Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The NSA has seriously damaged the War On Terror

Tam got me thinking with a post of hers on the hypocrisy of the Europeans about the Snowden revelations:
Angela Merkel is all finger-wavy over finding out that the U.S. government has been listening in on her phone conversations as though she were Russian or something
What's interesting about this is that Frau Merkel is a politician, which means that she knows very well that politics ain't bean bag.  This posturing on her part says that she sees upside in the German electorate which viscerally reacts to "spying" by thinking "Stasi".  The NSA has painted themselves with Erich Mielke's brush.

The first take away is that the NSA's broad surveillance policies have inflamed anti-americanism among the population of Germany (also France, and likely other European countries).  Euro politicians will be quick to exploit this, and in fact are already doing so.

But even more interesting is the dynamic of Edward Snowden's political journey.  He was radicalized by the broad surveillance policy towards Americans and the Obama Administration's lack of desire to rein it in.  And so he's spilled the beans.

Lots of beans.  The ripple effect of that is playing out in Europe, and in Congress. The NSA is responsible for this, too.

The NSA will see less cooperation from Europe and other countries in the future, because that will be politically undesirable for European Politicians.  While the old game of say one thing in public while doing another behind closed doors would have allowed full cooperation, with the Snowden leaks the questions everyone will wonder is who will leak next, and what will they leak?  The risk will be high for a policy of domestic lying.  We can expect less cooperation than in the past on the War on Terror.

Similarly here in the USA.  Broad parts of the security community are disgusted with PRISM and the other programs, and will cooperate less with the Fed.Gov.  Politicians here are seeing an opportunity to take Big Brother down a peg or two - perhaps motivated by no small amount of fear.  The War On Terror has suddenly gotten much more difficult for the NSA to prosecute, because of their reckless surveillance policies.

The dialectic is much older than Marx, who stole it from Hegel (via Kant).  It goes way back to ancient days, where Plato used it in the Socratic Dialogs.  The concept is that action begets its own reaction.  We're seeing that today.  There's a certain poetic justice in that, if that's the right metaphor.

No doubt the Government would say that this will make it harder for them to fight terrorism.

Unfortunately, they don't have a lot of credibility.  They haven't stopped terrorist attacks (The NSA contributed nothing in the successful Boston Marathon attack and the unsuccessful Times Square attack), so there's not a lot of evidence that they're effective.  The NSA and Intelligence management have repeatedly lied (including under oath) to Congress and the public, and the FISA court.  Why should we  give them the benefit of the doubt?

And quite frankly, this is the NSA's fault, too.  Quite frankly, this doesn't look very much like what I'd imagine a successful espionage program to look like.


Eagle said...

A successful espionage program is never detected, or is never revealed until long after the time that any political damage is possible.

For this to happen, those involved must be loyal to a higher calling: the safety and security of the country, which means the safety and security of their families, friends, and those they love.

Snowden has no loyalty to anything except his own "values", which -as it turns out - have no value. By his own actions, he has endangered his family and friends.

Divemedic said...

"Snowden has no loyalty to anything except his own "values", which -as it turns out - have no value. By his own actions, he has endangered his family and friends."

I disagree. There is NOTHING that can justify a government turning on its own people and violating their papers and effects like this. A government is far more likely to kill its own people than terrorists are.

The government is being used to eliminate political enemies. All politicians can't help it, it is in their nature to desire power. It is the job of those being governed to deny them that power. In that, we have failed.

Snowden, in exposing the unconstitutional searches of the NSA, is a hero. However, his sacrifice will be in vain. The amount of power in the hands of the government, coupled with the corruption, is already too vast.

WoFat said...

Hypocrisy of the Europeans? Surely you jest.

Matt W said...

To argue that domestic spying on non-criminal citizens is ensuring the "safety and security of the country... their families, friends and those they love" borders on ludicrous.

In order for such an assertion to be true, we would have to have a benevolent government who wanted what is best for each and every one of its citizens. That is fantasy and has been demonstrably false throughout history.

I don't know if I agree the Snowden is a hero. But I do know that I am glad he exposed the level of domestic spying that was happening. I only wish more US citizens were up in arms over it.

Borepatch said...


Presumably General Clapper was being loyal to a higher calling when he perjured himself in sworn testimony before Congress. I'd like to know better what that "higher calling" is.

I suspect that it's bureaucratic nest feathering and power grabbing, but you know how nasty and suspicious I am.

There are many people in this whole sorry escapade who have made themselves look bad. Edward Snowden is the least of these.

R.K. Brumbelow said...

@Divemedic Bollocks!
Heroes don't cut and run, they do not throw a grenade into a crowded mixed populous room, and they certainly do not jump and run for shelter via a hostile (if no longer enemy [debatable]) foreign power. Snowden did all of these things and more. If Snowden was a Hero, he would have been willing to take a public stand and accept the consequences for violating his oath to the Constitution. Two wrongs do not make a right, but sometimes 3 lefts can.

Eagle said...

Slow down folks. I was ***NOT*** defending the NSA's actions. There are no "between the lines" statements here, and you do me (and yourself) a disservice by "
reading into" what I said. But, since people tend to jump to conclusions, I'll post a longer explanation of what I meant by my first post.

The OP was a statement on how the "NSA has damaged the war on terror." I completely agree, and I'll go one step further: what the NSA is doing w/r/t spying on *Americans* is patently illegal. The CIA is forbidden by law to operate within the borders of the USA. The NSA should have to operate under the same restrictions: **NO** sans-warrant collection on information on individual Americans within the borders of the US. And no wide-swath gathering on Americans AT ALL, "meta-data" or not. Period.

(I have opposed much of the "Patriot" act for a long time. Try that "sneak and peek" in my home at 2am, and you'll get a case of lead poisoning. I won't stop to look at a badge: you're trespassing in my home, I support the Castle Doctrine, and my wife's safety is more important to me than you think.)

HOWEVER, we DO need a SIGINT organization capable of gathering information OUTSIDE our borders. We need to know what's happening in countries that harbor terrorists, that are trying to develop nuclear weapons, that are invading our computer systems to gather commercial and/or military information, and so forth. These are *legitimate* information gathering operations. We NEED these capabilities. Closing our eyes and pretending that we DON'T need to collect this information is the first step in surrendering our safety to those who would do us harm.

The NSA is too politically damaged to continue in this role. It should be broken up into parts, with some transferred to the CIA, others transferred to the DOD, and the rest - like that domestic spying building in Utah - burned to the ground. It's time to kill the beast known as NSA. But we still need *foreign* SIGINT capabilities.

Diplomats always speak with "forked tongues". Every country spies on every other country. Bernard Squarcini even said so in Le Monde recently. But on OTHER countries: not your own citizens. The point is that Snowden took those back-room "everybody does it" conversations about our actions overseas and publicized them, along with his information about NSA's activities here at home. For his lack of judgement in releasing EVERYTHING - and for damaging our SIGINT gathering ca
pabilities overseas - he should burn in hell.