Saturday, May 31, 2014

The News Hole in the NSA Spying Story

The latest stories on the great NSA’s scandal nationalistic corruptible (I’m looking for the right word here.) scheme of spying on all Americans leaves a big hole in my understanding of what is going on.  I don’t follow news events like this especially close, reading every story that comes out.  I prefer to wait for those liberally biased news organizations to sum it up for me.  Frontline had a very informative summation and at this time, NBC’s exclusive on Edward Snowden is all over the news.  What I know so far
  1. NSA pulled the data on all Americans, not just those living outside America, or communicating into or out of the U.S., but everything everywhere on everybody.
  2. NSA did not gather the data.  My email provider, my cell phone provider, AT&T, Google, Facebook, and any other major Internet service providers collected the data.  NSA just harvested the data, or as it was put in the Frontline story, “rode piggyback on what Google was doing”.
  3. Google kept quiet about what NSA was doing because it did not want users to know what Google was doing.  I suspected this spying from what my Google searches returned, but this news confirmed it, and Google wasn’t looking for terrorist.
  4. I learned a lot more about Edward Snowden than I care to know.

The fact that the NSA is spying on foreigners is not news.  That’s what they are supposed and expected to do.  That’s their job.  The particular foreigners they spied on made news but the fact they were doing it is not news.

As far as Snowden complaining within the system, others did.  The Frontline story on Snowden and the NSA, showed that even a hint of dissatisfaction with what your organization is doing is a career ender.  Several NSA staffers had their lives and families ruined or at least greatly stressed because the agencies thought they might be the ones leaking information to the New York Times and Washington Post.  And after their lives were ruined, the case against them was drop or forgotten.  Yea, why didn’t Snowden take that route?  Give me a break.

Reminds me of the story on Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers in 1971, and his treason declared a mistrial after Nixon’s White House Plumbers involvement came out during the Watergate Scandal.  Those were some juicy news days.  That news round is also an example of how the current NSA spying could get ugly.  That power in the hands of the wrong politicians could lead to one of those scary Orwellian worlds.  Snowden could always come back to the U.S. and depend on the government to screw up the case against him just as they did Ellsberg.

Besides, what’s he got to look forward to other than prison or life in Russia?  There’s a difference?  Just wait until the notoriety or usefulness wears off.

Although not the biggest new hole in this story, NSA is not the top dog spy in the hut for intelligence.  From what I’ve read and seen on TV, that would go to Russia, Britain, or Israel.  I love the story of the Russian bug in the U.S. Great Seal that British intelligence had to explain how it worked to the American intelligence after they finally found it.  And you’re worried about NSA’s technique?

The great big hole in this story, the “news” that could make Snowden a traitor and NSA heroes instead of what appears to be in the current spin would be how effective was NSA’s spying on all of us Americans.  How many terrorists were stopped before they could kill Americans?  NSA did not stop the Boston Bombers, the Shoe Bomber, or the Underwear Bomber.  Did their work lead to the catching of anybody?  All I ever heard in that Frontline piece was they stopped a terrorist who was going to bring down the Brooklyn Bridge with a blowtorch.

That’s it!  For all that spying, all that riding piggyback on Google, all the listening in on phone calls, text messages, and email, all we got is one crazy that the NYPD would have gotten anyway.  I’ve seen several stories of attempts to blow up Time Square.  Did NSA contribute anything in catching the perpetrators?  I thought it was old fashion police or FBI sting work, but if NSA helped in anyway, now is the time to speak up. 

Some reporter should ask that question, or the more significant question news-wise: how effective was all that spying?  Specifics please.  Who or even how many terrorists did you catch?