I suppose it’s about time that I chimed in on this…I’ve actually been avoiding this topic for a couple of years simply because the topic itself is so vast that it would be nearly impossible to hit all of the relevant points. I shouldn’t have to tell you that this will probably be a lengthy article…made even more so by the complicated nature of the topic. My average seems to be about 2-3 pages…I predict 5. So settle in, grab yourself a pot of coffee (or case of Red Bull) and enjoy, I dare you!
Note: I started writing this piece before a lot of relevant information came out making some of my “observations” seem pretty insignificant. I’ve of course linked the relevant articles at the relevant locations though, so even if my epiphanies aren’t all that phenomenal, at least it should be informative :p
All of this really started with Bradley Manning (one sentence in and I’m already full of shit). Let me start again.
For me, all of this started with Bradley Manning. For good or ill, the man gave us information that we had currently been unaware of, exposing war crimes by American Soldiers (I’m speaking specifically of the video he released, more so than the other data – much of which was pretty useless).
And this sparked conflict – quite a bit of conflict, actually, where Americans were pitted against Americans in a bid to determine whether or not Mr. Manning should be held accountable for his actions. I stayed silent for a few different reasons (self-preservation among the top 3), and have maintained that silence (barring some snarky comments on a few different message boards) for the last few years.
I’m going to start with something that the Feds dislike (after all, they’ve shown that they’ll lie when the truth will do): Full Disclosure
From the years between 1994 and 1997 I served in the United States Army, working directly for NSA. While I did not move very high up in the ranks, my job dictated that I had quite a bit of contact with security professionals in other positions. I mention this, not because I have any actual secrets (I don’t), but as a means to let the reader know that I’m not wholly ignorant on the topic of security and State Secrets.
A note to the NSA, who I’m sure is reading this: You’ll be disappointed if you’re looking for a whistleblower here…I don’t remember anything worth value (honestly, I doubt I knew much of value to begin with), and will be speaking in generalities anyway. (To both of my readers – if I disappear shortly after this is published, you know why. It should go without saying, but I am not suicidal or insane, although that’s how the story will be spun if I disappear under mysterious circumstances).
During my time in the service I was a witness to things that I didn’t necessarily think were appropriate, however those things really are small potatoes compared to the stuff that Mr. Manning and Mr. Snowden have released. I have no insights on what they were thinking or even specifically what they had access to. I don’t know how much of their “information” is bullshit or how much is accurate. When it comes down to the facts, I pretty much “know” as much as anyone else at this point…I just happen to have a slightly broader realm of experience to compare it to.
The problem with this topic is that any sort of a complete picture of what’s taking place contains so much information that it’s really impractical to try to relay it at all, much less have a meaningful discussion. Everything from what the US Founders had in mind, to pretty much everything that the Government has done since then is important for this discussion…and I haven’t got that much time (I’m sure this will be long enough to where you don’t have that kind of time either).
On top of the History lesson, we have quite a bit of social interaction that should probably be considered, as well as the moral and ethical implications from BOTH sides of the fence. It is a complex situation. Not as complex as performing a brain surgery while building a rocket mid-flight, but close.
I’ve been on the internet for about 20 years, so I know that the following two sentence are completely incorrect, but I’m going to type them anyway (I am going to put this in bold though, because I’m not stupid and fully expect that people will forget about them after about 20 seconds): For the purposes of this article I’m going to assume that my readers are intelligent enough to do some of their own research and not just take my words at face value. Also, please realize that what follows is an opinion based on what is likely an incomplete view of the facts – corrections are welcome!
So, to kick this thing off I’d like to say a couple of different things before people get overexcited: Our government watches other governments, just like I’m sure they watch ours. Period. These things are known worldwide, and honestly it’s more surprising to me that other countries are feigning anger over the situation. Publicly, of course, the US Government doesn’t conduct spying at all…but if you thought they were blissfully unaware of what’s been happening in the rest of the world, you’ve been very sheltered and really should fire up Google to do some research. This isn’t a mystery, and it’s really not a reason for anyone to be posturing over it. Governments spy on other governments by whatever means they can – such is the way of Government.
The United States Government also has no reason to suspect that Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning have been “selling state secrets”, which seems to be the primary statement that has been tossed around. If either of them had been selling secrets they would be under the protection of the country they were selling to (if they could be found at all, which I would doubt), not only that, but isn’t that what the NSA has supposedly been looking for? And they didn’t spot it? Obviously their surveillance has been successful </sarcasm>. The fact that Manning is in custody and that Snowden has still not been caught (although they know his whereabouts) kind of tells me that he’s not getting the kind of help that would be expected from the “host” country (the people supposedly buying the secrets). After all, if I were in the market of buying secrets (I’m not), I would certainly want to afford some protection to the whistleblowers, if anything so that future whistleblowers would think they’d have an opportunity to continue existing after the fact. No, this entirely smells like two guys that – for their own personal reasons – decided to release secret information. I don’t see any indication that either of them were promised or received undue assistance from anyone else.
The other nations – the ones “professing concern” for their own privacy shouldn’t be surprised either. I can say this much: The US military spies enough on everyone to know exactly who is spying on us back (this would be most, if not all of them). Of course, our “enemies” (more on this in a bit) are also spying on us, and it’s logical to assume we’re spying on them as well (why else would the freaking Soviets give a shit about the secrets spilled, unless they’re concerned their own secrets will escape?). The short and skinny of it is that of all of the players in this little fiasco, the only group that has any right to be surprised are the citizens of the United States (and honestly, the number of people that are surprised is actually more shocking to me, because seriously?) If our Government were interested in “coming clean” to the American public (they’re not, but play along), the first thing they would do is announce all of the spying that has been done by friendlies toward the United States. That should shut them up in a hurry…yet isn’t being done. Why? Because the game that’s played in public is vastly different from the game that’s played behind closed doors.
No, the US Government is pissed for one reason: Their abuses toward civilians have been hidden for who knows how long, and in a relatively short period of time have been exposed. To use an analogy, they aren’t pissed because their wife is filing for divorce, they’re pissed because they were caught fucking a goat. They are embarrassed, and that’s why it’s such a big deal. They have been caught, and they can see that the continued raping of American Rights will have to be kept even more secret – something that will only become more challenging as technology improves. I’m sure it will pass…Americans have notoriously short memories (as noted by the link above discussing US spying back in 2010), but I can hope. That’s the one thing that they can’t take away from us.
So places like the UK and Australia are also pissed at the United States. Why? Well, because they’re wondering who else the US Government has been lying to. Are we tracking our allies as well? Note: while I was drafting this article we’ve learned that, yes, in fact, we are watching our allies.
I’d say that it’s fairly likely.
Also, may I point out that declarations of “everyone does it” by Obama and his Staff, does absolutely nothing to address the fact that they are also spying on their own people. What do you suppose happens to Americans that try to spy back? I’ll give you three guesses. Personally, I think the Feds need to let us know exactly which of these children decided to skip the 3rd grade where they were supposed to have learned that two wrongs don’t make a right. For fucks sake, if France jumped off of a bridge would we have to as well?