The Politics of Hypocrisy

by Henry on October 23, 2013

Two responses, following up on what other people have been saying about hypocrisy.

First, Dan Drezner on France’s decision to haul in the US ambassador to complain about US spying.

The touchstone for hypocrisy in popular culture is this scene from Casablanca, in which Claude Rains’ character, Captain Reynaud, closes Rick’s bar on the flimsiest of pretenses. I bring this up because of Glenn Greenwald’s revelations in Le Monde that the NSA has been spying, like, a lot, on France. Here at FP, Shane Harris and John Hudson have noted that the French are shocked about these revelations. The question is whether they’re genuinely shocked… or Claude Rains shocked. In the New York Times, Alissa Rubin’s reportage suggest the latter

This seems to me to miss the important aspects of the story. What is interesting is not whether France (or Mexico, or Brazil, or Germany) is being hypocritical in pretending to be shocked at what the US is doing. It’s whether their response (hypocritical as it may be) has real political consequences. And it surely does. The decision of Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff to cancel a state visit to the US (and start to disentangle Brazil from what had been an increasingly cooperative relationship) is one example. I have few doubts that if Rousseff had had the option, she would have preferred to have ignored US spying, and gone on with the visit and the burgeoning relationship. But she didn’t have that choice (or at least, it would have been domestically very costly). Similarly, the EU Parliament’s decision on Monday to reinstate rules restricting personal data transfer to the US are a direct response to the Snowden revelations. It is going to be tough for European governments to push back on these rules, even though they would probably like to, because they’re going to face a public outcry if they do. France can’t summon the US ambassador to ream him out about NSA surveillance one day, and effectively accede to NSA surveillance the next. However hypocritical this behavior is, it has consequences.

Second, Joshua Foust interprets our piece as evidence that Snowden is indeed intent on damaging America, rather than securing civil liberties.

Seen this way, you could envision all of these disclosures from Snowden not to be a defense of civil liberties — the documents moved past that a while ago. And it is important to remember: the NSA is legally obligated to surveil foreign communications — that is its explicit purpose as constructed by U.S. law. Rather, they are an attack on the very existence and behavior of the U.S. intelligence community. That may be something some of the most ardent anti-NSA activists, such as Glenn Greenwald, are comfortable doing. But it should raise all sorts of uncomfortable questions among those who merely want reform. Putting the U.S. at a stark disadvantage compared to its most active rivals and competitors — neither Russia nor China face nearly as much scrutiny in their intelligence activities, for example — is difficult to see as anything other than an attack on the U.S., not a defense of anyone’s rights.

This seems to me to be basically mistaken. If Snowden, or Greenwald, were looking simply to ‘attack’ the US, they would be behaving in very different ways. It is pretty clear that they are (or, in Snowden’s case, were) sitting on a hoard of material, some of which is potentially far more damaging to US intelligence (by revealing methodologies etc) than anything they have revealed. What they have chosen to reveal is embarrassing, and revelatory of US hypocrisy, rather than striking at the heart of NSA methodologies. You may like this, or dislike this, depending on your political druthers. But it is far closer to the kinds of actions that human rights NGOs engage in than the kinds of action that spies do. NGOs are under few illusions about governments’ profound commitment to human rights, civil liberties and so on – most governments, much of the time, are prepared to water these commitments down where it is expedient, when they do not abandon them altogether. So what NGOs do is to play the politics of hypocrisy against states, strategically revealing hypocritical behavior so as to embarrass governments into behaving better. Snowden’s and Greenwald’s actions seem to fit very well into this framework. Arguing that China and Russia don’t face “nearly as much scrutiny” is belaboring the obvious fact that it’s tougher to use the politics of embarrassment and hypocrisy against non-democracies than democracies.

{ 105 comments }

1

Anders Widebrant 10.23.13 at 3:57 pm

Haven’t had time to sit down and read the piece yet, but Joshua Foust would have no trouble whatsoever reading the milk patterns in his latte as evidence that Snowden is intent on harming America. Dude’s like Marc Ambinder without the moral compass.

2

Manta 10.23.13 at 4:08 pm

I remain unconvinced of the fact that the reactions of French and European governments in general will have any real consequence.

However, with the main point of the post I agree: while e.g. the French government is playing a part, the French people and public opinion are a bit more sincere about their indignation, and their government is obliged to (at least, pretend to) listen to them.
Politicians “true feelings” are irrelevant: what counts is their actions, and make-believe-outrage having real consequence is just as good as real outrage.

3

roger gathman 10.23.13 at 4:16 pm

Actually, I don’t think it is all hypocrisy. We live in a world of competing corporations, after all. The Brazilians, I think, were shocked all the way up to the presidency by the fact that the NSA collaborated with Canada in spying on Petrobas, for instance, lends another dimension entirely to the spying. I doubt the french government likes the idea of the NSA sharing information with American corporations about french companies. In fact, I am sure that far from hypocrisy, this is a line in the sand.

