I. America conducts widespread secret surveillance across the globe
II. America sets China as the main target of its secret surveillance
III. America's unscrupulous secret surveillance programs
IV. America's global surveillance program hit by worldwide criticism
In June, 2013, the media in the UK, the United States and China'sHong Kong exposed the National Security Agency's clandestine surveillance program, codenamed PRISM, using documents released by the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The leaked information provoked shock and outrage. Subsequently, an investigation carried out by various Chinese government departments over several months confirmed the existence of snooping activities directed against China.
As a superpower, America takes advantage of its political, economic, military and technological hegemony to spy without restraint on other countries, including its allies. America's spying operations have gone far beyond the legal rationale of "anti-terrorism" and have exposed the ugly face of its pursuit of self-interest in complete disregard for moral integrity. These operations flagrantly infringe international laws, seriously impinge on human rights and put global cyber security under threat. As such, they deserved to be rejected and condemned by the whole world.
America's secret surveillance activities directed against China and other parts of the world include:
- Collecting data on nearly 5 billion mobile telephone calls across the globe every day;
- Monitoring German Chancellor Angela Merkel's cell phone for more than 10 years;
- Plugging into the main fiber optic connections between Yahoo's and Google's overseas data centers, and stealing data of hundreds of millions of customers;
- Monitoring mobile phone apps over a period of years to grab personal data;
- Waging large scale cyber-attacks against China, with both Chinese leaders and the Chinese telecoms giant Huawei as targets
Targets of American surveillance include the Chinese government and Chinese leaders, Chinese companies, scientific research institutes, ordinary netizens, and a large number of cell phone users. China sticks to the path of peaceful development, and sees no justification for being targeted by America's secret surveillance agencies under the guise of fighting terrorism.
America must provide explanations for its surveillance activities, cease spying operations that seriously infringe upon human rights, and refrain from causing stress and antagonism in global cyber space.
I. America conducts widespread secret surveillance across the globe
1. America spies on world leaders
At the end of 2013, The Guardian reported that as many as 35 leaders were on the NSA surveillance list, including United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.
On March 29 this year, the German news magazine Der Spiegel, citing a secret document from Snowden, revealed that 122 world leaders were under NSA surveillance in 2009, and the agency maintained a secret database on world leaders which included 300 files on Merkel. The list is in alphabetical order by first name, starting from "A", with the then prime minister of Malaysia Abdullah Badawi heading the list and Merkel sitting at the 9th spot in the "A" zone. The last on the list was Yulia Tymoshenko, who was prime minister of Ukraine at the time.
According to Spiegel Online, the NSA spied on UN headquarters and the EU mission to the UN. The surveillance covers politics, the economy and commerce.
In the summer of 2012, the NSA succeeded in breaking into the UN video conferencing system and cracking its coding system. "The data traffic gives us internal video teleconferences of the United Nations," Der Spiegel quoted one document as saying.
According to the New York Times, in May 2010, when the United Nations Security Council was weighing sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, several members were undecided about how they would vote. The then American ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, asked the NSA for help "so that she could develop a strategy." The NSA went to work swiftly, drawing up the paperwork to obtain legal approval for spying on the diplomats of four Security Council members.
According to documents leaked by Snowden, the NSA has spied on the missions and embassies of Brazil, Bulgaria, Columbia, the European Union, France, Georgia, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Venezuela and Vietnam, among others.
Apart from the UN Headquarters, the information technology infrastructure and servers of the EU and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have also been targeted by US intelligence. When the EU moved its UN office, the US relocated its bugs.
A document released by Snowden to the Guardian reveals that American spies based in North Yorkshire in the UK intercepted the top-secret communications of then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at the 2009 G20 Summit. This was just hours after Obama and Medvedev reached a consensus to build mutual trust during their talks.
A classified document dated June 2012 shows that then Mexican presidential candidate Enrique Pena Nieto's emails about naming some cabinet members were being read by the NSA. The US secret service also monitored the communications of Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff, and used a special software to track her emails and online chat.
Australian spy agency the Defence Signals Directorate worked alongside the NSA in mounting a massive surveillance operation on Indonesia during the UN climate change conference in Bali in 2007.
In June 2010, during the G20 Summit in Toronto, the NSA ran a six-day spying operation out of the US embassy in Canada.
