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    Is it okay to spy on your friends?

    challenge posed by Randy Myers 1324 days 23 hours 34 minutes ago

    Category: Politics
    Challenge Forum

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    Is it okay to spy on your friends?

    Is it okay to spy on your friends?

    The U.S. has been bashed in the foreign press recently for spying on its allies, particularly Germany. Defenders of the U.S. position have largely voiced two arguments:

    (1) We can’t afford not to do it.
    (2) Everyone else does it, so why shouldn’t we?

    But does that make it right?

    The idea that we can’t afford not to spy, even on our allies, was articulated at least as far back as the 19th century, when British statesman Henry Temple observed that England had no eternal allies and no perpetual enemies. However, England’s interests were eternal and perpetual, Temple contended, and it was the British government’s duty to protect those interests—even, presumably, if that meant spying on its friends.

    It’s true that allies come and go, and supporters of Temple’s position contend that they are simply being realistic. Others argue that there’s something innately immoral about spying on friends.

    Are they right? Must we live in a world where we feel we have to spy on our allies? Or is it simply wrong, and as Europe’s reaction to our spying on Germany shown, perhaps not always in our best interest?

    Suggested Reading:

    “Why America spies on its allies (and probably should),” Max Fisher, The Washington Post

    “Can Spying on Allies Be Right,” Mark Stout, War on the Rocks

    “Allies spy on allies because a friend today may not be one tomorrow,” Michael Martinez, CNN

    Re: Is it okay to spy on your friends?

    I don't feel like we should be spying on anyone.
    And I don't feel like they should be spying on us.
    Politics is something that I don't like getting into but our government is getting pretty bad.
    We need to get better people in our office to run our country.
    But that is just my opinion.

    Re: Is it okay to spy on your friends?

    I don't think it's okay to spy on your friends. That seems dishonest.

    Spying on different countries or enemies is more of a different story. I don't think it's following the, "everyone else is doing it, so why don't we?" It's a strategic plan.

    There are things we can learn from our allies that we should learn.

    Our country needs help right now, and could use an overhaul of political figures.

    Re: Is it okay to spy on your friends?

    Hi Randy!

    From the perspective of actually spying on real friends in real life, I don't think that is necessary at all. It's actually rather nosey in my opinion.

    I really don't see why anyone would need to spy on their friends. And if a person felt like there were a justified need to spy on a friend, I think that person needs to step back and maybe re-evaluate the friendship.

    Spying is only necessary if you think someone is lying, cheating or hiding things from you. If I had a friend like that, I wouldn't want to be their friend anymore. I would not waste my time trying to figure out what is going on. If my friend had issues or wanted to talk to me, they would.

    But as far as countries spying on other countries, I'm all for it. Especially if it's to ensure my own personal safety or the safety of the country I live in.

    Just because America is allies with another country, doesn't mean that the other country isn't hiding information that could harm America.

    I would like to think the leaders of our country have put the interests of their own citizens first. If that means spying on an ally, then do so.

    Just because we are in good standing with a country, doesn't mean we will always be. Our country needs to be prepared for any blindsights that may occur.

    Remember the saying, "Keep your enemies close and your friends closer". It's the same logic as spying on foreign countries.

    Those are my thoughts!


    I can't believe this is my first Forum Challenge comment!!

    Re: Is it okay to spy on your friends?

    If we are talking about personal friends, I will not spy on them. I trust them and if they are hiding something behind my back, then that is their problem, not mine.

    As for as the US goes, I don't see it as spying. I see it as gathering intelligence data. Gathering intelligence date and interpreting it and breaking it down to determine if there is an immediate threat to this nation or one in near future.

    China is spying on everybody. Why is the US thrown into the limelight? This isn't anything new. Nations have been spying on each other for centuries. During the wars, during peace time, all the time. You cannot convince me that every nation is spying on both allies and enemies.

    Newsflash!! China is probably spying on Germany as well!!

    Hell, why not? I don't want Germany coming over here and starting to attack us for no reason. Let the spying continue!

    Re: Is it okay to spy on your friends?

    I believe people are making the action more personal than it should be. Personal friends in a day to day setting is not the same as an entire country's alliance with another country.

    All countries have internal conflict and secret agendas. To each it's own, I do not believe the spying incident should be taken as an offensive act against the alliance.

    Re: Is it okay to spy on your friends?

