The NSA leaks’ big reveal; The scariest part of it all; Was China a good idea for Snowden? An Afghan attack, foiled; The Pentagon’s pals in Russia; John Allen to Brookings; And a little bit more.
By Gordon Lubold The big reveal: Edward Snowden is an intel agency IT guy who will not be ignored. The former CIA technician turned Booz Allen Hamilton information technology contractor voluntarily revealed himself as the man behind the leaks about the National Security Agency’s data collection methods. Edward Snowden decided the American public must decide ...
By Gordon Lubold
By Gordon Lubold
The big reveal: Edward Snowden is an intel agency IT guy who will not be ignored. The former CIA technician turned Booz Allen Hamilton information technology contractor voluntarily revealed himself as the man behind the leaks about the National Security Agency’s data collection methods. Edward Snowden decided the American public must decide if it wants its government to do the kind of eavesdropping disclosed over the past week. In a 12-minute video produced by The Guardian newspaper yesterday, Snowden explained that he was well aware of the risks involved in not only leaking the information – but revealing himself as the one who leaked it. Privy to enormous amounts of secret data, Snowden said he felt it was incumbent upon him to do something. "But over time that awareness of wrongdoing sort of builds up and you feel compelled to talk about…The more you’re told its not a problem until eventually you realize that these things need to be determined by the public and not by somebody who was simply hired by the government," he told The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald.
It’s like snaring dolphins in the nets when you’re just trying to catch tuna. Snowden also talked how surveillance at the NSA and other agencies function. The problem, he said, is that agencies collect data using a large vacuum to get at a small amount of data. But in their efficiency, they wind up with an awful lot of other stuff. Snowden: "Now increasingly we see that it’s happening domestically and to do that they, the NSA specifically, targets the communications of everyone. It ingests them by default. It collects them in its system and it filters them and it analyses them and it measures them and it stores them for periods of time simply because that’s the easiest, most efficient, and most valuable way to achieve these ends. So while they may be intending to target someone associated with a foreign government or someone they suspect of terrorism, they’re collecting you’re communications to do so."
Why should Americans care about surveillance? Snowden’s answer: "Because even if you’re not doing anything wrong you’re being watched and recorded. And the storage capability of these systems increases every year consistently by orders of magnitude to where it’s getting to the point where you don’t have to have done anything wrong." Full transcript of the interview, here.
Booz Hound. The NYT writes: "The revelation came after days of speculation that the source behind a series of leaks that have transfixed Washington must have been a high-level official at one of America’s spy agencies. Instead, the leaker is a relatively low-level employee of a giant government contractor, Booz Allen Hamilton, that has won billions of dollars in secret government contracts over the past decade, partly by aggressively marketing itself as the premier protector of America’s classified computer infrastructure."
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Here’s why Edward Snowden’s flight to Hong Kong may amount to a risky legal strategy. FP’s Elias Groll writes: "Though formally under Chinese sovereignty, Hong Kong maintains its own extradition agreement with the United States. And if Snowden is to avoid being sent back to the United States (Republican lawmakers are already calling for his extradition), he may have to convince a judge that he is being persecuted for his political beliefs. In doing so, he is taking a huge gamble. In 1997, the British government handed over sovereign control of Hong Kong to China, and just prior to the transfer the Clinton administration negotiated — with the consent of Beijing — an updated extradition treaty with Hong Kong. That agreement includes a provision allowing either side to deny an extradition "if the offence of which that person is accused or was convicted is an offence of a political character."
The scariest part of the NSA revelations last week? By far, it’s the gathering and storing of phone records and not the gathering of metadata, Shane Harris writes on FP this morning: According to current and former intelligence agency employees who have used the huge collection of metadata obtained from the country’s largest telecom carriers, the information is widely available across the intelligence community from analysts’ desktop computers. The data is used to connect known or suspected terrorists to people in the United States, and to help locate them. It has also been used in foreign criminal investigations and to assist military forces overseas. But the laws that govern the collection of this information and its use are not as clear."
PRISM, on the other hand, "appears more tightly constrained and operates on a more solid legal foundation. Current and former officials who have experience using huge sets of data available to intelligence analysts said that PRISM is used for precisely the kinds of intelligence gathering that Congress and the administration intended when the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was amended in 2008," Harris writes.
Afghan forces may be getting their act together. The latest example? They appeared to have ended an early morning attack on the Kabul airport. American defense officials – and their Afghan counterparts – will point to the attack at the airport – and the successful end of it without casualties – as a prime example of why they think Afghan forces are becoming ready for prime time. Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi to the Guardian, by video: "Our forces today proved that we can foil any kind of attack, especially those conflicts and difficult terrorist attacks like today. Seven of the terrorists came with weapons and RPGs and they again were headed in this place, but fortunately our police force, today they are very strong, and within hours they killed all the seven."
A Polish soldier was killed this morning in Afghanistan by a roadside bomb. AP reports this morning that he was the 40th Pole to die since 2007.
