Thursday, December 19, 2013

Global Impact: Wholesale NSA Spying, Snowden Affair, Sloppy Investigative Work Contributes to Distrust of Washington

According to Xinhua, it is common knowledge that relations between the US and a number of Latin American countries suffered a debilitating blow in 2013 following revelations of the US National Security Agency (NSA)  global effort to eavesdrop on nearly anyone on Earth if they chose to.

Worse, the US' addiction to wanting to know sensitive information that no one else knows, has enabled the US to eavesdrop on friends and foe alike, simply because they have the capacity to do so.

Unfortunately, close personal allies such as Germany and Brazil, who thought that their governments had been trusted allies and friends of the US for decades, have discovered that they themselves have been eavesdropped on as if they were arch enemies.

Regrettably, both Germany's Angela Merkel and Brazil's Dilma Rousseff were targeted by Washington not for being terrorist targets, but rather for the privileged economic data they possessed in their heads.

Some 200,000 sensitive documents stolen and leaked by former NSA contractor, Edward Snowden, 30, with the original intention to do so, has jeopardized the trust that previously existed between the Mexican government and the US.

NSA eavesdropping on President Rousseff did have consequences: The Brazilian president cancelled her scheduled October 2013 visit to Washington. And at the annual meeting of the UN General Assembly, she urged other governments to take steps in protecting on-line privacy from compromise by Washington.

COMMENT: Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, whose emails were reportedly intercepted by NSA when he was still a candidate for office, has been reluctant to denounce the United States, his country’s main trading partner, with which it shares a 2,000-mile (3,218-kilometer) border.

Even the powerful Southern Common Market trade bloc known as MERCOSUR has come out against the US for its global eavesdropping operations against economic competitors.

Interestingly, it is no coincidence that China's news agency, Xinhua, would target  the US in its negative media campaign.

Sadly, the Obama Administration erred on several counts when it decided to use counter-terrorism as a pretense to embark on a global program of economic espionage at the expense of its trusted long-term neighbors and friends such as México, Brazil, Germany and countless others.

As a result, whenever you begin to spy on trusted nations to whom you've been loyal to for decades, the executive branch of the US has, in short order, become one that seemingly cannot be trusted and may never be so in the future, simply because it could not resist wide-scale snooping, largely because it was one of the few nations on Earth who had the resources to engage in such practices--unchecked.

By becoming greedy for privileged information known only by global leaders, wholesale spying on virtually everyone on Earth, the Snowden Affair might never have occurred except for:

The Snowden Affair. If the background investigation of Edward Snowden, 30, had been conducted according to the "book," particularly considering he was only a NSA contractor, and not an employee, he should have been investigated as if he never had a security clearance before. Unfortunately, such an investigation may not ever have been completed.

Although Snowden's background investigation would have been more expensive, it would have been more certain in terms of his true motive, which was to compromise and intentionally leak upwards of 200,000 sensitive documents to which he had been entrusted.

Sloppy Investigative Work. If Snowden's personal interview and field interviews of supervisors, neighbors, coworkers and developed sources (exclusive of listed references) had been completed according to Executive Order 10450, the Snowden Affair might never have occurred and the US would have been spared a series of  unnecessary public exposures.

Most recently, the US Department of Justice has joined a federal whistle-blower in a lawsuit against US Investigations Service, which conducts roughly 45% of personnel investigations for the Office of Personnel Management (OPM): 

In the December 17 issue of USA TODAY reports that US District Court Judge Richard Leon recently ruled that NSA's controversial global surveillance program may be unconstitutional. The decision is the first of several that are likely to arise from New York to California to review complaints from liberals and conservatives alike. Judge Leon's acknowledgment that the case may be appealed is an indicator that the case might well be heard before the US Supreme Court.

Leon said in his opinion, "Given the limited record before me at this point in the litigation, most notably  the utter lack that a terrorist attack has ever been prevented because of evidence searching the NSA database was faster than other investigative tactics--I have serious doubts about the efficacy of the metadata collection program."

Leon's decision comes less than a week after NSA Director, Gen. Keith Alexander, told a Senate subcommittee that "there isn't a better way" to help defend the country from potential terror threats.

To recap:

1. NSA no doubt should have found a better way to prevent terrorist threats from occurring rather than searching through billions of phone numbers and email addresses worldwide, which clearly, in light of Judge Leon's opinion, trampled upon the privacy rights of billions of people worldwide;

2. Knowing what we now know, Edward Snowden never intended to protect the national security information to which he was entrusted. In fact, he applied for a position at NSA so that he could leak upwards of 200,000 documents on a global scale. Had his investigation been in compliance with procedures, the Snowden Affair might never have occurred; and

3. Although it might well have been commendable that the NSA was well-intentioned to use metadata for counter-terrorism, it went further by eavesdropping on the privileged conversations of "friendly" nations, thereby jeopardizing the trust that US diplomats had with their counterparts across the world. That heretofore trust may well have been irreversibly damaged.