Former NSA Official Claims Snowden Set Agency Back A Decade, Tells Putin To 'Return' Whistleblower

from the mostly-fury,-some-sound,-otherwise-insignificant dept

Another former NSA official has offered his contribution to the "Snowden has destroyed the NSA" narrative. Jack Israel, former "technical director for NSA's analysis & production directorate" has posted an op-ed at the Baltimore Sun that makes all the usual stops on the talking point circuit on its way to claiming the leaks have done "permanent damage" to the NSA.

Sept. 11th? Referenced heavily. The bulk of Israel's op-ed recounts the agency's actions after the Sept. 11th attacks, including its newfound interest in the internet. Rather than acknowledging the failure to collaborate that allowed a known terrorist (and 9/11 participant) to reenter the country unnoticed, Israel blames this on another, older leak.

Our sensors were trained on some of al-Qaida's lieutenants, but there were no signs of an impending attack. Years ago, we listened to the communications of Osama bin Laden, but they went off the air when this source was leaked to the press…
So, according to Israel, the NSA decided to take a look at this new thing called the internet.
Much of the conversation the morning after focused on phone calls, a technology that NSA was long familiar with. But about 15 minutes in, someone opined, what about the Internet? This was a relatively new technology, one that some in NSA feared would cause the agency to "go blind" because of the dazzling volumes of information and endless variety of new and emerging communications modes such as chat, email, and even telephone calls over the Internet…

"How do we know they're even using it?" the head of the data collection directorate asked. Several years ago we had sampled communications channels looking for al-Qaida and had not found a trace.

"They are," a senior analyst responded. "They're saying so in their phone calls."
And the internet proved to be a huge source of data. Israel claims that "within six months," the agency had compiled a huge terrorist database, thanks to these collections. But his recollection of this game-changing event glosses over the NSA's apparent failure to surveil the internet. The NSA was already listening to terrorists' calls. This much is apparent. But the terrorists were saying something and the NSA just wasn't hearing it. Let's repeat that last line.
"They are," a senior analyst responded. "They're saying so in their phone calls."
So, if we're to believe Israel's take, then the NSA KNEW Al-Qaeda was "using the internet" but, until after the 9/11 attacks, didn't do anything about it. Several years earlier it had "sampled communications," but despite directly hearing from Al-Qaeda operatives about their internet activities, decided not to pursue that "dead end" again. I guess if we buy that story, then we can see his point about Snowden setting back the agency "ten years." The agency apparently reacts with all the nimbleness of an oil tanker. It knew but did nothing, until it was too late.

But this isn't the nadir of Israel's op-ed. This interjection, hidden in parentheses towards the end of his piece, is. It's not just stupid. It's also poorly written.
To President Vladimir Putin: Give us Snowden. You already know everything from him.
It was made clear months ago that Snowden had completely offloaded his stash of documents before setting foot in Russia. Even if you find that hard to believe, the assumptions that Russian intelligence agencies have somehow either a.) cracked device security to gain access or b.) cracked Snowden himself to gain access are equally unbelievable. If "a" is true, then one needs to question the NSA's inability to discover what documents have been "taken." The "b" assumption relies heavily on other conspiracy theories, like Snowden working in conjunction with Russia or him being worked over to give up what he knows. Israel's wording seems to suggest the latter, despite there being no indication that Putin wants Snowden around for anything more than annoying the US government. (This could change, of course, given the events in the Ukraine, and the US government's stance against Russian intervention...)

"You already know everything from him" is a ridiculous assertion made even worse by Israel's choice to put these exact words in that exact order. This clumsy stab at labeling Snowden a traitor follows a sentence equally abhorrent in its misrepresentation of actual events.
He and his supplicants at major press outlets here and abroad publish his revelations as if the national security of this country and the U.K. matter little.
I won't argue the fact that Snowden's leaks have damaged these agencies' surveillance abilities. "Setting them back a decade" is a bit much. But the focal point of the leaks has mostly been the two agencies' insistence on spying on their own countries. They may kick the surveillance ball back and forth to prevent directly spying on their fellow citizens, but the culture of sharing the GCHQ and the NSA have developed over the years makes this small distinction irrelevant.

The NSA's defenders are running out of steam. They can't seem to find any real justification for these pervasive surveillance programs and have resorted to hurling mealy-mouthed insults at Snowden and various journalistic entities from the relative safety of op-ed pages and anonymous statements.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    silverscarcat (profile), Mar 5th, 2014 @ 8:13am

    The problem with being invincible...

    Is that you make mistakes that inevitably leads to your downfall.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Mar 5th, 2014 @ 10:30am

    Only a decade?