Leaked documents show that Japan, Brazil and Iraq are key intelligence targets of US eavesdroppers for their "economic stability and impact" mission. For the "emerging strategic technologies" mission, Russia is a focus, along with India, Germany, France, South Korea, Israel, Singapore, Sweden and Japan. China, Germany, France, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Japan and another 10 countries, plus the UN, are listed as key targets of the "foreign policy" mission.
The New York Times concluded that the NSA "spies routinely on friends as well as foes" to achieve "diplomatic advantage over such allies as France and Germany" and "economic advantage over Japan and Brazil."
2. America spies on the public all over the world
The US surveillance on the Internet is so massive that it is able to monitor nearly everything a typical user does on the Internet. According to the Guardian, American intelligence uses a secret surveillance system known as XKeyscore, comprising 500 servers distributed around the world, to mine intelligence from the Internet. Leaked documents boast that XKeyscore is the NSA's "widest reaching" system covering "nearly everything a typical user does on the Internet."
Documents released by Snowden show that the NSA gathers around 5 billion records a day on the whereabouts of cell phones and these records comprise a vast database of information about the locations of hundreds of millions of devices. Also, the NSA collected about 2 billion cell phone text messages each day from around the world.
Some US media have remarked that intercepting suspects' telephones to obtain information is nothing new, but collecting such vast amounts of intelligence overseas is astonishing.
The Washington Post reported that the NSA secretly broke into the main communication links that connect Yahoo and Google data centers around the world. By tapping these links, the agency positioned itself to collect data at will from hundreds of millions of user accounts. By analyzing the data, the NSA can discover who sent or received emails, when and where, as well as email contents, including audio and video as well as text.
According to the Brazilian website Fantastico, the NSA has carried out so-called Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) attacks using fake security certificates to pose as a legitimate web service, bypass browser security settings, and intercept data that unsuspecting persons are attempting to send to that service. Google is among the services the NSA has impersonated.
The Guardian has revealed that the NSA routinely shares raw intelligence data with Israel without first sifting it to remove information about US citizens. This is despite earlier promises by the Obama administration to rigorously protect the privacy of innocent US citizens caught in the dragnet.
On Dec. 31, 2013, the German news magazine Der Spiegel quoted NSA papers describing how the agency collected sensitive data from Sea-Me-We 4, the key undersea telecommunications cable system linking Europe and Asia, as well as its plans to continue eavesdropping on other undersea cables.
The French daily Le Monde reported that the US spy agency tapped more than 70.3 million phone calls made in France between December 10, 2012, and January 8, 2013.
In an internal NSA document, smart phone operating systems such as iOS and Android are described as the "gold nugget of data resources". The NSA and the British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) have been collaborating on mobile phone surveillance since 2007, when the budget of the NSA was increased from $204 million to $767 million, allowing the agency to dig even deeper.
The Guardian and the New York Times have reported that the NSA targets smartphone apps to fish for users' personal data including age, nationality and location (based on GPS). The apps under surveillance include the popular game Angry Birds, Google Maps, Facebook, Twitter and the photo-sharing site Flickr.
The NSA has planted backdoor software in around 100,000 computers worldwide since 2008, giving it the capability to monitor them around the clock, as well as launch attacks. The agency can access and control these computers using radio waves even if they are not connected to a network.
Since 2010, the NSA has been snooping on US citizens to analyze their "social connectivity, to identify private information such as the users' associates, their location at a certain point of time, and their traveling companions."
All of the NSA's surveillance activities have been conducted in secret, following a secret US government decision to loosen restrictions on surveillance and bypass deliberation or discussion by the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. A memorandum filed by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) in 2006 warned about the possible abuse of surveillance.
The NSA applies sophisticated analytical techniques to identify what it calls "co-travelers," i.e. unknown associates of known targets. This project allows the NSA to explore the social links of known targets. The location and time of their activities can be extracted in under an hour from a vast database of information. Associates of known targets become the NSA's new targets.
US government officials have argued that these massive surveillance operations are legal and do not target US citizens, but US citizens traveling abroad are nevertheless subject to eavesdropping. US media have also reported that the NSA carried out a pilot project to collect huge amounts of mobile phone location data within the United States during 2010 and 2011.
In April 2013, Frank La Rue, UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, said in his report to the Human Rights Council that the United States, by renewing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, had empowered the US government to "conduct surveillance of non-American persons located outside the United States including any foreign individual whose communications are hosted by cloud services located in the United States."