    Yes! We should spy on our allies! This protects us and our survival. Secondly, shouldn't we assume we are all being spied on anyway!? Facebook watches our activity, credit card companies know our credit and what we purchase, and there are cameras everywhere! So why would we question if our government spies on its allies? Of course it does! It always will.

    Leaders know this, they aren't ignorant. When the accusations come out in the press, it's just another political move to point the finger of who is behaving badly.

    These are personal relationships, this is business.

    3blackdogs~ I completely agree with you!! We should continue, without an ounce of shame! It's protecting us!

    Eball~ I love that quote, it's so true!

    Spy away America!


    Re: Is it okay to spy on your friends?

    Dear Randy,

    Spying should be okay as long as it is done with good intentions. Spying on countries, such as Germany should be allowable because the U.S. is gathering enough information in order to protect its citizens. As for friendship, spying would be okay in cases where the friend may be in danger, thus spying is done with good intentions. If spying is done for bad intentions, then it should not be done.


    Re: Is it okay to spy on your friends?

    Hey Randy,

    Good question!

    I feel as if the spying on both our friends and allies is over the top. In the name of security, America has done many drastic things, including invading Iraq and implementing the ever infamous NSA.

    Will we ever know just how truly effective these safety measures are? Probably not, but why are we so afraid of being spied on? It seems as though our insecure existence in the United States of America has made us feel guilty of various wrongings, (hopefully no serious ones) and we do not want to be judged by our own country for these acts. But why did we do them in the first place?

    With Germany though, I don't know exactly what the United States was thinking. One of the most stable European countries to date (finally), who has renounced the acts of it's past and done everything that it can to avoid repeating them, seems to me to be the last country we should spy on. What exactly would we gain from this anyway?

    Then again there could be something that the masses do not know about, but if so, why not say something is wrong? If they feel that we cannot handle the truth, what does that say about our society?

    Re: Is it okay to spy on your friends?

    First, politics is one of those things that no matter what we as people think it does not matter. I don't think we should be spying on the anyone and others should not be spying on us. I know that the reason why the U.S is spying on other countries like Germany is to protect us from things like 9 11 not to happen again, but what is it telling the other countries.

    In friendship I do not believe that it is ok to spy because just like with the U.S. spying it is saying I do not trust you and therefore you can not trust me. If you want people to trust you and you want to be trusted then you should not be spying. Even if your friend is in trouble because how will they learn.

    Re: Is it okay to spy on your friends?

    I can agree with the safety aspect of this, since Germany has been notorious in the past, but with the looming fear of Nuclear War hanging over the heads of every nation, the US is right in saying we cant afford not to. But i think their eyes shouldn't be on Germany, Germans are fun.

    Re: Is it okay to spy on your friends?


    Great topic. Well, I think for our safety between Germany and ourselves we have to right now.

    I mean they think Russia shot down that airplane that killed all those people. Also, Putin is giving us doubts right now.

    I say spy all you want. I mean who knows what we are being spied on for. I hear just having an iphone gives all the app people access to your pictures and everything else on your phone. I bet you the government has information on us that no one would think they could have. Isn't that crazy. I just don't think there is any way to hide unless you go live in the woods and even then they can probably spy on you with a heat sensor or something.

    I say get used to it. It's probably going to get worse. I hear they are going to start putting chips on our Drivers Licenses so they know where we are at all times. I mean heck that's what the iphone does. My stepdad has a friend that helped create the apps on the phones and he said that those apps are dangerous. All of them. I would beware :)



    Re: Is it okay to spy on your friends?

    Hey Randy,
    In every good running business we have "spies" so to speak. At our jobs we have systems in place such as time cards, or special equipment on computers to monitor internet activity and even people like bosses who watch over us for the greater good of the company. They want it to run smoothly and make sure there are no financial losses or safety issues that they can prevent or stop if they are happening before they get out of control. Although they aren't necessarily looking to see if people are taking advantage of them they do it to protect themselves and their employees.

    Our Country spying on its allies are no different. They are spying to make sure as a country we are running as smoothly and safely as possible. They are monitoring things that can take us down in a variety of ways that could very well be the end of not only America but the world. This is kinda a big deal.

    Thank you for the good read and great challenge question this week.

    Re: Is it okay to spy on your friends?

    Nursemariep, I'd say there is a significant difference between corporate monitoring & governance practices/technologies vs. spying on allies/friends. Having things like time-cards & internet monitoring are things that are often highlighted up front & in place for obvious & crucial reasons - more importantly there are limits. For example, a company cannot overstep its bounds & bug your personal cell-phone or place a tracking device on your personal car.

