UK Spy Chief Says Al-Qaeda Loving Snowden Leaks, But How Would He Know Unless Viable Intercepts Are Still In Place?
from the are-al-Qaeda-ops-sending-him-mocking-Vine-videos? dept
This short blurb from the current Parliamentary inquiry into the UK's surveillance programs just doesn't add up.
"The leaks from Snowden have been very damaging, they've put our operations at risk. It's clear that our adversaries are rubbing their hands with glee, al Qaeda is lapping it up," John Sawers, the head of MI6, Britain's foreign intelligence service, told parliament.Either Sawers is simply assuming al-Qaeda members are relishing the leaks or MI6, GCHQ, etc. still have viable intercepts. The talking points have always been: a) it's legal and subject to oversight and b) the leaks have aided our enemies. Sawers is going with the latter. Here's more:
Lobban said terrorist groups in the Middle East and Afghanistan had been discussing the revelations in specific terms and had discussed moving to other “communications packages”.If anything, the leaks may have pushed a few operatives off compromised services, but it's highly unlikely those in control of these operations or anyone with any common sense was using widely available commercial services to collaborate and plan further terrorist activities. It's not as if al-Qaeda members thought no one was paying attention to their communications and activities until June 6th of this year. Statements like Sawer's make that assertion. His further comments indicate that intelligence agencies are still picking up useful data. The agencies know which "communications packages" they're tapping and should be able to react by looking towards those they don't. At best, the leaks have only sped along the inevitable. Spying of this magnitude wasn't going to stay secret forever and these agencies should be feeling a bit more grateful Snowden went to the press, rather than the enemy.
Much of what's been uncovered has been speculated on heavily for years. Snowden isn't the first whistleblower to expose surveillance programs. His leaks may be the largest to date, but information has leaked out over the past several years that has, at the very least, indicated most major phone services are compromised (which would lead one to believe data carried along those same lines is similarly compromised). Earlier leaks also pointed to intelligence efforts to install software backdoors in widely used products and, for as long as the NSA has existed, defeating encryption has been a priority, which means any system or service relying on it was likely a target.
There will still be "surface skimmers" that expose terrorist operations by failing to stay below the surveillance radar. Much of what's been exposed by the leaks deals with major corporations and popular services. The NSA is intercepting data from Google and Yahoo, not stuff routed through "darker" alternatives. (Not that it doesn't want those as well...) To state these leaks have aided terrorists is to assume (like others have) that al-Qaeda relies on Google products and compromised telecommunictions services.
Sawer's claim plays to those who buy into the fear these agencies desperately need to sell to avoid losing any of these unfiltered intercepts -- intercepts so "important" to national security that they can't be bothered to be operated with any sort of finesse. The blunt force trauma of these data smash-and-grab programs has done little more than give UK and US agencies way more data than they can feasibly use and turn the public (and the communication services it uses) against the intelligence community.
It serves a double duty for intelligence agencies by turning Snowden into the enemy -- a careless terrorist sympathizer. If these agencies "know" terrorist entities are loving the leaks, then they have viable intercepts still in place. Either that or they're just telling convenient untruths. Either way, it does them no favors. We're well past the point of buying the flimsy justifications and the tired assertion that our nations can only be ensured safety if we cave to intelligence agencies' every demand carries absolutely no weight at this point.