Leaked documents show that many countries, including Germany, South Korea and Japan have been targeted by the NSA's eavesdropping, and that the intelligence agencies of the United States and some European countries have joined hands to launch massive network monitoring and phone-tapping operations that severely undermine the network security of all countries.
Norwegian media have reported that Norway is also a target of US surveillance. The NSA collected data from more than 33 million mobile phone calls made in Norway between December 10, 2012, and January 8, 2013.
The Italian weekly L'Espresso has reported that British and US intelligence agencies have been massively bugging Italian telephone communications and network data.
3. Monitoring international companies
The US government does not just target the Internet, but also key industries such as finance, transport, electricity and education.
Documents leaked by Snowden show that the NSA's eavesdropping not only targeted overseas politicians but also international organizations and business leaders.
The German weekly Der Spiegel reported that financial transactions, especially credit card deals, were among the targets of NSA surveillance programs. Visa and the international payments system SWIFT were both monitored.
A surveillance branch known as "Follow the Money," focused on international financial transactions. The NSA claimed that by tracing international financial transfers it could expose terrorist networks. The agency set up a financial database called Tracfin to store information gathered from financial institutions. In 2011, the databank had 180 million entries, 84 percent of which related to credit cards and their users, who were mainly located in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Some information in the database came from SWIFT, which began secretly feeding the United States with details of financial transfers after the 9/11 attacks. When this partnership was exposed in 2006, the European Union asked the United States to ensure the security of bank data and respect the privacy of European citizens. After several rounds of talks, the European Union and the United States reached a deal in 2010 that allowed the latter to monitor European bank transfers to combat terrorism, with the precondition that the use and storage of this financial information was consistent with European data protection laws. But Snowden's latest revelations show that the United States never stopped monitoring SWIFT transfers, meaning that the entire negotiation process between the United States and the European Union was just for show.
On December 29, 2013, Der Spiegel claimed the NSA had broken almost all the security architectures designed by major companies, including those of Cisco, Huawei, Juniper and Dell.
Other media reports have revealed that the United States hacked the computer network of Brazilian oil company, Petrobras.
II. America sets China as the main target of its secret surveillance
Evidence provided by Snowden shows that China is one of the major targets of America's illegal spying operations. The United States has eavesdropped on Chinese state leaders, scientific institutes, universities and enterprises.
Documents revealed by Snowden to Der Spiegel prove that the United States has conducted mass cyber-attacks on China, targeting Chinese state leaders and the giant high-tech company Huawei. Attacks were also aimed at the Ministry of Commerce, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as Chinese banks and telecommunication companies. According to Der Spiegel, the spying operations also covered several former Chinese state leaders, and former officials of government departments and banks.
Chinese government offices are a particular target of US spy operations. A former White House foreign policy aide revealed that the United States planted optical fiber bugs in the walls of the offices of the Chinese Embassy in Australia when it was built in 1990. The bugs were not deactivated until the story was broken by the Sydney Morning Herald.
According to a report in Foreign Policy magazine, the United States has stolen a huge amounts of important intelligence information from China and other countries via cyber-attacks carried out by the NSA's Office of Tailored Access Operations (TAO), which was established in 1997.
A report in "Der Spiegel" cited a leaked map dating from 2010 that shows US global spy operations have penetrated 90 countries, among which China is the chief target in East Asia. Chinese cities, including, Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Hong Kong and Taipei, are on the priority target list of the NSA. The agency hacked hundreds of computers and Internet servers on the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong in 2009. Targets in Hong Kong included universities, government officials, business people and students.
According to an interview with Snowden in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the NSA uses numerous methods to hack Chinese telecommunication companies in order to steal the text messages of their users.
Snowden also told the SCMP that the NSA had hacked the servers of Tsinghua University, China's most prestigious university. At least 63 computers and servers were attacked in January, 2013. The SCMP report noted that the attack on Tsinghua University, home to one of six main network backbones - the China Education and Research Network - means that data from millions of Chinese citizens may have been stolen.
The SCMP, quoting Snowden, made it clear that the US government has been hacking extensively into China's major telecommunication companies and mobile phone operators to steal millions of private text messages.
