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As US Supports Internet Privacy in UN Committee, Spying Sanitized?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 25 -- When the "Right to Privacy in the Internet Age" resolution came to the floor in the UN's Third (Human Rights) Committee on November 25, German Ambassador Harald Braun summarized its new elements: the inclusion of metadata, obligations by the private sector, effective remedies for violations and an invitation to the UN Human Rights Council to establish a special procedure on the right to privacy.

 Ambassador Antonio Patriota of co-sponsor Brazil expressed regret on what wasn't in the resolution, for example extra-territorial coverage of communications infrastructure that a country controls, wherever located.

  While Braun cited US National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, the resolution was adopted by consensus - that is, no country, including the United States, objected.

  International law, if it exists, is incremental.

 Back on July 9, First Look's "The Intercept" revealed that the US NSA and FBI spied on at least five Americans, all Muslims, and used place-holder code names like "Raghead," click here for that.

   Those spied on included a Republican candidate for the Virginia legislature, Faisal Gill; Hooshang Amirahmadi, an Iranian-American professor; lawyer Asim Ghafoor; Nihad Awad of CAIR; and "Agha Saeed, a former political science professor at California State University who champions Muslim civil liberties and Palestinian rights."

  The United Nations' Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has already said he thinks Snowden "misused" information, as Inner City Press reported here.

  Back on March 14 when the US delegation to the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva took the floor, it was a full court press. Of the elephant in the room, NSA spying, the speaker from the Civil Rights Division of the US Department of Justice used a single line: DOJ is "monitoring" a number of private actions. You don't say.

  The head of the US delegation, Mary McLeod, said but did not explain why the US Administration has "no current expectation to become a party to the optional protocol" to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights -- which the US says does not apply to its actions outside of its borders.

The session closed with a slew of questions: Walter Kalin asked why the US deports people to Haiti even amid the cholera epidemic -- for which, Inner City Press notes, the US has said the UN should be immune. Watch this site.


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