Thursday, December 16, 2010

Cablegate: Another government betrays its own people

The cablegate leaks haven't just exposed America's secrets - they've also exposed several governments (including our own) who have been betraying their own people by making secret deals with the USA against the wishes of their populations. The latest is Sweden, whose government cut an information-sharing deal with the Americans, then conspired to keep it from Parliamentary oversight:

The [Swedish] MOJ team expressed their appreciation for the flexibility of the U.S. side in regards to memorializing any agreement. They expressed a strong degree of satisfaction with current informal information sharing arrangements with the U.S., and wondered whether the putative advantages of an HSPD-6 agreement for Sweden would be offset by the risk that these existing informal channels, which cover a wide range of law enforcement and anti-terrorism cooperation, would be scrutinized more intensely by Parliament and perhaps jeopardized. Dr. Svensson reiterated MFA concerns about the current political atmosphere in Sweden. She believed that, given Swedish constitutional requirements to present matters of national concern to Parliament and in light of the ongoing controversy over Sweden's recently passed surveillance law, it would be politically impossible for the Minister of Justice to avoid presenting any formal data sharing agreement with the United States to Parliament for review. In her opinion, the effect of this public spotlight could also place other existing informal information sharing arrangements at jeopardy.

As an alternative, Dr. Svensson asked the HSPD-6 team to inquire with Washington whether or not continued participation in the Visa Waiver Program was fundamentally contingent on signing a formal data sharing agreement or non-binding arrangement along the lines of the model shared with Sweden, or could the currently strong but informal arrangements satisfy DHS's requirements.

Or, in short, "Parliament won't agree to a formal deal, so we'll make an informal one which we can keep secret".

The only reason our governments can get away with this is because such deals are made behind closed doors. Ending secrecy will allow us to take back control and ensure our governments work in the expressed interests of the people they represent, rather than those of foreign powers.