    Randy, I don't think we should be spying on friendly countries unless there is actual cause to - which we would determine from a broader surveillance. I absolutely believe that we shouldn't just blindly trust our allies & never check up on what they are doing, but bugging Angela Merkel's cell-phone? Using double-agents? On Germany? We might as well have established a sleeper-cell to execute the eventual assassination of the Prime Minister of Belgium.

    & what pray tell, did we gain from all of our espionage? Is Merkel a closet-Nazi secretly rebuilding the Wehrmacht & hell-bent on the total conquest of the world & the utter annihilation of the Jewish race? Is Germany producing viruses & WMD's to attack the U.S. & genocide their minorities? Germany has been a long-time friend & ally of the U.S. - & that ought to count for something considering the general lack of quality in just about every other U.S. ally. They have a stable economy, a democratic government, & haven't been really militarily involved in the world - more peaceful & diplomatic than the U.S. itself by far. It hardly seems sound foreign policy to alienate our closest allies when we have so few dependable allies left.

    I'm not blind to the realities of the world, & I completely understand the "everyone else is doing it" type of logic, but I don't think it is the optimal solution we should be working towards, if it is, then why don't we all just have another arms race & go back to having +40,000 nukes aimed at each other? Because that really guaranteed everyone's safety like when the Cuban Missile Crisis came around.

    Any relationship requires an element of trust - the Gaza conflict is the perfect example of how difficult peaceful conflict resolution is when both sides have no trust in one another. If everyone is paranoid, then how well does anything get done if anything at all? Of course there needs to be safeguards, governance, & general monitoring, but there should be limits & consideration as well.

    Re: Is it okay to spy on your friends?

    When it comes to politics, I don't like to get involved; however, I don't think that the US should spy on Germany or vice versa. If everyone is suspicious of one another, is there really any trust in this alliance? It just adds to the deterioration of the alliance,

    It's the same thing with a friendship although the motive is more out of curiosity. There shouldn't be a need to spy. If the two trust each other enough and it's a solid friendship, then the other would just tell the person what they want to know. There wouldn't be a need to spy.

    Re: Is it okay to spy on your friends?

    I do not think it is okay to spy on your friends. If the United States is going to be allies with a country, they should have some sort of trust toward them. Spying on them does not show show that. Countries like Britain probably lose respect for the United States when they learn of the spying. If the United States has a reason to be suspicious, then I think spying is okay. Spying for no reason or just to "check up on them" is a waste of time,

    I think that spying on enemies is fine Enemies are a possible threat. Instead of wasting time spying on friends, the United States should increase the amount of spying spent on enemies. "Keep your friends close and enemies closer," right?


    Re: Is it okay to spy on your friends?

    Hello Randy and a great question,
    It took me a while to come and answer on this post because I had to think about what I would say. It may be unfair, unjust or whatever you want to call it, but I think we should spy on our allies. To me, I look at allies not as much as a friend per say, but someone that we need in the time of war, or strategy. Someone that we need to have for our own survival and not looked as someone we can hang out with. With friends, you want to hang out with them, and like to do everything together. If you're a true friend, you look out for one another's best interest and you make a bond with that person like no other. Allies is different from that but of course has it's benefits. Just like people, allies can change their minds in a heartbeat and do something behind our backs without us even knowing it! I'm not saying people who are in most friendships don't do grimey stuff behind someone's back, but in this matter we're talking about our safe-keeping. Trying to prevent any further bloodshed in the future. Trust me, we don't have no time to find out at the last minute that our allies have double-crossed us.

    Thanks for this post Randy and have a Blessed one!

    Re: Is it okay to spy on your friends?

    Good morning Randy!

    Well, I think the issue is a lot more complicated than just whether or not we should be spying on our "friends". For one thing France and China have a tendency of going behind everyone else's back politically and doing questionable things - like when France was supplying weapons, money and alcohol to Iraq. Or how about HSBC (a Chinese bank) supporting terrorists in the Middle East? Russia has always been a bit of a problem from the United States, even in times of peace. Putin is power hungry, just like Hitler was. So should we stop watching him during times of peace?

    On the other hand, is it right to spy on people just because they spy on us? In the civilian world we call that a peeping Tom and it is illegal. Yet spying has been a part of every country during war and times of peace, since humans have been around. It is in our nature to distrust "the other". But two wrongs do not make a right.

