Anti-Surveillance Protest in Germany

By Aarushi Gupta
Staff Writer

The conflict between Israel and Palestine took over July’s headlines; each hour brought a new development, every week brought a new cease-fire and new attempts to rekindle negotiations to end the endless brutality and warfare. The conflict between these nations is not new, but both nations are as far away from a solution as they were in 1948 when the Israeli state was introduced. The current peace relies on shoddy truces and feeble agreements. However, as relations between Israel and Palestine and the United States’ influence in the region both deteriorate, new alliances and partnerships have risen to tackle the inevitable hostilities that will return to the region. New collaborations between the United States and Germany, Qatar, Turkey, England, Italy, and France have come together to better address the problem; Qatar and Turkey were recently inducted into the coalition of international superpowers that claim some influence over the workings of the world – as neighboring countries, they represent strategic allies that also constitute sympathy for Hamas, the Palestinian offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood.

However, as Edward Snowden, former NSA contractor, continues to chip away at the United States National Security Agency, tensions may arise among these newfound alliances. This past October, Snowden revealed that “American intelligence agencies shared immense amounts of raw electronic and telephone data on U.S.-based Arabs, and, specifically, Palestinians, with Israeli counterparts over the last few years.” By arming Israeli intelligence against Palestinians who may or may not be involved with military operations halfway around the world, the United States jeopardized its already doubtful neutral stance on peace in the region. Even so, in an unexpected turn of events, Snowden revealed in December 2013 that the NSA had also been monitoring the communications of “then-serving Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.” This severely dented the relationship between the allies, signaling a loss of trust between both nations. Current Israeli President, Benjamin Netenyahu, in a Likud party meeting in the Knesset, stated “in the close ties between Israel and the United States, there are things that must not be done and that are not acceptable to us,” amid an increasingly outraged Israeli public. Following this incident, relations between the United States and Israel have become increasingly tense, resulting in ineffective negotiations mediated by the United States. President Obama first held a phone conference with Netenyahu in an attempt to address the “serious concerns” he had with the “increasing number of casualties in Palestine.” However, the United States’ sway in the region has diminished significantly since the administration’s reluctance to act during the Syrian Civil War in 2013. This, coupled with the Snowden leaks from the NSA, has curtailed the United States’ ability to influence the current conflict. John Kerry visited Israel on July 21 to convince Netenyahu and Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) to a humanitarian cease-fire; his efforts were futile. However, the new union formed between the United States and the aforementioned countries may lead to more progressive conciliation.

Unfortunately, the NSA’s secrets do not stop at the US-Israel alliance; Snowden’s most recent reports show that the NSA had been monitoring the private communications of 35 heads of state, including German chancellor Angela Merkel, as well as hiring “a walk-in German agent” who could provide details about the inner-workings of German Intelligence; the information may or may not have been valuable, but the breach of privacy resulted in the expulsion of the Berlin CIA chief, a great loss to national security partnerships for both nations. German indignation at the invasion of privacy swiftly turned into a shrewd proposal towards a security collaboration, which led to the current coalition attempting to mediate the growing tensions that are slowly spreading to other Middle Eastern regions. The irony grows with the fact that German Federal Intelligence Agency (BND) has tapped calls regarding Israel and Palestine from both John Kerry and Hilary Clinton. Apparently, the BND has “repeatedly recorded and reported calls from other U.S. politicians and other friendly nations,” according to NDR, a German public broadcaster. The BND has also kept tabs on Turkish authorities since 2009, claiming that the “PKK, extremist right and left wing organizations within Turkey were allegedly conducting human trafficking and drug trade in Germany.”

It is fair to concede that in modern times, countries have to maintain intelligence on both friends and foe; understandably, German, Israeli and American authorities have to keep themselves posted on the goings-on of their international counterparts. However, resources that could have been used to further progressive deliberations and achieve a mutually beneficial solution with respect to the conflict between Israel and Palestine should not have been implemented to ‘accidently’ tap calls from Secretary of State John Kerry to Israeli authorities and the PLO. The Israeli government was then able to subvert peace talks using the terms of these negotiations. How is that conducive to domestic interests, not to mention international security? In an era where public image and information really determine the extent of a nation’s power, it is important for intelligence officials to realize that security and suspension of hostilities should be the first priority, and that the information they collect must be used to mediate ascension to those goals.

