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26 October 2013


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Howard C. Berkowitz

Captain Renault is working overtime, finding more and more gambling in Rick's Cafe.

In 2000 or so, I attended the European Operators' Forum (ISPs and telcos), where they were complaining about the cost of government initiatives for metadata and some content (email) retention. 2006 saw a formal European Commission directive on data retention:


Duncan Kinder

There is a fundamental distinction between engaging in such activity and getting caught at doing it. Just as reasons of state exist for information gathering, other reasons of state exist for being "shocked, shocked" when it has been revealed.

In passing, note that Mr. Pollard and his defenders make similar arguments to those defending NSA spying.


Duncan Kinder

My only objection to what Pollard did is that he did it to us. pl


Wasn't one of the principles of Serenìsima Repùblica Vèneta that the more you spend, the less you know?

Paul Escobar

Mr. Lang,

For what it's worth, Glenn Greenwald appears to agree with you:

"on morning joe: its getting to the point where harold ford jr is starting to rethink his views on snowden...he just implied that yes, he didn't mention richard cohen, he says hes flabbergasted we were listening in on merkels phone calls" - @tweet2thedeath

"Unsurprising that Harold Ford Jr wasn't bothered by mass spying on ordinary citizens but upset over elites being targeted" - @ggreenwald

He has also been reminding his audience that the vast majority of revelations have highlighted unseemly targetting of civilians. He does not seem to care much for these revelations of elite voyeurism.


Paul Escobar It does not seem to me that anything you wrote resembles my expressed views. pl



If you are saying that more is not necessarily better in the intelligence business, I have often expressed that opinion. pl



IMO the US cannot be said to have been "caught." A cleared defector is a hazard of the trade. pl


Was Jesus "childish" or "naive" when he asked us to turn the other cheek? to focus on higher values

There are people like myself who are want our nation to risk being a more moral, ethical, spiritually pure nation...and that our national security will be enhanced by reducing the amount of enemies and animosity toward us.

It is a legitimate argument to argue that my posture is naive and childish, but it is also legitimate to argue that your perspective is too "old school" and that different ways might be possible that will result in a more peaceful world.

Jesus, MLK, Ghandi, all these guys were idealists who were laughed at and killed but their peaceful ideas changed the world for the better



Absolute nonsense. You are a child in a world filled with adult sharks. I spent my life trying to protect people like you and I regret it. pl


If I were Angela Merkel, I would now rip out all my 'phones, place a very large order for Iranian crude payable in euros or through barter and veto any appeal of the European General Court in Brussels' recent ruling.




What do you think of NSA's systematic electronic surveillance of citizens in other countries who are attached to their own versions of the Fourth and Second Amendment.

In the light of what has transpired over the past 12 years, might it not make sense to take advantage of these revelations to rein in the senseless, unproductive (or counterproductive)
practices of electronic vacuuming that only build a bigger haystack without any regard as to whether in fact there is a needle underneath it - or even whether the needle is a hairpin, a pipe cleaner or a Neolithic phallic symbol - the last best conforming to the emotional needs of the juveniles running our intelligence agencies.


One further question as to utility. It already has been admitted that we learned nothing of value from tapping ms Merkel's cell phone. Is there anything CONVEIVABLE that might have had any value? Perhaps a remark to her husband suggesting that the chances of the German government deciding to remove its troops from Afghanistan by a given date are 90% rather than 80%? Utterly meaningless. Would any major policy decision about Afghanistan we've made over the past 12 years have been affected by anything we might have learned from the private conversations of any foreign government leader?

Isn't this all a distraction from the glaring flaws in the White House and elsewhere in Washington?


Do not all nations attempt to spy on each other, friend or foe, since time immemorial?

Methinks the Lady doth protest too much... for her personal and political gain.

Paul Escobar

Mr. Lang,

You differentiated between the spying which takes place between power-players & that which American citizens are subjected to.

I took a leap and assumed your post was a reaction to the Harold Ford Jr. MSM types, who would rather defend the civil liberties of foreign elites than those of their own countrymen. Greenwald seemed to share such a sentiment, and I thought it worth sharing.

Apologies if I erred,
Paul Escobar

Farmer Don

Col. I agree with you.
But; IBMs hardware sales have tanked in China. People are moving away from Gmail in Germany, bit coin is gaining in popularity world wide.
This spying on business partners and customers, and getting caught, has a $ cost for the US economy.
It also goes without saying, that the cost of the intelligence structure has to be subtracted from the value of the intelligence gained.