4

Consumatopia 10.23.13 at 5:36 pm

When Americans tell other countries that they should adopt transparency, openness, the rule of law, etc, usually the claim is not just that those things are morally good, but that they’re useful. That open markets and democratic governments will be more effective than the alternatives.

Given that, it’s absurd to talk about scrutiny putting us at a “stark disadvantage”. Scrutiny is supposed to be the advantage that we’re selling! And, indeed, some of what was revealed will probably turn out to be very expensive for the United States, and should never have been done. The United States is probably poorer now because the NSA decided to put weaknesses in our standards and software. Industry is now going to spend time switching standards and looking for those weaknesses, and we face the threat that foreign adversaries might somehow find those adversaries. More generally, our tech companies are going to find it harder to make money overseas if the government is planning to coerce them to spy on foreign users.

5

Consumatopia 10.23.13 at 5:37 pm

“…that foreign adversaries might somehow find those adversaries.”

should be “find those weaknesses”.

6

hix 10.23.13 at 5:55 pm

There have been a few published cases of commercial negotiation espionage even against Germany (which is a big no go due to EU law) by France, so i dont think they are shocked at all about us industrial espionage. Especially, since it is a part of the official job description for the US agencies and sort of a new purpose they found pre terror after the end of the cold war.

7

TM 10.23.13 at 5:56 pm

It takes quite a bit of Chutzpah for Americans to dismiss as “hypocrisy” international outrage about US spying in blatant violation of national sovereignty and international law. Did Americans actually expect their victims to laugh it off?

8

Substance McGravitas 10.23.13 at 6:32 pm

they are an attack on the very existence and behavior of the U.S. intelligence community

It’s an attack on the existence of strategies and behaviours that are new and that may affect everyone. (Obviously if there’s a back door in Skype or whatever someone other than the “right” people will exploit it.)

In my city the gangsters are kind enough to shoot each other and keep the civilians out of it.

9

Pseudonymous McGee 10.23.13 at 7:02 pm

First, hypocrisy is a weak charge because everyone does it and it has two routes of escape: (1) stop doing the terrible things you claim you would not do, or (2) continue doing terrible things and admit that you do them, but with special justifications x,y,z.

“it’s tougher to use the politics of embarrassment and hypocrisy against non-democracies than democracies.”

Given the degree to which the state intel and security apparatus in the US is insulated from democratic accountability (and perhaps distinct from the state governed by the constitution and congressional laws), it’s well-nigh invulnerable to the politics of embarassment. Worse, public indifference to torture, spying, extradjudicial killing etc. over the last decade suggests that, even with democratic transparency and accountability, these actions would continue unpunished and unabated. With such weak prospects for reform of security and intelligence activities, maybe directly damaging the efficacy of such activities is the only way to constrain their abuses. Illegal(?), but not necessary contrary to the public good. If some are willing to lump both the (arguably) unconstitutional surveillance state and the surveilled people under the banner “America”, then it is accurate to say that Greenwald, Snowden and co. are trying to damage “America”. But I don’t think most people would be so indiscriminate.

In an example of the down-the-rabbit-hole loopiness of state secrets logic, a recent ruling argued that the outrage created by the revelation of state abuses (in this case, the torture of a terror suspect) was itself a national security justification for classifying evidence of that abuse. It’s equivalent to saying that evidence of my wife-beating should be sealed, because its publicity puts me at risk of vioence from anti-wife-beating extremists. Less bonkers than the argument that the govt can’t say if they’re spying on you because it would violate your privacy to say so, but more scary in that the strength of the secrecy argument scales with the horror of the secrets.

(article here: http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2013/10/17/government-secrecyoverclassificationmohammedalqhatani.html
ruling here: http://sdnyblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/2013.09.12-12-Civ.-0315-Summary-Judgment-Ruling.pdf )

10

roger gathman 10.23.13 at 7:10 pm

While German executive have said that France does industrial espionage – via Wikileaks – I haven’t found a case.The Daily telegraph, home of all things rightwing, had an article harrumphing that the French are being hypocrital, being such big industrial spies themselves. Their reference? The wikileak, and a case from 1991:

“A 2009 US diplomatic cable acquired by Wikileaks quotes the CEO of a top German satellite manufacturer as saying that “France is the evil empire, stealing technology, and Germany knows this”, and that French industrial espionage was so widespread that it did far more damage to the German economy than that of China or Russia. In 1991, the former head of France’s foreign intelligence service admitted that France had spied on US technology companies that competed with French rivals. It was noted, then, that “France has long been among the most aggressive users of espionage to collect foreign industrial and technological secrets” – perhaps second only to Japan. This included allegations of bugged seats on Air France. In 1992, another former CIA director, Stansfield Turner, noted that “the French are the most predatory service in the world now that the old Soviet Union is gone”.

