Posts Tagged ‘NSA’

Thank You Edward Snowden

September 5, 2014

According to the Washington Times, the information provided by Edward Snowden on the working of the NSA has proven to be of immense value to the Islamic State, those fanatics who have been chopping off reporters’ heads.

A former top official at the National Security Agency says the Islamic State terrorist group has “clearly” capitalized on the voluminous leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and is exploiting the top-secret disclosures to evade U.S. intelligence.

Bottom line: Islamic State killers are harder to find because they know how to avoid detection.

Chris Inglis was the NSA’s deputy director during Mr. Snowden’s flood of documents to the news media last year. Mr. Snowden disclosed how the agency eavesdrops, including spying on Internet communications such as emails and on the Web’s ubiquitous social media.

Asked by The Washington Times if the Islamic State has studied Mr. Snowden’s documents and taken action, Mr. Inglis answered, “Clearly.”

 

The top-secret spill has proven ready-made for the Islamic State (also referred to as ISIL or ISIS). It relies heavily on Internet channels to communicate internally and to spread propaganda.

Mr. Snowden “went way beyond disclosing things that bore on privacy concerns,” said Mr. Inglis, who retired in January. “‘Sources and methods’ is what we say inside the intelligence community — the means and methods we use to hold our adversaries at risk, and ISIL is clearly one of those.

“Having disclosed all of those methods, or at least some degree of those methods, it would be impossible to imagine that, as intelligent as they are in the use of technology, in the employment of communications for their own purposes, it’s impossible to imagine that they wouldn’t understand how they might be at risk to intelligence services around the world, not the least of which is the U.S. And they necessarily do what they think is in their best interest to defend themselves,” he said.

Another former official also bemoans the damage Mr. Snowden has done.

Retired Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden ran the NSA when al Qaeda struck on Sept. 11, 2001. He moved to modernize technology and methodology in an agency that some internal critics said “had gone deaf” in the 1990s.

“The changed communications practices and patterns of terrorist groups following the Snowden revelations have impacted our ability to track and monitor these groups,” said Mr. Hayden, who writes a bimonthly column for The Times.

Matthew G. Olsen, who directs the National Counterterrorism Center, supports Mr. Hayden’s assessment.

“Following the disclosure of the stolen NSA documents, terrorists are changing how they communicate to avoid surveillance. They are moving to more secure communications platforms, using encryption and avoiding electronic communications altogether,” Mr. Olsen, a former NSA general counsel, said Wednesday at the Brookings Institution. “This is a problem for us in many areas where we have limited human collection and depend on intercepted communications to identify and disrupt plots.”

Thank you Mr. Snowden for making it a whole lot harder to prevent a recurrence of 9/11. If you still think Edward Snowden is a hero, please consider that whatever his motivations and whatever wrongdoings by the US government he has exposed, his actions have not advanced the cause of peace and freedom in the world. He has only made it easier for the bad guys to harm the innocent.

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Every Breath You Take

August 30, 2013

Maybe you remember this song by the Police.

 

Every breath you take
Every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take
I’ll be watching you

Every single day
Every word you say
Every game you play
Every night you stay
I’ll be watching you

O can’t you see
You belong to me
How my poor heart aches with every step you take

Every move you make
Every vow you break
Every smile you fake
Every claim you stake
I’ll be watching you

 

I wonder if this is now the theme song for the NSA. Although Every Breath You Take was primarily about a jealous lover (a stalker?), Sting had surveillance in mind as he wrote it.

I woke up in the middle of the night with that line in my head, sat down at the piano and had written it in half an hour. The tune itself is generic, an aggregate of hundreds of others, but the words are interesting. It sounds like a comforting love song. I didn’t realize at the time how sinister it is. I think I was thinking of Big Brother, surveillance and control.

Fitting for these times, isn’t it?

 

Freedom, Security, and Chris Christie

July 27, 2013

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie had something to say about the “strain of libertarianism going through both parties” while attending  a meeting of the Aspen Institute. Here is the story in the Washington Post.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) on Thursday offered a clear broadside against Republicans drifting toward a more libertarian view of foreign policy, lumping Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) in with them and suggesting they explain their position to victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The House earlier this week narrowly voted against a reduction in funding for the National Security Agency’s program collecting Americans’ phone records, as libertarian-leaning members from both sides joined together to vote for the amendment.

“As a former prosecutor who was appointed by President George W. Bush on Sept. 10, 2001, I just want us to be really cautious, because this strain of libertarianism that’s going through both parties right now and making big headlines, I think, is a very dangerous thought,” Christie said.

Asked whether he includes Paul — a fellow potential 2016 presidential candidate — in his criticism, Christie didn’t back down.

“You can name any one of them that’s engaged in this,” he said. “I want them to come to New Jersey and sit across from the widows and the orphans and have that conversation. … I’m very nervous about the direction this is moving in.”

Christie acknowledged that there will always be mistakes when it comes to national security and protecting privacy, but said Americans need to stay focused on what’s at stake.

He dismissed some of the current privacy/national security debates as “esoteric.”

“I think what we as a country have to decide is: Do we have amnesia? Because I don’t,” he said. “And I remember what we felt like on Sept. 12, 2001.”

We do need to have more of a pubic debate on what balance between freedom and security we, as a nation, want to take. I am nervous about the direction things are moving in, but I am not sure if my concerns are quite the same as Christie’s. While I certainly do not want another terrorist attack on the scale of 9-11, I also do not especially want to live in a country where Big Brother is watching my every move. Frankly, I would rather take the risk of a terrorist attack to having to live with the level of surveillance that would make such an attack impossible. I mean, you never hear about terrorists attacking North Korea, but who would want to live there?

There is also the question of how well the NSA’s surveillance is actually working. They didn’t prevent the Boston bombing. They didn’t prevent the attempted car bombing at Times Square, or the Shoe Bomber, or the Underwear Bomber, or the attack at Benghazi. It is possible that for each one of these acts listed, the NSA anticipated hundreds of attempted attacks, yet how can we know?

I remember how I felt on September 12, 2001. I also know that immediately after a crisis is the worst possible time to consider any legislation to address that crisis. While emotions are still high and everyone’s afraid, stupid and ineffective laws are likely to be passed without close examination. This is why politicians love to pass laws immediately after a crisis. They also love to drag out widows and orphans to pull on the heart strings and evade any rational examination of whether any proposed legislation is working as intended.

Rand Paul struck back.

“Defending America and fighting terrorism is the concern of all Americans, especially Sen. Paul,” Paul’s former chief of staff, Doug Stafford, said. “But it can and must be done in keeping with our constitution and while protecting the freedoms that make America exceptional.”

Paul himself also tweeted a response:

Senator Rand Paul         @SenRandPaul

Christie worries about the dangers of freedom. I worry about the danger of losing that freedom. Spying without warrants is unconstitutional.

I worry about that too.

Christie appeared alongside Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R). The four GOP governors appeared side-by-side at a session hosted by the nonpartisan Aspen Institute.

The four of them — along with Paul — are all considered among the GOP’s top potential presidential candidates in 2016, with each of them ranking on The Fix’s most recent list of the top 10 likeliest nominees.

If Chris Christie keeps going the way he has been, he might not continue to be among the GOP’s top presidential candidates in 2016. He certainly won’t deserve to be.

 


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