Foreign and Defense Policy, Terrorism

Espionage porn

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com

The New York Times reports this morning:

[T]he N.S.A. has increasingly made use of a secret technology that enables it to enter and alter data in computers even if they are not connected to the Internet, according to N.S.A. documents, computer experts and American officials.

The technology, which the agency has used since at least 2008, relies on a covert channel of radio waves that can be transmitted from tiny circuit boards and USB cards inserted surreptitiously into the computers. In some cases, they are sent to a briefcase-size relay station that intelligence agencies can set up miles away from the target.

The radio frequency technology has helped solve one of the biggest problems facing American intelligence agencies for years: getting into computers that adversaries, and some American partners, have tried to make impervious to spying or cyberattack. In most cases, the radio frequency hardware must be physically inserted by a spy, a manufacturer or an unwitting user.

Before folks start putting tinfoil on their laptops to thwart NSA radio transmitters, take a deep breath. The Times reports, “There is no evidence that the N.S.A. has implanted its software or used its radio frequency technology inside the United States.” And an NSA spokeswoman, Vanee Vines, says, “N.S.A.’s activities are focused and specifically deployed against — and only against — valid foreign intelligence targets in response to intelligence requirements.”

So what is the redeeming social value of the story? What “abuse” is being revealed? What threat to American civil liberties has been exposed here? Why is this something the public needs to know?

The answers are: None. None. None. And it isn’t.

All that has been exposed are valid, lawful intelligence activities against foreign intelligence targets. Before this program was exposed, terrorists and other adversaries might have thought that as long as they did not connect to the internet, they were “off the grid” and impervious to NSA surveillance. Now they know that is untrue. As a result they will take countermeasures – like not using laptops that are offline anymore. Which means we will lose access to vital streams of intelligence we needed to keep the country safe.

As one former senior intelligence official told me recently, stories like this are nothing more than “espionage porn.” They serve no greater social purpose than to titillate.

And the man behind so many of these revelations, Edward Snowden, is nothing more than the Larry Flynt of the intelligence world – a shameless espionage pornographer.

Except for one big difference: pornography is legal. Sharing America’s espionage secrets is a crime.

Follow AEIdeas on Twitter at @AEIdeas

5 thoughts on “Espionage porn

  1. Marc, violating the rights guaranteed us under the US Constitution is also a crime and by far, the bigger one.

    Snowden is hero- a true American Patriot, in the same league as Thomas Jefferson and Paul Revere.

    America has started a downward slide towards Totalitarianism just as happened to the Roman and Ottoman and all other empires. It MAY not be too late to stop this decline, but the evidence certainly indicates it probably has progressed too far…

  2. Well interesting post. But should the NYT sit on information? I found the story fascinating. Newsworthy? I would say “yes.” If the NSA can do this, then within time the technology will become cheaper and anyone can do this…
    As for NSA declarations they do not use this technology in the USA, I must sadly say the federal government is known for prevaricating…
    We have an enormous spy apparatus today, larger than when we had a real military foe in the USSR…does this make sense?

  3. The public has a need to know because America has a representative government; the power belongs to the people at least on paper (the Constitution). That you gloss over this so casually tells me most of what I need to know. What you are defending is totalitarianism and really, government jobs and welfare programs that use patriotism as a cover for keeping a lot of people working on the dole for the supposed defense of the country. Of course people like you, who have been living large off of other people’s money for your entire careers, would defend it.

    The one thing you have right is that there is indeed something obscene here.

  4. Let’s see… Ed Snowden releases information, at great risk to himself, regarding a multitude of abuses conducted by the US government, revealing a national security state that has placed the world under surveillence. Marc Thiessen wrote pretty words for a US president that helped take the country into a pointless invasion of Iraq that led to the deaths of over a hundred thousand people, the destruction of millions of lives, and a waste of trillions in taxpayer dollars. So why exactly does Marc feel qualified to call other people names?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>