    They've been twisting laws and violating people's Constitutional rights for way longer than that, how far do they have to be set back before they actually respect the rights of the people?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2014 @ 11:31am

    Increasingly there are calls to investigate the GCHQ and it's methods for finding out how much is actually legal and to discuss what should be done to pull them back.

    While it seems to be occurring a bit slower here, yes the same thing is in action and can't be stonewalled forever. Not only is political pressure building to make changes but corporate and big money are pushing for the same. They are seeing the beginnings of leaving them out of lucrative contracts and sales, simply because they are in the US and can not guarantee security of information no matter what they promise against the laws being used to reveal the same to those security agencies.

    Make no mistake, being left out of the running for sales and contracts will be expensive, extremely so given the nature of global business. A $4 billion dollar contract is gone from Brazil over it. Many are now questioning why the US should have so much control over all things internet, seeing as no one can trust them not to violate privacy issues. This will continue with increasing strength until the US can prove it no longer does this. To do so will mean a total revamping of privacy laws as well as calling all the security branches to heel. At this point we are a long ways from that.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
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    Rich Fiscus (profile), Mar 5th, 2014 @ 11:58am

    If not being able to break the law sets you back a decade you fail at government.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
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    kenichi tanaka (profile), Mar 5th, 2014 @ 12:00pm

    With the United States trying to bully Russia about the Ukraine, do they honestly think that Russia would ever extradite him to the United States after all of this?

    UH, I DON'T THINK SO.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
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    Jon Renaut (profile), Mar 5th, 2014 @ 12:09pm

    Nice SEO

    I think the first part of their URL slug pretty well summarizes the content of the piece.

    bs-ed-nsa-israel-20140303,0,1683316.story

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Mar 5th, 2014 @ 12:16pm

    Re:

    They were never going to before, the bullying over Ukraine doesn't really change anything as far as that goes.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
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    kenichi tanaka (profile), Mar 5th, 2014 @ 12:21pm

    Russia was never going to send Snowden back. The battle of wills that the United States is showing over Ukraine just made the chance of sending Snowden back 100x more difficult.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2014 @ 12:43pm

    Re: Only a decade?

    A better question; when will the US government give up on its ambition to rule the world?
    Reigning in the US government ambitions to police and/or rule the world would do more to prevent terrorism than trying to spy on everyone.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2014 @ 12:51pm

    Yay!

    "the leaks have done "permanent damage" to the NSA"

    Let's hope it damn well did!, This organization is rogue and needs to be disassembled ASAP.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Mar 5th, 2014 @ 1:01pm

    Re: Re: Only a decade?

    Sadly, that will likely only happen when enough countries get tired of being treated like little more than extensions of the US, and finally stand up for themselves.

    When enough countries flatly and clearly tell the US 'NO' next time they try and force changes to the other country's laws and government to suit USG and US corporate interests, then the imperialist drive might weaken, but as long as other countries are more than happy to screw themselves, and their citizens over, because the USG 'asked' them to, then they'll continue treating other countries like crap.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2014 @ 1:07pm

    "Tells Putin To 'Return' Whistleblower"

    They're still harping about trying to get him back? Still can't accept the fact that they lost? I thought they finally got over this. Give it up already, you lost. What sore losers. They have to turn everything into an issue of them getting their way and they are so insistent on getting their way completely that when they fail to they have an indefinite temper tantrum.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Mar 5th, 2014 @ 1:12pm

    Re: Re: Re: Only a decade?

    "When enough countries flatly and clearly tell the US 'NO' next time they try and force changes to the other country's laws and government to suit USG and US corporate interests, then the imperialist drive might weaken"

    Maybe. But Us history demonstrates that when this happens, our imperialist drive doesn't weaken at all. It just gets more militaristic. We have, throughout our history, attacked nations when a) we knew we could beat them and b) they didn't do what we want.

    What the US needs is to stop being the Only Big Dog On The Block. We need a multipolar world, not a unipolar world. The longer we are in this position, the farther into despotism we fall.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Mar 5th, 2014 @ 1:16pm

    Re:

    "Many are now questioning why the US should have so much control over all things internet"

    As well they should. The US abused its position.

    "This will continue with increasing strength until the US can prove it no longer does this."

    Which is something that is literally impossible to do. The closest we could come is for a long time to go by without any sign of misbehavior.

    Trust, once lost, is very difficult -- and sometimes impossible -- to regain.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Mar 5th, 2014 @ 1:17pm

    Re: Yay!

    My thoughts exactly. Even if not permanent, I'll accept them being set back 10 years as a consolation prize.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Mar 5th, 2014 @ 1:19pm

    Re:

    "I thought they finally got over this."

    What made you think that? Their butthurt whining hasn't stopped for a moment.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
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    cubicleslave (profile), Mar 5th, 2014 @ 1:44pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Only a decade?