According to Reuters, the NSA reached a US$10-million deal with RSA, an encryption technology and security service provider, to insert a deliberate flaw or "backdoor" in its cryptography system to make it easier for the NSA to launch mass spying programs. Chinese clients of RSA include the three major Chinese telecommunication operators - China Telecom, China Mobile and China Unicom, as well as the Bank of China, The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, China Construction Bank, telecommunications provider Huawei, and home appliances group Haier Electronics.
Based on confidential documents provided by Snowden, the Washington Post reported that, in the year to May, 2012, the NSA had collected, stored, obtained or distributed legally protected communications 2,776 times without authorization. These illegal operations were especially frequent during the first quarter of 2012. The report suggested that this was probably because of NSA eavesdropping on Chinese citizens who visited the US during Chinese Spring Festival at the beginning of the year.
The United States even retrieves information from computer games. Both the Guardian and the New York Times published a file from investigative news organization Propublica that revealed how intelligence agents from Britain and the United States used games such as, "World of Warcraft" and "Second Life" to spy on the players. It is well known that the majority of players of these two online games are Chinese.
The US spying operations penetrate every corner of China. Snowden also revealed a series of confidential documents which show that QQ, the chat software of Internet giant Tencent, and Fetion, the instant messaging service of China Mobile, were targeted by the NSA.
According to Foreign Policy magazine, when the United States was putting pressure on China over the issue of cyber-attacks, it failed to mention its own mass cyber espionage on Chinese Internet. US officials had always declined to comment on the issue when questioned by journalists after China had accused America of secret snooping operations.
The websites of Der Spiegel and the New York Times have also reported how the NSA has made huge efforts to spy on Huawei Technologies, the second largest telecom solutions provider in the world. It began activities against Huawei in 2009, because it is the biggest competitor to US telecoms giant Cisco. A specially designated NSA team penetrated Huawei's network and copied the details of 1,400 of its customers as well as training manuals for the company's engineers.
According to the report, the NSA also stole the company's email files as well as the source code of some products. The NSA penetrated into Huawei's headquarter in Shenzhen where the staff emails are handled. American spying operations have gathered a huge number of internal emails between staff members, including senior executives, since January, 2009.
According to US intelligence agencies, gaining an understanding of how the company operates will pay off in the future. So far, according to their narrative, cyber space has been effectively controlled by the West, but Chinese companies are challenging Western dominance. If the US monopoly of technological standards is broken, China will gradually take control of the Internet.
A report on the website of the New York Times on March 22 this year said that US officials have always considered Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei as a security threat, and blocked business deals in the United States for fear that Huawei might create "backdoors" in its equipment to allow the Chinese military or Beijing-backed hackers to steal corporate and government secrets. But leaked classified documents reveal that it is the NSA that is creating its own "backdoors" into Huawei's networks.
According to the New York Times report, the intelligence operation against China by the NSA is not limited to Huawei. Documents leaked by Snowden in April 2013 revealed that the NSA infiltrated two major Chinese mobile network companies in order to track strategically important Chinese military units.
III. America's unscrupulous secret surveillance programs
The revelations about PRISM and other programs demonstrate that the US has mounted the most wide-ranging, costly, long-term surveillance operation in the history of the Internet. The seamless cooperation among the intelligence agencies, government and the private sector, with their big-data processing capabilities, allows the surveillance to extend in scope, seemingly without limit.
1. The world's largest, longest, most costly and wide-ranging surveillance operation
US intelligence has set up a number of programs that are directly linked to cyberspace surveillance, covering both the Internet and telecommunications networks, targeting telephone calls and Internet information, and including the major Internet service providers.
The Utah Data Center set up by the NSA is the world's largest data center, costing 2 billion dollars to build. It uses secret surveillance systems to collect vast amounts of data which is then processed by code-breaking experts, data-mining professionals and intelligence analysts to obtain useful information.
An article in the Washington Post on Aug. 30, 2013, reported that the budget request of the National Intelligence Program for fiscal 2013 had doubled to US$52.6 billion, of which spending on cyber operations accounted for US$4.3 billion, nearly 8 percent of the total. Surveillance cooperation between US intelligence and private companies, especially Internet service providers, is increasing. Microsoft was the first to sign up to collect data on September 11, 2007, and Apple the most recent in October, 2012.
