Edward Snowden

Attacking criticism of spying betrays our rights

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 June, 2013, 1:26am

Oren Tatcher ("Prudent self-defence moves miscast as US lying and snooping", June 17) seems to have misunderstood the US constitution when he attacks your excellent editorial on government snooping.

He says it is acceptable for many innocent people to be stopped and quizzed to find one guilty person. However, neither the US constitution nor Hong Kong's Basic Law (nor even Hong Kong's old colonial laws) permit random search and seizure of people, property or private information. There must be probable cause. Subverting the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution is not "a perfectly legitimate programme of self-defence" as Mr Tatcher naively puts it. If he wants an analogy that works, it would be allowing government to open all our letters to see who we are writing to. As he must know, this would be illegal. Now, everyone's communications are being scanned to find this out, on government requests so general that they cannot be based on reasonable cause. "Reasonable" might be to look at all mail directed to suspected terrorists. But that can be done by current means, now with a specific warrant - that pesky 4th Amendment again.

So, Mr Tatcher, we certainly do "understand … electronic intelligence gathering … starts from the biggest possible pool of data". That is precisely what we object to. We also disagree that "collecting logs from any possible source … is required to protect the American people from terrorism". Better protection would be to limit the general availability of guns, as there are 25,000 to 40,000 firearms-related homicides and suicides annually in the US (more than 100 times Singapore's rate). Even 9/11 was a mere fraction of that total.

Finally, he writes about a "nation's right to defend itself", and how "intelligence-driven, pre-emptive measures …[are] preferable to bombs killing innocent people". With respect, "bombs killing innocent people" is already US state policy. It is "euphemised" as collateral damage, whether by B52 bombers in Cambodia or drones in Afghanistan, but it is reality and it is often equivalent to murder. Physician, heal thyself!

Paul Serfaty, Mid-Levels