Big Brother is watching EU

U.S. Embassy at focus of NSA Germany Spy scandal. Getty

As the US moves towards privacy reform, Europe enacts sweeping new spying powers.

A strange — and strangely unnoticed — trend is emerging in the evolving global response to massive 2013 leaks about US surveillance activities. While our European cousins talk privacy reform, the United States is actually moving ahead with it, albeit more slowly than many would like. As the American side of the Atlantic inches toward self-restraint, many European governments are seeking sweeping new spying powers. Europe is at risk of falling behind the US in privacy reform. 

Following two post-Snowden reviews of US surveillance activities, the United States announced new limitations to its electronic surveillance activities, including additional privacy protections for Europeans and other non-US citizens, which few European countries currently afford Americans. Much-criticized US surveillance activities, including the bulk telephone metadata program, are set to expire in days unless Congress intervenes. Meanwhile, the bipartisan Law Enforcement Access to Data Stored Overseas (LEADS) Act and similar draft laws are moving through Congress and garnering broad support from technology companies, business organizations, and privacy and civil liberties advocacy groups. Continue reading

From the Welfare State to the Caliphate

From the Welfare State to the Caliphate

GOTHENBURG, Sweden — When he was 3 years old, Ahmed arrived in southern Sweden from Iraq, together with his older brother and parents. The family settled in one of their new country’s cut-off suburbs, where its many new immigrants come to live, but mostly to be forgotten.

The family found a home in one of the many rows of gray, faceless apartment buildings that make up these deeply segregated suburbs that ring Sweden’s urban centers — in Angered, outside Gothenburg. As he grew into his teenage years, Ahmed began to scold his siblings to be more religious. He spent considerable time in front of his computer, becoming engrossed in graphic, violent videos from the civil war in Syria. Inspired, he read the biographies of martyrs who had died in battle, waging jihad in the holy land. And gradually he turned inward, withdrawing from society and his former life. Continue reading

Joko Widodo’s Indonesia: possible future paths

Thursday, 25 September 2014 By: Peter McCawley

This paper looks at the possible paths for policy and development in Indonesia under the leadership of the seventh president of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, who will take office in Jakarta on 20 October. The first part is a stocktake of the challenges that lie ahead. The stocktake assesses the state of play in five areas: the political system; economic challenges; government and administration; social issues; and foreign affairs.

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The Imported Tradition of African Dictatorship

16 June 2014

Burundi Soldier in Bangui, Central African Republic, courtesy of US Army Africa/Flickr
Creative Commons - Attribution 2.0 Generic Creative Commons - Attribution 2.0 Generic

Has the African continent always been synonymous with despots and dictatorial rule? Not according to George Ayittey. Prior to the modern colonial era the region was awash with communities that embraced customary law and justice as their guiding principles.

By George B.N. Ayittey for World Policy Institute


The passenger terminal building at King Shaka ...

The passenger terminal building at King Shaka International Airport (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This article was originally published by World Policy Blog  on 28 May 2014.

Despotism and dictatorship did not exist in traditional African political schemes. In fact, the famous British economist, the late Lord Peter Bauer, noted this in his book, “Reality and Rhetoric: Studies in Economics of Development” where he wrote, “Despotism and kleptocracy do not inhere in the nature of African cultures or in the African character.” Stateless societies such as the Somali, Igbo, and Tiv—which are characterized by the rejection of any centralized authority or “government”—did not have leaders who could be despots or dictators. Rather, these political systems stressed customary law and emphasized justice, or the establishment of justice, as the ruling principle.

In chiefdoms such as the Fante, Mossi, Shona, and Xhosa, the chief could not dictate policy or law independently. Without the assent of the council of elders—an independent body—the chief was powerless. In kingdoms, where the king often had little or no political role, much of his authority was delegated. Even the powerful Shaka, the Zulu, delegated his authority.

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Review: The Tiananmen Papers


For the first time ever, reports and minutes have surfaced that provide a revealing and potentially explosive view of decision-making at the highest levels of the government and party in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The materials paint a vivid picture of the battles between hard-liners and reformers on how to handle the student protests that swept China in the spring of 1989. The protests were ultimately ended by force, including the bloody clearing of Beijing streets by troops using live ammunition. The tragic event was one of the most important in the history of communist China, and its consequences are still being felt.

The materials were spirited out of China by a sympathizer of Communist Party members who are seeking a resumption of political reform. They believe that challenging the official picture of Tiananmen as a legitimate suppression of a violent antigovernment riot will help unfreeze the political process. The extensive and dramatic documentary picture of how China’s leaders reacted to the student protests is revealed in The Tiananmen Papers: The Chinese Leadership’s Decision to Use Force Against Their Own People-In Their Own Words. This article is adapted from the extensive narrative and documents in that book.


The 1989 demonstrations were begun by Beijing students to encourage continued economic reform and liberalization. The students did not set out to pose a mortal challenge to what they knew was a dangerous regime. Nor did the regime relish the use of force against the students. The two sides shared many goals and much common language. Yet, through miscommunication and misjudgment, they pushed one another into positions where options for compromise became less and less available. Continue reading

Russia: Digging Themselves in Deeper

Why Big Oil is doubling down on Putin’s Russia.

BY Keith Johnson APRIL 22, 2014

Russia may have become an international outcast in the wake of its annexation of Crimea and continued destabilization of eastern Ukraine. But for one group of powerful multinationals, Russia these days is less pariah than promised land.

Big Western oil companies from BP to Shell have not just stayed the course in Russia in recent months — many have essentially doubled down on oil and gas investments there and built even closer ties with Russian energy firms. Taken together, the deals could send billions of dollars flowing into the Russian economy just when Barack Obama’s administration is trying to hammer it hard enough to persuade Russian President Vladimir Putin to reverse his annexation of Crimea and stop menacing eastern Ukraine.

“We’ve made clear that we’d be prepared to target certain sectors of the Russian economy if we see a significant escalation, including direct Russian military intervention in eastern Ukraine,” White House spokesperson Laura Lucas Magnuson has said. Continue reading

Mao’s Little Red Book in China and Beyond

The Diplomat speaks with Alexander Cook, editor of a collection of essays on Mao’s Little Red Book.

Nearly 40 years after Mao Zedong’s death, China continues to have an uneasy relationship with the Great Helmsman, as shown by the recent ambivalence towards the 100th anniversary of Mao’s birth. To get more perspective on China’s (and the world’s) past and present relationship with Mao, The Diplomat‘s Justin McDonnell spoke with Alexander Cook, the editor of Mao’s Little Red Book: A Global History, a collection of essays seeking to understand the Little Red Book as a global phenomenon.

How is Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong a reflection of the global radicalism of the 1960s?

The Little Red Book responded to the deepest anxieties of the postwar period: dissatisfaction with the unfulfilled promises of liberalism, disillusionment with the crushing realities of Soviet-style communism, and despair with the continued subjugation of the developing world. This was a generational phenomenon, but it also spoke to the shared, transcendent, existential fear of nuclear annihilation. The Little Red Book represented a rejection of the Cold War, and even more than that a rejection of the technological subjugation of humanity in the era of mass production. Needless to say, there are many bitter ironies in this story.

How was the book disseminated in China and why did it die out?

The book was originally conceived as a kind of ideological field manual for soldiers in the People’s Liberation Army. Its small size and rugged, waterproof cover were designed to fit the breast pocket of an army uniform. Leading up the Cultural Revolution, Defense Minister Lin Biao heavily promoted the cult of Mao in the military. He said Mao’s thought was a “spiritual atom bomb” and insisted that every soldier be armed with a copy of the Little Red Book. Continue reading