More interesting are the denials by Obama that he knew, followed almost immediately by reports that he did. Is his advice that bad on dealing with the crisis, is he ignoring good advice, or does he just not care as he gazes down from his Athenian heights?

It does seem to say to me that despite months of likely investigations, there still is no clear idea of what information was compromised, which either says something about how "good" Snowden was, or how "incoherent" the intelligence data system was at the root level, or both.

Very glad you canine pal is better. They are a precious gift if we listen to their teaching, here too short.


Paul Escobar, there is much talk about Merkel suddenly being "shocked" about the idea of her cell phone being listened in, while she did not show much concern before. But strictly my impression is that this is mainly based on interpretations of her press speaker's phrasing and not on anything Merkel said.

I am not watching this closely, but there seems also some type of appeasement policy from the chancellery. It is claimed that the cell phone that was supposedly listened in is her party cell phone only, they also claimed that anything of any importance is done via encrypted phone lines.

Experts over here take Pat's position: countries have no friends, they have interests. They also suggest that we have widely profited from US expertise. Apart from that the topic of industrial espionage surfaced again as it has occasionally over the decades, mostly as rumors.


Of course walter, that's why we should only investigate our own citizens.


nick b


Dr. Brenner has never had access to the fruits of SIGINT and is unqualified to judge whether or not such projects are worthwhile. To imagine that access to the supposedly private conversations of a head of government is not a great potential asset is incorrect. The Europeans are utterly driven by domestic political gain or loss in this matter. ISL. The president would have had a daily feed by his briefers of anything of value. pl


Farmer Don

I agree and that is why I have become opposed to foreign entanglements. YOYO. pl


Col. Lang-

Interesting thread sir. While I agree that total domestic surveillance is distinct from foreign intelligence collection, and has to be addressed separately, I think the arguments that "everyone spies" and "this is part of our national security" don't really fit the political context we have today.

The examples of Germany and Japan are always used, but these examples from pre-WWII or WWII regard governments that we saw as adversaries, not allies. The Soviet Union used its embassies as primarily espionage centers, but that too belongs to a different era.

The US today comes across as a hypocrite due to our actions. We have various tiers of allies. The "five eyes" and Israel at the top, followed by NATO, followed by the rest of our "friends and allies". NATO allies are essentially seen as vassal states and are so treated. Does anyone seriously think Germany or France are going become adversaries? So what exactly is the argument for treating them as potential ones?

If we are in fact dealing with vassals then it explains our use of whatever advantage we have or can develop, since we are in a power relationship of the strong dealing with the weak, and will not hesitate from rubbing their collective noses in it. Whereas alliances are not supposed to be that way at all, rather the members are seen as equals, which was of course the advantage that NATO had over the Warsaw Pact back in the day. We blather about equality among partners all the time, of course, but it doesn't really mean anything. Over time our pseudo-allies begin to greatly resent this and the relations between the alliance members deteriorate . . . as we see.

One can see the level of hypocrisy when one considers what the response would be were it to become known that the US had targeted the Israeli PM in the manner the German Chancellor was targeted . . . imagine the howling!

The trust that was one of our great advantages in terms of soft power (or Weber's concept of "prestige") is gone.

Sir, I think we need to re-think all of this. Either we have no alliances, or if a country is an ally of the US, then they should enjoy specific rights and privileges, just as we should. We shouldn't have Allies 1st-10th class, or pseudo-allies, or "wink and nod" allies . . . or vassals labelled "allies" . . . In all another long overdue nail in the coffin of US exceptionalism . . .

nick b

A morally pleasing argument to be sure. Some what reminiscent of the Melian side of the Melian dialogues.



We are not "exceptional." We are mere humans who have to live in a Machiavellian world rather than in an imagined world filled with benign creatures. I don't know what your background is so I am at a disadvantage in lecturing you. I presume from your discussion of allies and adversaries that you have never worked in intelligence or in diplomacy. Strategic intelligence is as much about the daily functioning of government as it is about dealing with adversaries. There is no reason to think that France or Germany will become adversaries but they are important "players" in the daily give and take of meetings, conferences, UN resolutions, etc. To know in advance what their position will be on a matter of mutual concern is a great advantage before the matter comes to a climax of some sort. Do you really think that France and Germany do not do the same thing? I happen to know that they do. pl

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