Streetwise Professor

January 14, 2014

So How Would This Be Different Than Revealing Our Breaking Enigma or JN-25 in WWII?

Filed under: China,History,Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 11:53 pm

The most recent Snowden revelation, courtesy of the NYT-go figure-is that the NSA has used trade craft and high technology to penetrate offline computers.

Note  the headline and the first couple of paragraphs, which are oh-so-vague about just what computers are penetrated.  It could be yours!!!!!!

Not really.

And look at this, from the first paragraph: the NSA’s actions “also create a digital highway for launching cyberattacks”.   The targets of said attacks are not named, leaving it for suggestible minds to conclude that the NSA is targeting the innocent.  The insinuation–a NYT speciality–is that the intent of the NSA action is aggressive, and therefore somehow illegitimate.

You have to read four paragraphs into the story to find this:

The radio frequency technology has helped solve one of the biggest problems facing American intelligence agencies for years: getting into computers that adversaries, and some American partners, have tried to make impervious to spying or cyberattack. In most cases, the radio frequency hardware must be physically inserted by a spy, a manufacturer or an unwitting user.

The N.S.A. calls its efforts more an act of “active defense” against foreign cyberattacks than a tool to go on the offensive.

So we are attempting to penetrate the computers of “adversaries.”  Like China and Russia.  Good of the NYT to acknowledge we actually have adversaries.

But of course, what the left hand giveth, the lefter hand must take away.  The very next sentence:

But when Chinese attackers place similar software on the computer systems of American companies or government agencies, American officials have protested, often at the presidential level.

And you thought moral equivalence was dead!

If you read the article carefully, you will conclude-despite the efforts of reporters David Sanger and Thom Shanker to obfuscate-that the NSA is engaged in defending the United States against malign countries that have long waged asymmetric combat against us, and which could be military adversaries in open conflict in the future.  Not likely, but possibly.

Shocking, I know, that an entity called the National Security Agency would be engaged in such outrageous efforts to defend US national security.  The nerve.

Look, the NSA and other intelligence agencies spend boatloads of money.  This is actually something that is worth paying for.

And just how, exactly, does this revelation advance the interests of the privacy of US citizens, which I though was Eddie Snowden’s big concern?  Hell, how does it advance the interests of privacy of private citizens of China and Russia, for that matter?  This is directed at the governments of those countries.

Can we just get over the pretense that Snowden is a whisteblower concerned about privacy issues?  That’s just the candy coating on a huge poison pill–an information operation directed against the United States.  This whisteblower persona gives Snowden immunity from scrutiny, and from behind this cover he lobs info bomb after info bomb against US national interests, compromising extremely sensitive operations intended to protect the US against nations that bear it very, very ill will.

Imagine if during WWII, prior to June 4, 1942,  someone had revealed the the US had broken the Japanese JN-25 Code.  Or if someone had disclosed the Ultra secret–that Britain and the US had broken the Enigma cipher.  I really can’t find any meaningful distinction between those hypotheticals, and the reality of what Edward Snowden–and the New York Times–has done, and will be continuing to do.

Update: The article mentions submarines, but it doesn’t draw the best submarine analogy.  During the Cold War, the US Navy’s submarine force engaged in highly clandestine, dangerous, imaginative and largely successful efforts to penetrate Soviet communications.  For instance, US subs tapped underwater telephone cables in Soviet harbors. (Read the book Blind Man’s Bluff for the details.) This was of vital importance during the Cold War.  What the NSA is doing now with Chinese and Russian computers is not different, in any material way.

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