    I actually have no issue with spying and I see it as necessary politically. I also don't buy the outrage from foreign communities as they also spy on us. Four Russian spies were arrested in NJ less than 3 years ago. They had been here spying on people for over 15 years. Everyone really does do it.

    What I have a problem with is how the NSA was able to work outside of the law. The disturbing part of the NSA is that they were given rights and privileges that the FBI, CIA, counter-terrorism organizations, police, and government are not allowed to have for the same reasons that caused the leaks to start happening. It was only a matter of time before the NSA was blown apart because of the way they were allowed to collect data from everyone - including people who never had a parking ticket or altercation. When the story broke, my reaction was "this has been happening since the beginning of civilization and I have nothing to hide." If people want to listen to my phone conversations, they now know boring aspects of my life and a good majority of my bodily functions (including my menstrual cycle). I'm sure that embarrasses them (non-scientist, conservative men) more than it does me.

    I think people who scream and yell about it may be hiding something or may be overreacting.

    Re: Is it okay to spy on your friends?

    Hello Randy,

    Thank you for the topic!

    Personally, I see this foreign policy debate from a historical perspective. I grew up in a family of history buffs! My uncle is a history professor in the making, and my dad is a history fanatic. If we have ever learned one thing from history that it wil almost certainly and will always repeat itself. Now having said that, I really dislike the reason that has been given lately by policy makers and defenders of spying on our allies by using the same excuse a high school-er would use in a peer pressure situation. Just because other less powerful countries do it, does not mean that we should. This is not a reason, it's a cop-out! And as for "affording not to do it", I think that is just another less tasteful way of saying, "everyone around us wants what we have and dislikes us, so we have to spy on them! It's like a 10th grader hovering over their fiends Facebook to see if they're talking smack about them or not. I find these reasons to be quite petty honestly.

    Now, as we move forward into the subject, I do however like the view that Henry Temple presented, but do not agree it constituted as a reason to spy on it's friends. I mean he's right if you take the theory and use it as an outline. As Randy stated from Temples POV ; "no eternal allies and no perpetual enemies." Which is kind of a truth throughout time. Although we may have long-time enemies, they always change throughout generations. But, unfortunately, like life is, the same goes for friends and allies.

    I don't believe that morally it is correct to spy on those we instill trust in and call a friend. However, as we are America, we're the new kid on the block. We do have many different things that others want, and in times of war, it's difficult to truly see out friends through the smoke. So, I believe as a measure of safety for our citizens, if the intelligence we receive is saying that a friend of ours is planning an attack or move against that friendship, then yes, I believe it is very necessary to do. We are one of the youngest countries in the world, and one for the most powerful, if not the most powerful. And in my opinion we have over 300 million people to protect. So if spying on our friends is warranted, can be proven through evidence given without spying, and is objective, then yes. It unfortunately has to be done.

    - Jess

    Re: Is it okay to spy on your friends?

    Hey Randy,

    I've already read quite a bit about this so forgive me if I don't look at those specific articles.

    Thing is we don't spy on certain friends and allies--the US is part of the Five Eyes program which means we share intelligence with Canada, New Zealand, the UK, and Australia. We have no need to spy on those nations because our intelligence organizations are so intertwined. They seem fine choices of long-term allies in my opinion.

    Those who we do not have intelligence sharing agreements, however, we do need to spy on them. Why? Because it is important that we are not being duped when a leader tells us one thing yet is secretly doing another. The German Chancellor wasn't doing that, however, and there was another reason for "spying" on them:

    From what I understand, US intelligence was approached by a German intelligence worker and offered "information". The US, of course, was interested because if there's one guy selling secrets of a close ally, how many others are out there? So they accepted his offer with the intent of finding out how many "leaks" there are in the German intelligence--why now? Why so important? Well, the US wanted to discover whether the Russians had infiltrated the German intelligence forces and were leaking information. It's not that Obama suspected Merkel of doing bad stuff behind his back, but rather that she was unaware of the stuff going on right under her nose.

    As for the wiretapping, until Germany totally declares its allegiance to the West and takes a united stand with us against Russia and doesn't back out of sanctions due to economic harm, then we can't fully trust they will act in ways we can predict. They haven't signed an intelligence sharing agreement with us, so it would be naive of us to assume they have everything under control and are acting completely in our interest. Sure, it may be a minor PR scandal down the road, but every nation does it, so it's not like we are some uniquely awful ally who pokes and pries into other countries' internal affairs.