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In Brussels, March 26, 2014 was going to be a day of reckoning for the NSA’s practice of mass surveillance. Two weeks ago, the European Parliament overwhelmingly approved a package of bills to protect the privacy rights of its citizens. Harsh consequences for the US were outlined in the EU directives but it looked like Obama was going to Europe with nothing more in his pockets than his hands (or, as they say in Brussels, “les mains dans les poches,” or unprepared.) The administration’s silence on the topic was almost eerie.

It turns out that the plan was for the House Intelligence Committee to introduce a bill this week that would curb the bulk collection of data and metadata. The President would sell it in Brussels. The news tumbled out yesterday on the New York Times’ front page, in the bill introduced by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), and in the President’s press conference in Amsterdam.

In the confusing and confused reactions to the sudden proposal, Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) sized it up correctly.
For now, there’s nothing good to say about prospects for US cooperation to end the NSA’s activities in Europe, so little will be said at all.

Neelie Kroes, an EU Commissioner with a stake in Europe’s digital agenda, quoted the EU-US Summit Joint Statement with her one-word reaction. (Kroes is a conservative, center-right politician from the Netherlands who referred to Edward Snowden's revelations last year as "a wake-up call."


Viviane Reding, the EU Commission for Justice, had a very few words to say.

For Americans, particularly the left, the Progressives, the liberals, the Democratic Party, there’s no excuse to remain puzzled about the importance of privacy and the collection of data and metadata by businesses and government.

Electronic data and metadata belong to individuals, not companies, not the government.

Everyone has the fundamental right to the protection of their personal data.

Enterprises may need to collect certain data to conduct business but it's not theirs. It has inherent value and while they have custody of it they need to handle it and protect it accordingly.  

Privacy is a guarantor of democracy.  Exercising agency in society is the foundation of inclusive democracy. Remove privacy and you remove the freedom to act without fear of retribution.  

People who live under surveillance are, by definition, restricted.

Mass surveillance corrodes the rule of law by challenging the presumption of innocence. It opens the door to the Preventive state.

People who surrender their privacy carelessly because they have nothing to hide today, have no guarantee about tomorrow.

In the US, there is still a determined element that doesn't accept the inclusion of everyone in society. Mass surveillance is a risk with potential consequences that can’t be foreseen and shouldn't be discounted.

This is about the freedom of the individual versus the crushing power of business corporations and government.

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