German newspaper Der Spiegel reported on a surveillance program codenamed Stateroom, in which the United States, the UK, Australia, and Canada installed surveillance facilities in their embassies to intercept information. The four nations have also signed an intelligence sharing agreement with New Zealand.
2. Secret cooperation among intelligence agencies, government and the private sector is increasing
The nine major US software and hardware providers offer core technology support to US intelligence. Microsoft, the earliest to work with the NSA, opened its Outlook and Hotmail systems to the agency, going so far as to show intelligence agencies how to circumvent encryption of Outlook chat messages before the product was officially launched. Skype, which used to claim that its encryption technology and P2P system could prevent governments from eavesdropping, offered a "backdoor" to the NSA after being bought by Microsoft. Microsoft also worked with US intelligence to help crack the security systems of major companies in order to keep a watch on their customers. It also informed intelligence agencies before publishing details of bugs, so as to give them the opportunity to launch remote attacks.
3. Ramping up the range and depth of surveillance through big-data processing capabilities
The Obama administration made big data strategy a national priority in March 2012. It argued that "big data is the new oil", and that domination and control of data would become a national core capacity, alongside land, sea and air power. The PRISM project is closely associated with big data. The NSA also has a system codenamed Boundless Informant, which collects 97 billion Internet data records during each 30-day period and can track anyone's activity in real time and match it against credit card records and other communications.
4. US intelligence is seeking legal loopholes to overcome legal restraints and take full control of Internet information
The United States used presidential decrees to authorize additional information collection in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. On October 4, 2001, President George W. Bush signed a memorandum to authorize specific surveillance actions over a limited period. Since then, "domestic collection" - that is, gathering information from US citizens and people inside the United States - has become a controversial topic. But although debates have subsequently arisen concerning the legitimacy, scope and legal basis of presidential executive orders, the White House, NSA, FBI, and the Department of Defense have reached a consensus on the legality of gathering information on foreign targets.
On May 24, 2006, the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court completely redefined the interpretation of Section 215 of the Patriot Act, allowing the FBI and the NSA to share "business records" relevant to terrorist attacks, including the calls databases of telephone companies. Since then, the US government has demanded data from major telephone companies every three months.
In October 2012, President Obama signed Presidential Policy Directive 20, ordering America's national security and intelligence officials to draw up a list of potential overseas targets for US cyber-attacks. The directive also stated that what it called Offensive Cyber Effects Operations (OCEO) offered unique, unconventional capabilities to advance US national objectives around the world, giving little or no warning to potential adversaries or targets.
The Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad reported that leaks by Snowden show the NSA collects intelligence around the world in five ways. A document dating from 2012 lists the collection approaches as: data provided by the third-parties, i.e. international partners of the NSA in more than 30 countries; regional collection by Special Collection Service (SCS) installations that gather intelligence in more than 80 regions, and are part of a joint CIA-NSA program funded by a secret budget; computer network hacking carried out by a special NSA department that implants malicious software to steal sensitive information from 50,000 computers worldwide - the major targets being China, Russia, Brazil, Egypt, India, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and countries in Eastern Europe; tapping into the fiber optic cables that transport Internet traffic between continents at 20 major locations, mostly inside the United States; and finally, intercepting data from foreign satellite communications in countries such as Britain, Norway and Japan. The PRISM scandal revealed that intelligence agencies, led by the NSA in the United States, use three major approaches to Internet surveillance and data collection. - Obtaining data worldwide from fiber optic cables. Most data flows pass through the United States, so targeting data streams is a simple matter. The NSA, the Department of Defense and other departments signed a "Network Security Agreement" in 2003 with the telecommunications company Global Crossing. Over the following decade, the United States signed similar agreements with other telecommunications operators. The agreements required the companies to build "Network Operations Centers" on the US soil that could be visited by government officials with 30 minutes of warning. Allies such as Britain and Canada also agreed to provide the United States with fiber optic cable intelligence.
- Getting direct access to Internet companies' servers and databases to retrieve intelligence. The PRISM program cooperated with nine internet companies - Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, YouTube, Skype, AOL and Apple. The companies normally delivered data to the government electronically. Some companies established independent security access to make it easier for government agencies to extract intelligence. The intelligence agents would access the companies' servers and databases to collect emails, instant messages, videos, photos, stored data, voice chat, file transfers, video conferences, login times and social network profiles. They were even able to monitor users' Internet searches. - An NSA special unit was able to obtain intelligence secretly and remotely by hacking. The agency created the Office of Tailored Access Operations (TAO) as early as 1997. Its main task is to clandestinely hack target computers and telecommunication systems, crack passwords and security systems, steal data from the target computers, copy information from email systems and acquire intelligence on foreign targets by tracking data flows. The NSA refers to these activities using the technical term "Computer Network Exploitation" (CNE), but they boil down to cyber-attacks and theft of secrets.
