from the and-would-have-allowed-Cuba-to-fall-to-Castro...-oh,-wait dept
Where do you go when the assertions that Snowden's leaks will cause grave damage and irreparable harm to national security still fail to unite the world against the former NSA contractor? It appears you head to alternate realities where Snowden leaks documents during the early 1940s, thus dooming Britain to cowering at the feet of Hitler.
If Edward Snowden had been around during World War II, Adolf Hitler would have been able to score victories against the United Kingdom, according to the British ambassador to the U.S.Westmacott's comments follow a long line of detractors, who have claimed Snowden's leaks have turned the US (and other Five Eyes partners) into terrorists' playgrounds, when not trawling through history in an attempt to compare leaks spread worldwide by journalists to the selling of sensitive documents to unfriendly nations. That's when they're not suggesting Snowden's residence in Russia will inevitably turn him into an alcoholic.
In remarks at The Ripon Society commemorating the U.S. and British alliance, Ambassador Peter Westmacott said leaks like Snowden's would have allowed the Nazis to overrun allied forces in the Battle of the Atlantic and gain the upper hand...
"[T]here are moments ... when it is absolutely essential that intelligence operations in defense of our national security remain secret," he added. "These things are important. It's not frivolous and it is not hiding things."
"It is actually necessary for our national security to ensure that our real secrets remain secret."
This sort of claim is another in a long line of NSA/GCHQ defenders deploying fear in hopes of regaining the supposed higher ground. But there's only so long these tactics can remain effective in a dearth of terrorist activity, and it appears to have passed that shelf date quite some time ago. You can only point to attacks you haven't prevented as evidence that you're needed for so long before the public starts granting you the same level of trustworthiness reserved for those who claim to know the exact date the world will end.
Westmacott also mixes his metaphors by using military operations to condemn the leaking of documents detailing lots of untargeted surveillance. His fears mirror those of the Defense Department, which seems to believe Snowden is holding onto thousands of military intelligence documents and has based its damage assessment on the theory that a) he actually has these and b) they will be (or have been) released.
The ambassador would do well to remember that not nearly as many citizens are sold on the "War of Terror" as they were on actions taken during World War II. There's something much less tangible about a threat that is constantly referred to but rarely cohesively materializes. It's become so much of an abstraction here in the US that the FBI has had to craft its own "terrorist plots" from scratch just so its Counterterrorism wing (the larger of the two -- the other being "Law Enforcement") has something to do.
Cleared of all its Godwin-trappings, Westmacott's ultimate point is hardly any better. His extended anecdote -- involving the cracking of German U-boat codes in 1940-41 -- bears little resemblance to what has actually been revealed by Snowden's leaks. Much of what's been uncovered deals with the domestic surveillance performed by many countries as well as a concerted effort to undermine secured communications of any sort. There has been nothing released to date that details intelligence efforts directed at military foes.
That the oft-alluded-to enemy ("terrorists") use the same communication tools as the rest of the public (phones, internet, etc.) has been used as leverage to allow multiple intelligence agencies to gather communications and data from everybody, supposedly in hopes of ferreting out the terrorists among us. But nothing here covers encrypted military communications, not even those of the US or our allies. Westmacott says some secrets must remain secret, and without a doubt, many still do. To try to pitch the leaked documents as somehow being the equivalent of "allowing" Nazi Germany to "win" is more than disingenuous, it's a distortion of what's actually been leaked.