Eventually a terrorist group may acquire a nuke.
Up front, I was an intelligence officer, a Clandestine Services officer, for a long time and served in the military before that. I was privileged to serve this country and privileged to know the men and women with whom I worked, both fellow Intel types and those courageous few who chose to risk everything to provide information to the United States. These are extraordinary people and the task of collecting intelligence has certainly not become any easier or less risky.
The world we find ourselves in today is, if anything, more chaotic and dangerous that during the Cold War. The possibility of a nuclear conflict is closer than ever as proliferation delivers such weapons into the hands of radical and fanatical governments. Eventually a terrorist group may acquire a nuke. In fact, the current Iranian and North Korean regimes come close to the definition of terrorists.
This argues in favor of the United States having the strongest, most flexible and imaginative intelligence operations possible. This includes signals intelligence, and signals intelligence is the purview of the National Security Agency, or, as we used to refer to it, "no such agency."
The defection of Edward Snowden and the perfidy of Bradley Manning have placed the operations of the NSA on front pages around the world, much to the glee of our foes. The scandal is not so much that the NSA is doing its job, but rather that two such low ranking misfits were permitted access to the information they stole.
The publicity has made for a strange congruence of views between the far left and the far right, and both groups are doing their best to scare the bejabers out of the rest of us. The far left is always ready to see the worst in America and do all it can to damage her interests. It's part of their DNA, implanted by long years of subversion by foreign interests. The far right harbors a deep distrust of any central government.
And, of course, politicians of all stripes are constitutionally unable to resist mounting their respective soap boxes to exploit such situations. The casualty of such scenarios is invariably this country's ability to collect intelligence. I am reminded of Senator Frank Church
's grandstanding in 1975 that resulted in real damage to the CIA. Ensuing years saw a growth of risk adversity in the Agency. Officers were informed that they risked prosecution should actions undertaken in furtherance of their duties be judged ex post facto to have been "unlawful." We were advised that legal defense would be at our own expense. We've seen more of the same lately. Now it's the NSA's turn in the barrel.
CIA officers are dedicated and patriotic. They would not be doing this arcane and unpopular work were they not so. I cannot help but believe the same is true at the NSA. Foreign intelligence is just that, FOREIGN intelligence. One does not work in intelligence to harm one's own country, but rather to protect it and its citizens from external threats. Intelligence officers have no interest in the lives of their own citizens, unless one of them is working for or with an enemy.
In all that has been made public regarding NSA collection programs there has, as yet, been no revelation of activity that rises to the level of purposeful, unlawful action against American citizens. Over 90% of the instances where unauthorized information was collected were due to technical errors, and were corrected. The remaining 10% are attributable to human error and were likewise corrected. When the FISA court determined that one program did not meet the Constitutional test, that program was discarded and all data destroyed. This begs the question: if Americans are concerned to protect their constitutional rights, is it fair to assert that the Americans working at NSA are any less concerned?
Snowden and Manning have done nothing less than provide a counter-intelligence bonanza to our enemies. It is they who merit public opprobrium, not the men and women of the NSA.
( Continue to "Hysteria: Part Duex" )