    Well... don't forget about Russia. Not as big a dog as they used to be, but still be to reckoned with. The Russian bear still has teeth.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2014 @ 2:28pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Only a decade?

    The chines dragon is also growing teeth, and a large share of the western consumer market.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Kronomex, Mar 5th, 2014 @ 2:30pm

    "In 1990 we heard that terrorists were using something called "telephones" and as such these "telephones" could mean the end of the tin can and string monitoring system we currently employ. We should look at instituting this new technology as soon as possible. On another note; we have heard talk of using connected computers more sophisticated than our Apple Abacus system (please note that the 1990 blue and red beads will be available for upgrades within three months) Mark 1 being used for communications. Be assured that there is no evidence for this ever happening."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    limbodog (profile), Mar 5th, 2014 @ 2:36pm

    >The NSA's defenders are running out of steam

    No, not at all. They have all the time in the world. Just be wishy washy and lie until this loses the public interest. Nothing changes, and you go back to what you're doing. The US Congress and POTUS have indicated that they have absolutely no intention of changing the status quo. That lying to them is fine, if you do so in the name of "intelligence gathering" or "fighting terror".

    So I have to disagree. A lack of steam is not their problem. The only thing they have to fear is public outrage, which has never reached very high on this.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2014 @ 4:20pm

    Re: Re:

    Maybe the threat of building a nuclear defense shield if they don't give Snowden back might scare them into returning him.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2014 @ 5:07pm

    One Can Only Dream

    You mean to tell me that he set them back to a time when they should care about the privacy of citizens it's trying to protect? Wait no, that would make too much sense...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2014 @ 9:48pm

    Re: Yay!

    the leaks have done "permanent damage" to the NSA.
    Just like surgery to remove cancer permanently damages the cancerous organ. It may be painful. But necessary for survival.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 6th, 2014 @ 3:50am

    >Israel
    And yet some refuse to see that the jews are behind every bad thing.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    me@me.net, Mar 6th, 2014 @ 5:07am

    there is a threat to the country

    Its the NSA.....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 6th, 2014 @ 6:24am

    Never understood how some people STILL continue to defend a douchebag like Snowden despite the overwhelming evidence that shows he's nothing more than a coward opportunist.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 6th, 2014 @ 6:26am

    Re: there is a threat to the country

    That tinfoil hat is on a little too tight, I think.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Mar 6th, 2014 @ 6:46am

    Re: Re: there is a threat to the country

    Where does the tinfoil come into it? We're talking about things that everyone, including the NSA, acknowledge is true.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Mar 6th, 2014 @ 6:47am

    Re:

    Perhaps because he did an incredibly good thing for the US and the world? Just guessing.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 6th, 2014 @ 7:16am

    Re: Re:

    Hahahahaha no.

    Lying to get a cushy position then fleeing the country with stolen material and heading to China and Russia is not exactly "good".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 6th, 2014 @ 7:17am

    Re: Re: Re: there is a threat to the country

    Ok, keep believing that nonsense. /s

    You realise that you all look silly and irrational, right?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 6th, 2014 @ 7:25am

    Wasn't PRISM started about a decade or so ago? If so, he's definitely trying to set them backs decade. So is the American public, other countries, aliens, Greek gods, etc.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    icon
    Gene Cavanaugh (profile), Mar 6th, 2014 @ 10:02am

    More NSA FUD

    As an attorney (IP, but Constitutional Law was one of my favorite courses in law school) I would FAR rather risk another 9/11 than to give up my Constitutional rights!
    Except:
    1. the NSA's trampling on the Constitution is NOT making us safer; and,
    2. they are taking away our rights anyway.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 6th, 2014 @ 10:43am

    Re: Only a decade?

    62 years.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 6th, 2014 @ 10:45am

    Re: Re: Only a decade?

    I think it would take the dissolution of the union or the loss of a major war.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 6th, 2014 @ 10:48am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: there is a threat to the country

    Which part is nonsense?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 6th, 2014 @ 10:48am

    Re:

    Ok, keep shooting the messenger.

    You realize that you look silly and irrational, right?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 6th, 2014 @ 10:49am

    Re: Re: Re:

    It's good in the sense that it made everyone better off.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 6th, 2014 @ 10:50am

    What do we need to leak to kick it up to 6.2 decades of damage?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 6th, 2014 @ 10:54am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Only a decade?

    Being in a bipolar world with the USSR is what gave the US the impetus to build itself up to the point it is now. A new major threat would simply unite the country in further expansion of the military and intelligence apparatuses. What the US needs is to collapse under its own onerous weight which IMO we're starting to see right now.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Mar 7th, 2014 @ 10:25am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: there is a threat to the country

    "You realise that you all look silly and irrational, right?"

    No, I don't realize that at all. It might help if you actually explain what we're saying that's silly and irrational.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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