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US spying on allies - SL raises privacy concerns

2013 Oct 28

By  Arthur Wamana

Concerns regarding privacy have been expressed in Sri Lanka following recent revelations of the US monitoring phone calls of its own allies.

The Sri Lankan Government meanwhile said the US was on its way to being isolated in the international arena due to its acts of spying on its own friends.

Minister of National Languages and Social Integration, Vasudeva Nanayakkara told The Nation that the acts of spying on other countries had earned the wrath of several countries such as Germany and Brazil, and had antagonized other states. “The US should be isolated,” he said.

Senior Attorney-at-Law Gomin Dayasiri said that while there was a need for measures to improve Sri Lanka’s image internationally,

it has the right to expose double standards of countries that accuse the country of human rights violations.

Speaking to The Nation on the recent revelation of US monitoring phone calls of 35 allied nations, Dayasiri said this was another illustration of the double standards of some countries that accused Sri Lanka of human rights violations.

“If they (US) are squeaky clean, there is no necessity for them to bug 35 of their friendly nations,” he said.

In addition, he said that this act was totally undemocratic and in violation of rights of individuals. “Those who preach must practice,” he said.

Dayasiri when asked on the role of Sri Lanka at this juncture said, “Sri Lanka has to take remedial measures to improve its image internationally, it has the right to expose the double standards of such countries who accuse Sri Lanka.”

Meanwhile Executive Director, Center for Policy Alternatives (CPA) Dr. Pakiasothy Saravanamuthu said this practice by the US was totally unacceptable. “If they had bugged the phone lines of their allies, they might as well have crossed the borders too,” he said. “They might have their own reasons pertaining to national security, but even so, they should stop it immediately as it is a totally unacceptable practice,” he said.

However, the main opposition, United National Party (UNP) remained tightlipped over the issue. 

UNP stalwart Karu Jayasuriya who is considered as the person, who could bring the party together, refrained from comment. John Amaratunge, another senior member of the UNP said he was unaware of the issue and therefore could not comment. 

A classified document by whistleblower Edward Snowden had revealed the National Security Agency (NSA) of the US had monitored phone calls of 35 world leaders after being given the numbers by an official in another US government department.

The revelation has created a stir at a time when there is growing tensions between the US and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and President Enrique Pena Nieto of Mexico, over ongoing reports of NSA’s continuous monitoring of communications of the respective governments.

The Guardian also stated that the confidential memo also revealed that the “NSA had encouraged senior officials in its “customer” departments, such the White House, State and the Pentagon, to share their “Rolodexes” so the agency can add the phone numbers of leading foreign politicians to their surveillance systems.”

Accordingly, the document revealed that one unnamed US official had provided over 200 numbers, including those of the 35 world leaders.

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