from the looselips.avi dept
The latest leak about the NSA's overseas spying transgressions took the unlikely form of a little-noticed YouTube video -- one that covered mostly-wonkish subject matter. The details of the NSA's malware attack on the French "White House" were revealed during an interview with Bernard Barbier, the former head of the French Intelligence Service, by a local engineering school. The video, of course, has since been removed, but not before French paper Le Monde picked up on the content of the interview.
Matt Suiche parses it all out -- an inadvertent confirmation of a Snowden document leaked in 2013 that contained an itinerary item about a discussion between French and US intelligence officials concerning a (at that time "alleged") "May 2012 cyber attack on the French Presidential network."
Sure, spies are known for spying on foreign governments. But allied countries were supposed to keep this sort of non-brotherly spying to a minimum. The former head of the French Intelligence Agency described the meeting this way:
“I received the order from the successor of Mr Sarkozy (Francois Hollande) to go in the U.S. to shout at them. We were sure it was them. At the end of the meeting, Keith Alexander (Director of the NSA) was not happy. When we were in the bus, he told me he was disappointed because he never thought we would detect them and he even added “You guys are good”. The major Allied Powers, we do not spy on them. The fact the U.S. broke this rule was a shock”
Note that Keith Alexander wasn't sorry the NSA had breached international spy agency decorum, much less attacked the presidential network of a foreign ally. He was only sorry his agency had been caught -- and by a comparatively-unpowered agency at that.
Barbier notes elsewhere in his interview that the agency that sniffed out the NSA intrusion did it with 1/20th of the workforce and 1/40th of the budget. The NSA, in his view, is an argument against government bloat. More dollars do not equate to better spying. Indiscriminate targeting and even more indiscriminate collecting lead to a lot of analyst busywork.
Despite this disagreement over NSA hacking, it appears Keith Alexander found some common ground with the head of French Intelligence. One of the things the NSA does with the data it collects is kill. France is apparently using its collections the same way.
Another surreal part is when Keith Alexander told Bernard Barbier about the “Find & Fire” projects they have in Iraq to identify (within a 7km radius) & eliminate bad guys with drones. So apparently France is working on similar technologies as Barbier managed to convinced them to do the same…
So, there's that. Even if spy agencies can't agree on the propriety of snooping on world neighbors, at least they both believe metadata is an indispensable part of their respective extrajudicial killing programs.
And, given the nature of this leak, both agencies will probably be taking a closer look at the non-disclosure agreements foisted upon departing employees.