A briefing sheet leaked by Edward Snowden stated that the “unauthorized disclosure” of the “Sentry Eagle” program, an umbrella term that the National Security Agency (NSA) used to encompass its most sensitive programs “to protect America’s cyberspace,” would negatively impact the United States’ “ability to exploit foreign adversary cyberspace while protecting U.S. cyberspace.” This remark, according to Citizen Lab Director Ron Deibert, represents a deeply entrenched worldview at the heart of cyber security problems today.

In his op-ed, Deibert asserted that it is important that we ask the question of “what do we mean when we say “cyber security?” What is it, exactly, that we are securing? And for whom? Are we securing the Internet as a whole — that vast global information infrastructure that envelops the planet, from the code to satellites, to handheld devices and everything in between? Or, instead, do we mean that “we protect our nation’s cyberspace first and others second, if at all”? And do we regard other nations’ networks as fair game to be “exploited” in order to gain competitive advantage?”

Deibert maintained that “the tension between these points of view is not unique to cyber security, but reflects a deeper tension at the heart of global politics today: between a slowly emerging sense of global responsibility and citizenship on the one hand, and the old Westphalian nation-state system on the other.”

“Governments that are premised on human rights and the rule of law need agencies to domestically enforce the law while guarding their citizens from extremism or international violence,” said Ron Deibert. However, it is imperative that law enforcement and signals intelligence agencies be “highly accountable, transparent to democratically elected representatives, and unleashed to act only in tightly circumscribed ways,” lest we unravel what it means to be a liberal democracy in the first place.

Read the full op-ed on OpenCanada.org.