That’s about it. Now, if we are going back in history re Germany’s industrial and economic stealing, well, we’d have a lot to talk about.
Anyway, this is what the spiegel says about the german response to the Snowden leaks:
http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/german-firms-fear-industrial-espionage-after-snowden-leaks-a-912624.html

11

roger gathman 10.23.13 at 7:13 pm

It should also be said: the French treat industrial espionage seriously. Here’s the latest about BMW: http://www.carscoops.com/2013/09/bmw-sued-for-industrial-espionage-by.html
So no, I don’t think the response is a hypocritical one made for political protection. I think the EU countries are sincerely freaked out.

12

Manta 10.23.13 at 7:17 pm

roger:

notice the year in the following article.
http://www.nytimes.com/1995/10/15/world/emerging-role-for-the-cia-economic-spy.html

I find unlikely that the European governments were not aware that the US is spying on everybody and everything.

13

Tangurena 10.23.13 at 7:47 pm

Did Americans actually expect their victims to laugh it off?

We have a culture now where one says all sorts of terribly racist and exterminationist things and when one gets called out out the reply is “I was only joking.”

Examples of the exterminationist things include threatening to murder professional athletes for insufficient touchdowns, or professional wags (like the Coultergeist) saying that one should murder one’s political opponents (this includes the judges on the Supreme Court).

And the short term memory of the American public also adds to the expectation that the victims should just “man up” and accept what is going on. The author of The Persian Puzzle described it best when he described the dysfunctional relations between Iran and the US as “the Iranians remember history far too well, and the Americans don’t remember it at all.”

Is it really a joke or is it Memorex? Ha ha, only serious.

14

Collin Street 10.23.13 at 7:54 pm

It takes quite a bit of Chutzpah for Americans to dismiss as “hypocrisy” international outrage about US spying in blatant violation of national sovereignty and international law. Did Americans actually expect their victims to laugh it off?

They expected the iraqis to greet them with flowers. We’re dealing with people who have systemic problems with understanding and thus predicting the motivation of others.

[in particular, spy agencies seem to attract people who need an unusually high level of detail about a person’s thought processes before they can understand them.]

15

bianca steele 10.23.13 at 8:01 pm

I have a terrible head cold and I’m probably missing something, but doesn’t this post (nations in the EU are driven by the need to pretend they’re not hypocritical) contradict the one you put up the other day (the fact that US, alone among nations, is unaware it’s often hypocritical, is dangerous, and thus the US ought to get rid of its dangerous naivete for the sake of the safety of everybody else)? I assume that other governments are either engaging in similar spying or are relying on more technically sophisticated powers to give them any relevant information they receive. Moves to distance themselves from the US and from cyberspying leave them also with fewer options. Or else even more hypocrisy, I guess.

16

bianca steele 10.23.13 at 8:21 pm

The fact that China faces less scrutiny in some ways is unquestionable, though. A few years ago there was a serious proposal to sell one of the Simpsons’ handful of US companies selling telecommunications equipment–the ones presumably doing all this secret stuff Snowden’s documents have revealed–to a company whose major investor is the PLA, and it took weeks before anybody raised questions about that.

17

Barry 10.23.13 at 8:23 pm

roger gathman 10.23.13 at 4:16 pm

” Actually, I don’t think it is all hypocrisy. We live in a world of competing corporations, after all. The Brazilians, I think, were shocked all the way up to the presidency by the fact that the NSA collaborated with Canada in spying on Petrobas, for instance, lends another dimension entirely to the spying. I doubt the french government likes the idea of the NSA sharing information with American corporations about french companies. In fact, I am sure that far from hypocrisy, this is a line in the sand.

This is where the difference between ‘widely suspected’ and ‘proven’ (as mentioned in the last post on hypocrisy) comes into play.

Given the wealth and power which megacorps wield in the US, the idea that the intelligence community would not provide them with, ah – ‘commercial intelligence products’ is laughable.

Given these sort of revelations, and the Manning/Assange revelations, this is now a very serious threat to any non-US corporation, and any US corporation big enough to be a lucrative megacorp target but not big enough to have clout.

18

Kevin Erickson 10.23.13 at 9:15 pm

I agree that Foust was being imprecise. Greenwald/Snowden aren’t acting like “spies”; neither are they acting like NGOs. They’re acting like radical libertarians.

19

Substance McGravitas 10.23.13 at 9:21 pm

Is it radically libertarian to not want people poking through your stuff?

20

Manta 10.23.13 at 9:51 pm

Substance, it’s time accept the fact that you are a radical libertarian.

21

Substance McGravitas 10.23.13 at 9:59 pm

⁰⌒⁰

22

Kevin Erickson 10.23.13 at 10:45 pm

Oh, not at all! But it’s important to understand the progressive critique of surveillance only partially and imperfectly lines up with the libertarian critique of surveillance (and of state power).

