Friday, January 17, 2014

U.S. spies eager to kill the messenger

Today’s Buzzfeed has an article titled, America’s Spies Want Snowden Dead. The article is packed with inflammatory comments like, “I’d love to put a bullet in his head,” from a Pentagon official, and “Most everyone I talk to says he needs to be tried and hung, forget the trial and just hang him,” from a defense contractor. What’s problematic about the article is that the quotes all come from “Unnamed sources.” On the one hand it makes sense. Spooks can’t be spooks if they hand out business cards. But in today’s world of manipulated media, it raises suspicions about the authenticity of the quotes.

If these sentiments are accurate, however, the article reveals that many people employed by the surveillance state live in an impenetrable bubble of self-importance. Despite the fact that during the past ten years only one or two terrorist plots have been exposed as the result of mass electronic surveillance, they deem Snowden a traitor who has seriously damaged their efforts to stop the bad guys.

The fact is that the NSA has very little to show for its intrusive and costly intelligence gathering operations. Even setting aside the many constitutional issues involved here, there simply hasn’t been much return on the taxpayers’ investment of billions of dollars. Snowden’s revelations have less to do with disrupting America’s spying capabilities and more to do with pulling back the curtain on the ineffective and unconstitutional NSA/CIA programs. 

Obama is making a speech today regarding proposed NSA reforms. Many believe it will be too little too late, and will not sufficiently reign in the intrusive spying tactics already in place. Regardless, if it weren’t for Snowden, we wouldn’t even be having this debate, as we’d still be in the dark about who was listening to our phone calls and reading our texts. If accurate, the ugly quotes about killing Snowden demonstrate an attitude among security officials that lawlessness in the pursuit of one’s objectives is acceptable. Not much of a surprise there.

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