John Allen joined Brookings. The Cable’s John Hudson reports this morning that the former ISAF commander in Afghanistan and retired Marine is joining Brookings’ new Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence as a distinguished fellow. Allen has made a variety of appearances around town and in other venues since retiring from the Corps after turni
ng down the combatant commander job in Europe for which he was to be re-nominated after being cleared of any wrongdoing in the Jill Kelley-Paula Broadwell fiasco. Situation Report first reported Feb. 13 that Allen was having second thoughts about the job after he was cleared.
Despite Syria, the U.S. and Russian militaries are actually getting along pretty well. Last week, Russia announced that it had stationed 16 warships and three ship-based helicopters in the Mediterranean — the first permanent naval deployment there since the Soviet era. President Vladimir Putin said the move was not meant to be "saber-rattling," even as Russia’s ongoing support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad continues putting it squarely at odds with the United States. The U.S. and other Western nations have seen this as a show of defiance at a time when Russian cooperation on Syria is increasingly important. Nevertheless, American officials tell Situation Report that the military-to-military relationship between Russia and the U.S. is a "bright spot."
A senior defense official told Situation Report that the Pentagon has been having productive and candid conversations with the Russian military on a number of issues. "We’ve found that the Russians are very interested in having a dialogue, in being transparent, in exploring where we can do some training and exchanges," the official said. The Defense Relations Working Group is the one forum in which the two countries speak regularly. One recent discussion focused on the Arab Spring, North Korea, Afghanistan and Syria. "OK, we didn’t agree on everything, that’s probably obvious, that’s not a secret, but it was very good for transparency, just for [them] to hear where the U.S. is coming from, what our perspective is," the official said.
"By and large we find it’s very useful for us." The U.S. and Russia have found some areas of agreement — on North Korea and Iran non-proliferation issues — for example, and hope to work together on counter-narcotics issues in Afghanistan, the official said.
Pentagon officials point to recent exchanges and discussions that show the U.S. and Russia are working together. In April, for example, Russian Amb. Sergey Kislyak visited West Point, where he had office calls, observed a Russian politics class, lunched with cadets and then addressed poli-sci majors on Russian-American relations. Last October, the Defense Relations Working Group’s sub-working group met at the U.S. Air Force Academy to talk about potential service academy cadet exchanges and military police training. "Both of these initiatives are still in the works and we hope they will lead to additional exchange opportunities," a Pentagon official told Situation Report by e-mail. Another working group focuses on "sharing best practices" on benefits, compensation, and pension issues; and yet another working group focuses on Afghanistan, Arctic security, NATO-Russian relations, and the Middle East and North Africa.
Dempsey won’t be going to Russia. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Marty Dempsey had been planning a trip to Moscow at the invitation of the Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, Army Gen. Valeiy Gerasimov. But the trip has been postponed, a spokesman told Situation Report yesterday, due to scheduling issues.
"General Dempsey looks forward to meeting with General Gerasimov over the next several months. In the meantime, he continues to communicate with General Gerasimov on a regular basis via video-teleconference," said Col. Dave Lapan, Dempsey’s spokesman. "He most recently spoke with General Gerasimov on June 3 where they discussed timely international security issues."
ICYMI: Are the Russians angry over Susan Rice’s appointment? Writing on FP, Demetri Trenin: "Susan Rice is best known in Russia for her role in persuading Obama to change, rather abruptly, his policy course on Libya in 2011. The U.S. decision to support military intervention in support of the anti-Qaddafi rebels — contradicting the advice of then Defense Secretary Robert Gates — came as an unwelcome surprise to Moscow. To perform that feat, Rice joined forces with Samantha Power, then a senior member of the NSC staff and now Rice’s successor as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Together, Rice and Power stand for a more muscular policy of humanitarian interventionism, which the Kremlin sees as a means to promote U.S. global domination." Read the whole bit from Friday, here.
- Reuters: U.S. to weigh arming Syrian rebels, official says.
- National Journal: Our privatized national security state.
- AP: Lebanese officials say roadside bomb hits van enroute to Syria.
- Jerusalem Post: Fighting intensifies in Syria’s north.
- Small Wars: Joint Force 2020 and the human domain: time for a new conceptual framework?
- AFP: Report: NATO report warns of military shortfalls.
- Information Dissemination: (John Kirby): The LCS: give it time.
- Duffel Blog: U.S., China, agree to hate each other as friends.
Gordon Lubold is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He is also the author of FP's Situation Report, an e-mailed newsletter that is blasted out to more than 70,000 national security and foreign affairs subscribers each morning that includes the top nat-sec news, breaking news, tidbits, nuggets and what he likes to call "candy." Before arriving at FP, he was a senior advisor at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, where he wrote on national security and foreign policy. Prior to his arrival at USIP, he was a defense reporter for Politico, where he launched the popular Morning Defense early morning blog and tip-sheet. Prior to that, he was the Pentagon and national security correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, and before that he was the Pentagon correspondent for the Army Times chain of newspapers. He has covered conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries in South Asia, and has reported on military matters in sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia and Latin America as well as at American military bases across the country. He has spoken frequently on the sometimes-contentious relationship between the military and the media as a guest on numerous panels. He also appears on radio and television, including on CNN, public radio's Diane Rehm and To the Point, and C-SPAN's Washington Journal. He lives in Alexandria with his wife and two children. Twitter: @glubold
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