Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Bumbling U.K. agents should concern us all

Of all the side stories spinning off of the Snowden saga, yesterday’s report that U.K. “security experts” invaded the offices of the Guardian newspaper and destroyed computer hard drives in an attempt to stop any further revelations has to be one of the most mind boggling.

The security experts were from GCHQ intelligence agency, which had earlier demanded that the paper’s editor either hand over all Snowden related materials or destroy the files. When the editor refused, the agency sent in the so-called experts to physically smash the hard drives of the newspaper’s computers.

There’s so much wrong in this single event it’s hard to know where to begin. The first issue is the embarrassingly thuggish approach taken by a government agency. It’s like a scene pulled from the script of a bad mafia movie. “You want I should break his thumbs, Boss?” “Not yet. Just bust up the computers. We’ll save the fun stuff for another time.” What sly and sophisticated tactic will the government try next? A dead fish wrapped in newspaper? Cutting off the head of the editor’s pet hamster and putting it in his bed?

The second part of this PR disaster is the apparent ignorance displayed by the security experts regarding current data storage capabilities. Smashing hard drives to stop further security leaks is like smashing a TV set to stop the broadcast of a television show. It’s as if the U.K.’s security experts were frozen in 1995 and just thawed out yesterday.

All of this brilliance comes from an agency in charge of the country’s most important secrets. And in our country, Obama has the nerve to scoff at people concerned about the possible abuse of blanket surveillance.

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