IV. The United States' global surveillance program hit by worldwide criticism
After the PRISM program was exposed, the United States encountered worldwide criticism, including from its allies. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, "We need trust among our 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 Pena Nieto before he took office, triggered outrage in those countries. "The Brazilian government is determined to get clarification from the U.S. government... and require specific actions to be made 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 the U.S. hacking of the computer networks of the Brazilian oil company Petrobras, noting that "it will be evident that the motive for the U.S. 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 U.S. network surveillance, Brazil is planning to build an undersea optical cable to link with Europe. The Brazilian government has ordered its postal service and federal data processing center to develop a new email system to guard against foreign espionage and protect its economic and political security.
The Global Internet Governance Conference held in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in late 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, yet still brought the blame of others on itself. During the conference, Brazilian President Rousseff chid the United States without mentioning it by name. "(In Internet governance) multilateral participation is very important. All the participating governments should be treated equally and all alike without discrimination instead of one country having more say than all the other countries," she said, directing at the U.S. government's manipulation over the Internet regulatory agencies, and its monitoring of other countries' networks. Russia also sharply denounced the United States, saying that the U.S had "arrogated to itself" the ownership of Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). "This situation makes the international society very worried," the Russian representative said.
After U.S. surveillance of Malaysia was exposed, Malaysia's foreign ministry sent a written protest to the U.S. 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 U.S. monitoring activities in Malaysia.
Nine major international civil liberties unions have issued a joint declaration that the U.S. federal government's secretive scrutiny program, PRISM, is a breach of international covenants 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 the right to freedom of expression."
In the United States, criticism and protests arose one after another. An American Civil Liberties Union official blasted the NSA, saying the spy agency had gone far beyond judicial authorization when it monitors private communications and "virtually every aspect of the Americans' lives."
American civil rights organizations have issued a statement to protest against the massive collection of mobile phone data by the NSA, and have expressed anxiety that so many Americans were being tapped 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 all the modern communication devices and live in a cave."
In dealing with the U.S. 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 because it not only violated the right to privacy and other basic human rights, but also violated the principles of the Charter of the United Nations on mutual respect for national sovereignty, territorial integrity and the commitment of non-interference in each other's internal affairs.
After the 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 what they are doing to us is exactly what they have always charged against China, " he said.
"Washington is losing its moral ground," 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 true eavesdropper." The German news television said the United States was monitoring "the whole of China". "After all, it is because the United States fears China will overtake it to become the world's superpower."
Snowden said the U.S. government had "declared that (surveillance) would not target civilian facilities." The purpose of exposing the PRISM program was to reveal the U.S. government's hypocrisy.