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Franseza Pardoe’s World Forum for Democracy report: Plenary session 1 – Surveillance and democracies

Key quote: “We will not bomb Syria into peace. We might bomb it into submission but submission is not peace.” (Jacob Appelbaum)

“Intelligence services have failed us” declared Jacob Appelbaum a security researcher and journalist, during the first plenary session of the World Forum for Democracy.

Mega data collection is already in place in most countries, yet terrorist attacks cannot always be prevented as the recent Paris attacks have demonstrated.

Intelligence services were originally put in place to protect states and their citizens but the lack of legal oversight on its activities prevents citizens from knowing if they are really fulfilling their duties.

Furthermore, because “the apparatus is expansive and it operates with few constraints, it poses a threat to democratic values” claimed Faizal Patel, the co-director at the Brennan center for justice.

“Intelligence services pose a threat” she says precisely because their activities are “carried in secret and used to repress dissent.”

She further asserted that “despite constituting building blocks of any democratic society, freedom of speech and freedom of association are becoming heavily under threat” and that the “chilling effects are felt most deeply by those sitting on the mainstream of the fight for social justice” – human rights activists, journalists, etc.

Appelbaum argued that (following terrorist attacks) the world “should look at Norway for answers and not at the USA.”

After the attacks by the fundamentalist Anders Breivik, “Norway responded with more democracy, not violence.”

According to Appelbaum, “states create terrorism just as individuals do.” As such, people “must be extreme in their openness.”

He claimed individuals have “a responsibility to be good to each other” and that “citizen’s security requires privacy, autonomy and free speech.” Therefore, he advocated the “need to develop free software for more freedom.”

Patel shared Appelbaum’s view that more democracy is the right answer. She explained that because “we are living on the legacy of war on terror, voices saying refugee flows should stop are louder and hate crimes against Muslims increase.” Therefore, there is an urgent need to “hold on to democratic values” she stated.

William Binney, an American intelligence whistle-blower, admitted to feeling “personally responsible for what’s happening today.”

Binney revealed that the “bulk of acquisition of data gives intelligence services a great set of information to spy on their population and is meant to increase their profits.”

He pressed the need for these services “to adopt disciplined professional approach” as for the moment there is “no transparency and no oversight over their activities, so no means to verify their integrity.”

Based on his own experience, Binney claimed that “in 75% of cases, the FBI had been lying to the court in order to get a warrant,” with no way for the court to verify allegations.

Binney argued for the deployment of “technological experts who can look at any database that secret services possess and verify that, what they are telling Congress and governments, is true.”

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