Image by Markus Winkler


By Jacob Poore
Contributing Writer

Thousands poured into the Plaza San Martín in Buenos Aires, Argentina hours before the start of the World Cup Final. Argentina came into the tournament with high expectations, especially with a weak group that included Iran, Nigeria, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, none of which are known for their soccer success. Spirits were high before the match, especially after close victories over Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands in the knockout stages. Plaza San Martín, named after General San Martín who liberated Argentina, Chile and Peru from Spanish rule, has been the place to be for Argentines and tourists alike during Argentina’s World Cup matches. The Plaza, located in the center of one of the world’s most beautiful capital cities, had a large screen that can be viewed by thousands at a time and provided an environment like no other. Leading up to the entrance to the viewing area, fans were greeted by vendors looking to sell Argentina jerseys, pins, flags, hats, beanies and vuvuzelas. Fans lined up to have their faces painted for five pesos for an Argentine flag on each cheek (equivalent to $1.25).

Most fans were dressed in Argentina jerseys, many with the number 10 on the front and either the name Maradona or Messi on the back. There is a continuing narrative in sports media that Lionel Messi is not loved in Argentina. This is simply not true; Messi is adored by fans here, and they make it very clear. During Argentina’s semifinal game against the Netherlands, numerous fans yelled “un besito para ti Messi!”-a kiss for you, Messi. A popular soccer chant in Argentina and other Spanish speaking countries, “Olé, Olé, Olé” is instantly recognizable around the world. Argentine fans have affectionately changed the chant to “Olé, Olé, Olé, Olé, Messi, Messi,” among other variations.

Similar to other sport viewing venues, fans at the Plaza had to go through a security check. During Argentina’s game against Switzerland in the Round of 16, security was thorough with bag checks, asking fans to move sweaters or other items so that they could see everything in the bag. However, the number of fans entering the Plaza for the final match was overwhelming, and security had a much more difficult time doing full bag checks. Then, fans were greeted by a different form of security: federal and city police in full riot gear, complete with guns and rubber bullets. The numerous fireworks and explosions from bottle rockets was a clear indication that security was not as thorough as it could have been, perhaps because they only checked bags, not sweaters or pockets.

Navigating the crowd was close to impossible, as fans staked out their claims for the best view of the large screen possible, a view that was often still obstructed by people in front of them. Many fans tried to get a better view of the screen by climbing a makeshift fence that separated the crowd from cameras and other equipment for outdoor viewing. This angered fans whose views were obstructed, and calls for people to get down-combined with an excessive amount of swearing-encouraged the climbers to simply knock down the fence, satisfying the rest of the crowd and themselves.

A trend in Argentina’s quest for World Cup victory was low-scoring, close games, in spite of expectations that Argentina would rely heavily on Messi, Angel Di Maria, and Sergio Agüero to outscore opponents for theoretically high-scoring games. In short, Argentina’s best defense was supposed to be its offense. Part of Argentina’s success came from its ability to control the ball, preventing its opponent from mounting a clear offensive attack. Also, though offense and possession was Argentina’s strength, Sergio “Chiquito” Romero, Argentina’s goalkeeper, proved to be a stabilizing defensive force and did not allow any goals from the Round of 16 match against Switzerland to the semifinal game against the Netherlands.

The match itself was intense and hard fought until the end. Both teams had numerous opportunities to score early in the game but none were converted. Early in the final against Germany, Argentina was not able to control the ball as much as it had in previous games. Plaza San Martín exploded when Argentina finally scored a goal, but after an offsides call fans quickly realized what happened and cursed the screen and anything else around them.

The crowd was extremely lively throughout the match. Argentines created numerous songs and chants to cheer on their team, the most notorious being “Brasil, decíme que se siente,” a song created specifically for this year’s World Cup. The song taunts Brazil, Argentina’s eternal rival, asking it how it feels to have its father in its own house, reopening old wounds such as when Argentina knocked Brazil out of the 1990 World Cup. It ends with the most powerful statement: “Maradona es más grande que Pelé,” stating that Diego Maradona, the hero of the 1986 World Cup, is better than Pelé, the Brazilian footballer who is regarded as the best player of all time. Another favorite was created after the semifinal win against the Netherlands. The crowd began jumping and chanting, roughly translated, “you have to jump, you have to jump, whoever doesn’t jump is German.”

Despite the energy and optimistic feeling entering the game, Germany’s goal with only six minutes left in the second extra time completely stunned and silenced the crowd. There was a ripple effect throughout the crowd, as people who could not see the screen well slowly swallowed what they were not able to see. There was not only a feeling of shock, but also disbelief. Argentina was only six minutes away from penalty kicks, where they defeated the Netherlands in dominating fashion in the previous round. During the tournament, Argentina had been a master at outlasting its opponent and scoring late to secure a victory. This time seemed to be no different, except Germany delivered a late heavy blow in the same way Argentina had to Switzerland and the Netherlands.

