Security Agencies Losing Their Touch — Because of Privatization & Contracting-Out

In many Western countries, a trend that spread from the corporate world to the government’s security agencies might save money — but a loss of control and oversight can lead to terrible problems.

Yossi Melman analyzed that for :

The American mega-leaker Edward Snowden and his collaborators, or rather operators in the media – and who knows? Maybe even in the Russian intelligence – continue, for the fourth consecutive month, to cause embarrassment and tremendous damage to US intelligence and foreign policy.

Edward Snowden Was Visited in Russia by Whistleblowers from NSA, Other Agencies

Edward Snowden Was Visited in Russia by Whistleblowers from NSA, Other Agencies

Last week it was revealed that the National Security Agency (NSA) intercepted and listened to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s private cellular phone-calls and monitored millions of French e-mails. Both French and German officials expressed their anger with the United States’ “treacherous” behavior toward its allies.

Merkel especially felt humiliated and betrayed. Last June she met with US President Barrack Obama, during his visit to Berlin, and was assured by him that the United States was not spying on Germany. As it turned out, either Obama was lying to Merkel or he simply did not know what his own spy agency was doing behind his back. Either way it is a highly embarrassing situation for the American president.

The now-poisonous relationship between the US and its European allies is another tier of the already strenuous relationship between the US and its Central and South American partners, victims of the snooping scandal, as well. Earlier this year Snowden’s leaked documents revealed that the NSA also bugged the e-mails of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Mexico’s former President Felipe Calderón and incumbent President Enrique Peña Nieto.

It is believed now that, on the whole, the NSA bugged, intercepted and listened to 35 world leaders and to almost every nation on earth, foe or friend alike. There are probably only four nations which, thus far, seem to be immune from the US unstoppable campaign. Ever since World War II the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand enjoy a unique intelligence cooperation and sharing agreements with the US.

Snowden’s leaked documents also exposed that a few years ago the NSA signed a special cooperation agreement with its Israeli counterpart – Unit 8200 of the Israeli Intelligence Corps. But despite the agreements, Israel too has fallen victim to the US espionage efforts. Israeli security chiefs and state leaders have taken it for granted for many years that they, too, have been targeted by the US intelligence.

The roots of the American world-wide espionage campaign stem from the Bush administration. After September 11, President George W. Bush declared a war on global terrorism and restructured the intelligence community, which had failed to alert the White House of Osama Bin Laden’s terror plot despite endless indications, signals and early warnings.

Signal intelligence (SIGINT) thus became a very important tool to thwart terrorists’ plots. Even Merkel was honest enough to admit that information obtained by the US intelligence helped her security services to prevent attacks on German soil. However, important as it may be, the American war against Islamic and other types of terrorism cannot justify such a blunt crossing of the lines.

Terror threat aside, there are other reasons for the American unrestrained bugging habits.

One of the reasons is the bureaucratic factor, which can be explained by the fable about the scorpion and the frog. A scorpion asked the frog to help it cross the river. The frog agreed and carried it on its back. Upon reaching the other bank the scorpion stung the frog. The shocked frog cried out: “Now both of us will drown. Why did you do that?” “Because I could not kick of the habit,” replied the scorpion.

When in possession of the technological capabilities and operational timing, intelligence communities cannot resist taking advantage of an opportunity. After all, this is the reason for their existence, this is what they are trained for and ultimately paid for. Moreover, their bosses – the political echelon – could never resist saucy gossip about other leaders. This is human nature.

Yet, it is one thing to universally assume that everybody does it and that everyone is spying on one another. It is quite another thing to find out that you are the victim of such spying. The first rule of good intelligence is do not get caught. The Americans were caught off guard, red-handed and by a young IT expert.

Whether Snowden is an ideological whistleblower or a traitor, one thing is clear: His actions are rooted in “religious economics” or the dogmatic American notion of privatization.

In the last decade the US military and intelligence have assigned more and more tasks to the private sector. Snowden worked for a private company sub-contracted by the NSA. This trend was motivated by the cost-effecting belief that private sector would be more efficient while costing less money.

This theory may be true but saving public spending on intelligence can ultimately result in paying an even higher price. Sub-contractors are committed more to the balance sheet than to the flag. The loyalty of the employees is to their bosses rather than to the national interest.

There are two main lessons to be learnt from the NSA espionage scandal. Firstly, there are certain fields of national interests, which are far too important to be managed by the private sector. Secondly, the intelligence work is too serious to be left for the sole judgment of the intelligence people. They, too, have to be closely supervised and monitored.

October 28, 2013

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