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Industrial espionage revelations show 'shocking scale of NSA surveillance'

Annie Machon is a former intel­li­gence officer for the UK's MI5, who resigned in 1996 to blow the whistle. She is now a writer, public speaker and a Director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

Published time: January 27, 2014 15:42

Member of the protest group, Code Pink, Alli McCracken, protests against U.S. President Barack Obama and the NSA before his arrival at the Department of Justice in Washington, January 17, 2014.(Reuters / Larry Downing)

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We are seeing that NSA spying has expanded way beyond a remit to intercept terrorist suspects into politicians, into the citizens of Western countries and into our businesses, Annie Machon, former MI5 officer, told RT.

According to Edward Snowden’s recent revelations, the NSA hasn’t just been spying on politicians and ordinary people, but also kept a weather eye on businesses. The whistleblower told German journalists that the NSA was also extracting key market-shaping information from global business.

RT: If it's true, this is hardly the first time a country's been accused of stealing industrial secrets - how important is this revelation?

Annie Machon: I think the importance is about the scale of the problem, because our intelligence agencies have always had a mandate not only to protect national security but to protect the economic well-being of our countries. However, this is very different from aggressive industrial espionage on an aggressively industrial scale, which of course is what Snowden has now revealed because the new technologies with internet and all the surveillance capabilities which the NSA and its UK partner GCHQ have developed, mean they can hoover up literally everything. Of course every country protects its economic well-being, of course it will try and jockey for political and economic advantage, but the shocking scale of it… I think that is the issue here.

Edward Snowden.(AFP Photo / Channel 4)

RT: Do you think the recent revelations have added more fuel into fire considering US-German relations?

AM: Absolutely yes. The Germans are supposed to be allies of the US and yet it’s being abused quite egregiously by the US and GCHQ in the UK in terms of the sort of information that they are hovering up, not just for the top politicians and Angela Merkel’s mobile phone, but for everyone in Germany. And that is quite shocking again on its scale. I think it also shows a certain hypocrisy as well, because we were told that all these new powers, all this endemic surveillance was necessary in order to protect us from the terrorist threat and now we are seeing of course that it’s expanded way beyond any definition to be called a terrorist suspect into politicians, into the citizens of Western countries and into our businesses. It’s really exposing a very deep level of hypocrisy on the NSA’s part.

RT: Edward Snowden has had a number of anonymous threats made against him from people in the US security agencies. Can he consider himself safe?

AM: Well, he has temporary asylum in Russia at the moment. I hope of course Russia will feel moved to grant him permanent asylum if he needs it. Or, of course, you know Germany can provide him with asylum considering the service he’s done to the German people and the German government, and what he’s revealed about the scale of spying in this country. And of course there are other options in Latin America, where he could go and where he could be protected, but he needs to get there first, and the US seems determined to ensure that he can’t reach Latin America. But I think he is safe in Russia for now. It will be nice to have permanent asylum anywhere, so that he could come more into the public view and explain the context around the disclosures that he’s made, because he is an expert in what has been revealed. The journalists can speculate and piece together some of the information. And that’s why we have the freesnowden.is website to fight for him and we are also developing a new foundation called Courage, the fund to protect journalistic sources, which will aid not only Edward Snowden, but any future intelligence whistleblowers that come out and reveal information that is very much in the public interest.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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