Ever since former NSA contractor Edward Snowden fled the job he held for three months, taking four laptop computers full of U.S. intelligence with him to Hong Kong and Russia, other countries have become "outraged" by the Snowden disclosures about American intelligence practices. What, exactly, is so alarming? Apparently, the fact that spies actually spy. Give me a break.
The average person might be excused for being surprised at what spies actually do and by Snowden's revelations about passive data mining -- even though such programs have existed for years. The fact that most people didn't even know about data mining supports the notion that the program hasn't been misused to undeservedly target the average citizen. And despite Snowden's revelations about PRISM data collection, there is zero evidence to suggest that the government won't remain steadfastly disinterested in the banalities of people's private lives.
Michael Hayden, the former director of both the NSA and CIA, thinks the solution is greater transparency with regard to spying. Really? American spy agencies are overmarketed and overexposed as it is. Keeping the American public, along with the rest of the world, more thoroughly informed about America's intelligence-gathering methods can't possibly outweigh the benefits of secrecy.
Not that it isn't a tricky equation. I'm generally in favor of transparency. I like having access to as much data as possible. Every time a batch of classified WikiLeaks documents was dumped, I found myself rifling through it for info treasure, and there were some gems that eventually led to new information about the role of intelligence think tank Stratfor and about the wheeling and dealing done by the British government to secure the release of the Lockerbie bomber in order to protect a deal between Libya and British energy giant BP.
But I also realize that national security generally isn't served by transparency. Even though I appreciate access to such information, so do the enemies of America and its allies.
European governments have been expressing faux outrage over American intelligence activities in the wake of a 2010 document released by Snowden indicating that the U.S. bugged European reps in Washington, D.C.
Look, government intelligence agencies spy. That's their entire raison d'etre. And it's particularly acceptable to spy on foreign entities -- both friendly and hostile -- especially on their own turf. If you're in a role that's important enough to warrant being actively targeted by surveillance, then you should also be savvy enough to take responsibility for yourself and adopt counteractive measures to minimize your exposure.
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