NSA’s secrets just a keystroke away
June 12, 2013 12:07 AM | 3119 views | 3 3 comments | 61 61 recommendations | email to a friend | print
First it has to be said — without getting into the morality or legality of its actions — that the National Security Agency’s technical prowess was truly impressive in creating programs that vacuumed up information about phone calls originating in the United States, including who called whom and for how long, but also emails, documents, photos, files and contact lists from domestic and foreign computers linked through nine major U.S. Internet companies.

For the time being, we will take the leaders of the intelligence communities’ word for it that these intrusive and invasive programs have yielded invaluable information in identifying and heading off terrorist attacks. Now that the programs are publicly known, we trust that more concrete proof of such information than has surfaced so far will come to light — assuming such proof can be made public without further compromising our security.

And we hope that the same skill and perseverance the intelligence agencies put into monitoring their own country is being applied to cyberespionage and cyberwarfare, and that our intelligence agencies are not sitting idly by while China and other nations continue to steal our trade secrets, product, particularly weapon, designs and financial information. It will take more than just words from the president to persuade China to change its ways.

However, the ease with which Edward Snowden, 29, a civilian contractor, scooped up some of NSA’s most closely guarded secrets indicates an institutional carelessness that shows the security apparatus has learned little, if anything, from the Bradley Manning case.

Manning was the Army private with a troubled past that should have raised all kinds of red flags. In 2010, he allegedly downloaded some 250,000 classified diplomatic cables and 500,000 military war logs from Iraq and Afghanistan and turned them over to the foreign-operated WikiLeaks website, an outlet ostensibly devoted to transparency, actions for which he is now rightly standing trial.

Both Snowden and Manning had monumental egos, or else an exceptional ability to rationalize, that evidently allowed them to presume that it was solely up to them to inform the American people what the U.S. government was doing in their name. And in Snowden’s case, especially, they seemed to be able to do so through an almost criminal lack of supervision and controls, resulting in the leaking of information that this country has spent years and billions of dollars assembling.

According to The Washington Post, Snowden said in a video on the British newspaper Guardian’s website: “Any analyst at any time can target anyone. ... I, sitting at my desk, had the authority to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant to a federal judge to even the president if I’d had a personal email.”

Snowden’s choice of code name, “Verax,” said to mean “truth-teller” in Latin, indicates a certain amount of ego. And when the Post, the newspaper he chose for a leak, wouldn’t print his purloined PowerPoint presentation in the time and format he had demanded, he took his documents to the Guardian.

Snowden fled his home in Hawaii, and from Hong Kong, where he seems reasonably safe from swift extradition, he pronounced, “I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” the Guardian quoted him as saying.

Indeed, he seems to feel he has done the American people a favor, saving them from “massive surveillance.” Perhaps so, but that is not his decision to make, and it is a defect in our intelligence system that he was in a position to do so.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Devlin Adams
June 13, 2013
Your left wing mudslinger, Kevin Foely, must have written this. Only a left wing mind would try to crucify someone who exposed widespread evil being carried out by this administration.

It makes no difference what Snowden's goal was in exposing the "1984" style spying. The important things to remember are that he did, we know about it, thanks to him, and it is up to us to stop it.
NE Cobb
June 12, 2013
Who should the 'whistleblower' be if not an analyst?

You really do not actually believe the guys at the top are going to release this kind of information?
June 12, 2013
What's a deystroke?
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