IV. America's global surveillance program hit by worldwide criticism
After the PRISM program was revealed, the United States encountered worldwide criticism, including from its allies. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, "We need trust among allies and partners. Such trust now has to be built anew. "
The fact that the NSA spied on Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, and hacked the email of Mexican president Enrique PeÑa Nieto before he took office, triggered outrage in those countries. "The Brazilian government is determined to get clarification from the US government... and require specific action to remove the possibility of espionage once and for all," Rousseff said. Not receiving a satisfactory reply, she postponed a state visit to Washington.
Rousseff also condemned US hacking of the computer networks of the Brazilian oil company Petrobras, noting that "it will be evident that the motive for the US spying attempts is not security or the war on terrorism, but strategic economic interests... Clearly, Petrobras is not a threat to the security of any country."
In order to avoid US network surveillance, Brazil is planning to build an undersea fiber optic cable to Europe. The Brazilian government has ordered its postal service and federal data processing center to develop a new email system to guard against espionage and safeguard its economic and political security.
The Global Internet Governance Conference held in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in April 2014 focused on building a new international Internet governance order. The United States, which had in the past often bragged about Internet freedom, tried to keep a low profile, but nevertheless came in for severe criticism. During the conference, Brazilian President Rousseff chided the United States without mentioning it by name. "[In Internet governance] multilateral participation is very important. All participating governments should be treated equally and all alike without discrimination. It is not one country that has more power of discourse than any other countries," she said, clearly referring to the US government's control over Internet regulatory agencies, and its monitoring of other countries' networks. Russia sharply denounced the United States, saying that the US had "arrogated to itself" the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). "This situation makes the international society very worried," the Russian representative said.
After news of US surveillance of Malaysia was exposed, Malaysia's foreign ministry sent a written protest to the US ambassador to Malaysia. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said that the surveillance infringed upon national sovereignty and that the Malaysian government firmly opposed all forms of US monitoring activities in Malaysia.
Nine major international civil liberties groups have issued joint declaration that the US federal government's secretive scrutiny program, PRISM, is a breach of international conventions on human rights. The joint declaration said, "Such vast and pervasive state surveillance violates two of the most fundamental human rights: the right to privacy and to freedom of expression."
In the United States, criticism and protests arise one after another. An American Civil Liberties Union official blasted the NSA, saying the spy agency had gone far beyond judicial authorization in monitoring private communications and "virtually every aspect of Americans' lives."
American civil rights organizations have issued a statement to protest against the massive collection of mobile phone data launched by the NSA, and have expressed concern about so many Americans being tracked by the government. Chris Soghoian, principal technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union, said, "The only way to hide your location is to disconnect from our modern communication system and live in a cave."
In dealing with US global surveillance, the 68th Session of the UN General Assembly passed the resolution "Privacy in the Digital Age" which stressed that illegal or arbitrary surveillance, interception of communications, and illegal collection of personal data violates the rights to privacy and freedom of expression. Some countries spoke before the resolution was passed, denouncing the United States for not only violating the right to privacy and other basic human rights, but also for having violated the principles of the Charter of the United Nations on mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity and non-interference in each other's internal affairs.
After NSA surveillance of Huawei was exposed, William Plummer, a Huawei executive, said that the company did not know it was an NSA target. "The irony is that exactly what they are doing to us is what they have always charged that the Chinese are doing through us," he said.
"Washington is losing its morals," the German magazine Focus quoted an expert on foreign policy as saying. "Over the years the United States has exerted pressure on China in the name of Chinese spies and hacker attacks. In fact, the United States itself is the eavesdropper." German television news said that the United States had monitored "the whole of China" almost in all domains. "After all, this is because the United States fears China will overtake it to become the world's superpower."
Snowden said the US government had "declared that [surveillance] won't target civilian facilities." The purpose of exposing the PRISM program was to reveal the US government's hypocrisy.