The Ethics of Espionage

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It is important to clearly establish what we are analyzing and how we are analyzing it. What is espionage? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary (2014) defines espionage as things that are done to find out secrets from enemies or competitors, the activity of spying. Ethical is defined as involving questions of right and wrong behavior, conforming to accepted standards of conduct. The United States has not followed accepted standards of conduct in regards to its domestic and international surveillance techniques.
The initial document released by Edward Snowden was an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) ordering Verizon to supply all of the metadata from their customers to the U.S. government on an ongoing basis. (Greenwald, 2013) At first glance this doesn’t appear to be too alarming. Metadata is strictly statistical data that identifies locations and length of calls, but doesn’t reveal the identity of the callers, or the content of the call itself. However, later documents released by Snowden reveal that this metadata was cross-referenced with other databases, which enabled the government to identify both callers. Furthermore, the government created software that analyzed the metadata to identify and track data patterns. (Roberts & Ackerman, 2013) Additional documents released by Snowden indicate that, through the creation of the Prism program, the government was able to conduct unlimited surveillance on Internet traffic through servers with Google, Facebook, Apple and others. Not only was the U.S. government using this data, but they were sharing it with allied countries. (Hopkins, 2013) Subsequent Snowden releases exposed that the U.S. was also spying on these allied countries. This is really alarming.
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