will be a great read.
Vincent said…
Thanks for the offer, Ashok. I shan't go so far as to provide the link. In my ethical system, that would be spamming!

I'm glad you came out directly with your views on Mr Snowden. I would like him to spend Christmas in the USA too, where he would face justice, and have the opportunity to defend his actions in court. But he's too cowardly, apparently.
ashok said…
Yes we do differ on our views on Snowden, don't we!

I do not believe though that he should not face the law. Everyone has to. The law has to upheld but in case the law has the possibility of pardon I believe that should be granted to him in view of the good he has contributed to humanity.

We apparently differ a lot on the ethics of providing a link when asked for. However, that is not necessary since you already gave the name of the book and it can be searched easily , but I shall not do it because in my ethics I do not look up stuff about friends if I am not sure they would like me to. If you wish me to look it up and add a few words of praise that your writing deserves I shall certainly try to do so

(not many of your views though which seem to me to be prompted by bitterness about life, I learned to manage that by holding myself responsible for much in life rather than the world.

One question_ why did you become gald at my views? :)
Vincent said…
I was glad for your directness ins expressing your views, leaving the reader in no doubt as to where you stood about Snowden. When you spoke about the person who left the religious organization, and said that his loyalty was to what he believed was the right thing, I wasn't clear what you were referring to, and what exactly you approved or disapproved in the situation.

The book is now separate from its author, and though you might find in it things you had read in the blog, any words of praise or criticism would be welcome when based on a reading of the book!

Here's a link to Amazon India, which provides a brief description of it.

As for bitterness about life, I would put it differently and admit to certain conservative prejudices which clash with certain liberal ideas. I'm prepared to air those prejudices, but only in a suitable context. If I met Snowden socially, for example, I'd respect him as any other human being, I'm sure, and avoid all reference to the things which have made him a hero to some and a traitor to others.

Speaking of conservative and liberal, in the American context I generally approve of neither. For example I support Pakistan's sense of outrage at the assassination of a Taliban leader by drones. The Americans are technically capable of doing it and the world is probably a better place in theory without that Taliban leader but as a Brit I support the inflexible rule of requiring a fair trial before carrying out a sentence on an accused.
ashok said…
Thanks for the link Vincent. I shall look it up as far as praise or criticism I developed a principle long ago fro friends and associates, as regard their work, I do not record criticism although I may let them know personally and choose silence instead. As a Professor many students approached every year for reco's and that was the pirinciple and has continued now.

As regard the religious loyalty bit it was in reference to a person who was a whistle blower on TV about a scam Guru, there are many around nowadays and a existing supporter was accusing him of being disloyal. However, I completely support the whistle blower instead.

Yes as regards conservative /liberal etc. I too do not have views that completely support either side but rather go for support issue wise. Same with religions that exist in our world. That is the sensible approach since human organisations by their very nature cannot be perfect. Blind following is good only for those not capable of an independent application of mind, or those compelled to for whatever consideration.
ashok said…
Just went back and edited the post removing phrases containing the S word. Those appear appropriate in the heat of the moment but not in calmer states :)
Vincent said…
What S word? I'm mystified.
ashok said…
There was the use of Shit in a couple of phrases in the post. Vincent have posted a review with five stars. A review of your work has been posted at:
Vincent said…
I never noticed the word.

Ashok, that was so sweet of you, I mean the review. I honestly didn't think it would be possible to write a sincere review without actually reading the book. But you managed it and I know it came from the heart. As for the disagreements, yes, we seem to thrive on them. They make our conversations fun.

ashok said…
It was a pleasure Vincent. Hope we agree on this one :) Look forward to a paperback version soon. Have you examined Createspace for that?

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