Even with the late goal, Argentine fans recovered their hope and began chanting once again, willing their team to a goal from over 1,500 miles away. With less than two minutes left, fans began accepting reality, applauding both their team for their effort and Germany for its victory. Though the presence of riot police was alarming, people filed out of the Plaza without incident, still smiling, clapping, dancing and singing as they made their way to Calle Florida, towards the Obelisco and the Plaza de Mayo. There was no violent or extremely disruptive behavior, other than more fireworks being launched into the sky. Argentines continued singing that Maradona is better than Pelé and waved flags all the way to the Obelisco, where the festivities continued into the late hours of the night.

The celebration, at least immediately after the game, was a refreshing break from recent unruly World Cup celebrations, most notably those in Huntington Park, California following Mexico’s matches. Later in the night, police moved in at the Obelisco to quell the celebrations that became increasingly dangerous, and more police were sent to the Plaza de la República in the early hours of the morning. At least one bar was broken into and robbed, and by 11:30, at least 40 people had been arrested and eight police officers were wounded. By the time police moved in, most people had cleared out of the area. The biggest incident was a group of 15 fans that broke an antenna off a television news station’s truck, prompting journalists to flee the vehicle.

Despite the violent actions from a small group of fans, Argentina celebrated its World Cup success rather than its failures. The World Cup is an extremely grueling test of both physical and mental abilities, and Argentina came incredibly close to winning it all, winning six games in a row before the crushing loss in the final. Argentine fans clearly appreciated their team’s success and made it known following the match. The vast majority of fans celebrated by dancing in the streets, honking car horns, and making sure that Brazil knows it will never forget the time its ‘father’ placed higher in its own home.

Photos by Jacob Poore


Obama Talks with Calderon

By Ana Camus
Staff Writer

The United States has once again been embroiled in a diplomatic nightmare sparked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. After gaining temporary asylum in Russia, Snowden has been leaking a gradual stream of sensitive information to different journalists and governments around the world.

In one of the most controversial leaks, Snowden, viewed as a whistleblower by many and a traitor by others, revealed that the United States has been spying on allied world leaders by gaining access to their personal email accounts and smartphone devices. Some of the targets included Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, Mexico’s current president Enrique Peña Nieto (at the time of the alleged espionage, he was the leading presidential candidate) as well as former president Felipe Calderon Hinojosa, and Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff, who accused the U.S. government of engaging in “a breach of international law.”

Calls and visits from President Barack Obama aimed at repairing the damage have not eased tensions. Angela Merkel, whose Blackberry was allegedly tapped, stated to the press that “trust now has to be built anew”. These comments came in the midst of an ongoing political debate in Germany in which a majority of Parliament wants to request further information about the spying allegations directly from Edward Snowden. Merkel and Brazil’s Rousseff have partnered to draft a letter to the United Nations in which they call for a resolution safeguarding Internet privacy in an effort to restrain NSA intrusions into foreign digital communications.

Mexico’s Foreign Ministry responded to the spying allegations, calling the NSA’s actions unacceptable, illegitimate and against the law. Former President Felipe Calderon described the revelations in the leaks as an “affront to the institutions of the country, given that it took place when I was president” via his Twitter account. In spite of public anger, no further diplomatic action or retaliation has been taken in Mexico.

France and Spain were also included in the turmoil. According to reports released by Edward Snowden and published in the French newspaper Le Monde, the NSA secretly monitored 70.3 million phone communications in France over 30 days spanning from Dec. 10 to Jan. 8. In addition, two Spanish newspapers reported that the NSA had gathered data on Iberian phone numbers and locations. The New York Times reported that the Spanish government summoned the American ambassador, who addressed the allegations by stating that “ultimately, the United States needs to balance the important role that these programs play in protecting our national security and protecting the security of our allies with legitimate privacy concerns.”

Recognizing that diplomatic ties have been strained, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told MSNBC the surveillance “reached too far.” Although this statement constituted the first glimpse of an admission from the American government, Kerry concluded there was “an enormous amount of exaggeration” in the allegations during an open-government conference in London.

The debate in the United States on Snowden’s leaks has simmered down due to pervasive media coverage of the government shutdown and Obamacare. However, these actions have deeply hampered America’s foreign and public diplomacy efforts. Despite all this, Edward Snowden declared in a recent statement from Moscow that he is “no enemy of America” and wishes to testify before the U.S. Congress.

Image by U.S. Embassy, Jakarta