NEW YORK: In nearly all countries polled, majorities oppose monitoring by the US government of emails and phone calls of foreign leaders or their citizens, a global survey said on Tuesday.

But in contrast, most Americans are of the view that eavesdropping on foreign leaders is an acceptable practice, but they are divided over using this technique on average people in other countries. The PEW survey says disclosures by former National Security Administration (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden about NSA spying revealed the US government’s vast capacity to intercept communications around the world.

The Snowden revelations appear to have damaged one major element of America’s global image: its reputation for protecting individual liberties.

In 22 of 36 countries surveyed in both 2013 and 2014, people are significantly less likely to believe the US government respects the personal freedoms of its citizens. In six nations, the decline was 20 percentage points or more, the survey said. However, the majority of Americans and others around the world agree that it is acceptable to spy on suspected terrorists, and that it is unacceptable to spy on American citizens.

Another high-profile aspect of America’s recent national security strategy is also widely unpopular: drones. In 39 of 44 countries surveyed, majorities or pluralities oppose US drone strikes targeting extremists in countries such as

Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Moreover, opposition to drone attacks has increased in many nations since last year. Israel, Kenya and the US are the only nations polled where at least half of the public supports drone strikes.

Published in Dawn, July 16th, 2014

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