In his heroic efforts to alert Americans to the NSA’s threats to their civil liberties, Edward Snowden’s latest document release reveals that NSA colluded with Sweden to spy on Americans.
Wait. Did I say Americans? Sorry. Got all wrapped up in the narrative.
Let me start over. Edward Snowden’s latest document release reveals that the NSA and its counterpart the Swedish National Defense Radio Establishment (“RFA”) cooperated to collect intelligence on Russia, including high priority targets such as the leadership.
A couple of comments.
First, I sure as hell hope so and am damned glad.
Second, um, isn’t the whole point of the NSA-and presumably RFA-to collect intelligence on foreign nations, especially those who are not just potential adversaries, but actual ones? Hell, NSA’s primary reason for being for decades was to collect intelligence of all varieties on the USSR. The anti-terrorist mission which Poitras, Greenwald, etc., insinuate is the only legitimate basis for its current existence was pretty much an afterthought, and is still only a portion of what NSA does. (IMO the NSA and the intelligence community in general have been mistaken in emphasizing its anti-terror role as a justification for its programs. This has allowed the Snowden gang to raise doubts about the legitimacy of NSA’s non-terror-related activities, including collecting intelligence on foreign leaders and countries. NSA should defend these activities.)
Third, this is a case where the US and Sweden have common interests, as is the case with the US and many of the other countries with whom it has cooperated, as revealed by previous Snowden disclosures.
Indeed, Sweden has long been, and continues to be, the subject of aggressive Russian intelligence and military operations. These include Soviet submarine incursions into Swedish waters. (The lack of these episodes post-Soviet collapse are due more to the implosion of the Russian submarine force than any change in intent.) They also include violations of Swedish airspace, including several recent simulated bombing runs on Sweden.
Given this history, cooperation between NSA and FRA is about as shocking, and about as alarming, as the cooperation between the FBI and local law enforcement on kidnapping and bank robbery.
As a near front-line state, with deep engagements and interests in eastern Europe and the Baltic, Sweden has no illusions about the threats posed by Russia. Military. Economic. Criminal. (In Russia, these two are hard to distinguish.) And yes, political. Note that Sweden’s Karl Bildt has been among the most outspoken in criticizing Russia’s intimidation in Ukraine. (Could he give John Kerry a blood transfusion? He could use it. First the French, and now the Swedesare making Kerry and Obama look feckless and craven. Read that sentence again to get the full significance of how embarrassing that is.)
The fact that Snowden, Poitras, Greenwald et al think that this revelation somehow reveals that the US is engaged in illegitimate acts tells you about their utterly unrealistic view of the justifiable activities of national intelligence authorities. States have engaged in such activities since time immemorial. They are an essential state function. This revelation also shows that they believe that cooperation with the United States is inherently disreputable. Because they believe like most hardcore leftists that the US is uniquely malign. The criticism of those who cooperate with the US, and the elevation of the Russians-the Russians-to the status of victims tells you need to know all about whom they think are the bad actors.
The point is to put pressure on the US, and most notably, US allies, who cooperate out of self-interest with US intelligence agencies. It has nothing to do with the privacy or civil liberties of the nations involved-the ostensible justification for Snowden’s theft-and everything to do with compromising the legitimate activities of free, democratic countries.
And who are the beneficiaries? Unfree, undemocratic ones. Most notably Russia. You know, the country to which Snowden fled, and which has given him asylum, obviously under the control of its security services, as self-righteously-and implausibly-as Snowden, Greenwald et al try to deny it.
Russia. The country of SORM. Which those stalwart defenders of human liberty and privacy Snowden, Greenwald, Poitras, et al never mention ever.
What they reveal and what they refuse to discuss proves, day after day, that they are all objectively pro-Russian, and outrageous hypocrites to boot. And sorry, but advancing Russian interests at the expense of American and Swedish (and German and British and Portuguese and French and Spanish and . . .) interests is utterly incompatible with a claimed purpose of fighting for liberty and privacy. Because however imperfect these countries may be, on their worst day they are far superior to Russia on its best.