And in light of what we know about Snowden and Greenwald, and of the cynically opportunistic character of libertarian political institutions in the US, I think it quite important to illuminate the fundamental areas of disagreement.

Otherwise, the left is going to get played.

23

Substance McGravitas 10.23.13 at 10:57 pm

So the sense in which Greenwald and Snowden are acting like radical libertarians is…

24

roger gathman 10.23.13 at 11:01 pm

Manta, I’m not privy to the councils of the highest in the french state. I imagine that under Sarkozy, in contrast to Chirac, a broad leaway was given to the Americans. I also imagine that much of the information concerning that was not given to Hollande or Fabius.
However, to get back to what we do know: we do know that spying has degrees. There is bugging the ambassador’s office. And there is sweeping up the phone traffic of everyone in France. There is taking apart the new gizmo to try to figure out how it works, and there is penetrating the encrypton for SWIFT. I am sure that, if such operations are blown, the NSA and official defense, given sub rosa to the reporters, is that everybody does it. But I think, on the contrary, that if the French were gathering up and tracking all phone calls in the US, the US would not be laughing it off. Not to speak of breaking into, say, the encrypton used by the Fed in order to gather privileged info on Fed decisions. I’m not sure how to argue against the argument that, in spite of the absolute lack of proof, probably the French, or Chinese, or whoever, are surely doing this. It reminds me of the ghostly WMD that must have been heavily stored in Iraq until it was needed in a war – when of course it was moved to Syria. It has the same form of improbability, boldly asserted in the hope that the boldness will change it into fact.

25

Consumatopia 10.23.13 at 11:02 pm

What are the fundamental areas of disagreement? At a guess, maybe the left critique focuses on privacy (and would include data mining of publicly available information and corporate surveillance) while the libertarian focuses on breaches of consent (wiretapping, hacking, private parties forced to cooperate with government surveillance).

Of course, both critiques can be valid at the same time. Both Google and the NSA can be bad guys.

26

hix 10.24.13 at 12:11 am

Where does wildely suspected stop and proof start? That the US does engage in industrial espionage in general is something ive long put into the proofen beyond any doubt category. (But ill admit, i wont find a quick google link, published confirmation and easy to find/broad media topic are different stories, so the Andrew F protest too much style apperently still has a good chance to win over the US public to believe the contrary).

27

hix 10.24.13 at 12:32 am

That (2000) looks like enough confirmation to me:
http://www.heise.de/tp/artikel/6/6662/1.html

28

ChrisB 10.24.13 at 12:37 am

Leaving aside for the moment the question of how libertarian critiques differ from progressive critiques, how do NSA methodologies differ from NSA methods?

29

adam.smith 10.24.13 at 12:39 am

and the corollary to hix’s @26 question – is there actually anything in the Snowden leaks that proves industrial espionage by the US government for US private companies beyond an unreasonable doubt – i.e. something that convinces Andrew F or other people mostly convinced by the pre-Snowden hypocrisy?
I may have missed something, but anything I’ve seen so far just makes this more plausible – I’m not aware of any smoking gun industrial espionage evidence.

30

roger gathman 10.24.13 at 1:02 am

The brazilian leaks seem to be more than inferential. If those leaks are true, the NSA spied on petrobras and lent that info to the Canadian intelligent service to use commercially.
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/09/nsa-spying-brazil-oil-petrobras
and here: http://panampost.com/victoria-henderson/2013/10/21/canada-brazil-and-economic-espionage-for-cronies/
Interestingly, the nsa seems quite comfortable associating with the other white British colonies and Britain: canada, australia, new zealand. Ah, its the old white man’s burden thing again!

31

adam.smith 10.24.13 at 2:06 am

Nah, I don’t think that’s anywhere near conclusive proof. Now mind you, I find this plausible – but I’d have found this plausible before.
But a smoking gun that would convince a skeptic? Not even close.
It shows that NSA breaks into private networks to extract information – the content of which is unknown – that they maybe share that information with the Canadians and that the Canadians spy service holds meetings with key stakeholders in the national energy sector in which they may or may not pass on that information. So that’s still “believe it or not” at three steps of the way. Do you believe Andrew F would be convinced by that? I certainly don’t.

32

roger gathman 10.24.13 at 3:15 am

Adam s, why has andrew f suddenly become your proxy for the american, canadian and brazilian people? Or even their leadership? Would it convince Ron Wyden? I think it would. Would it convince Diane Feinstein? no. But we are in a unique situation in which Snowden is viewed as either a whistleblower or a hero by almost half of the U.S. population. John Kerry, or the viet vets against the war, and Jane Fonda herself never accrued those numbers at the height of the Vietnam Protest. They are extraordinary. The very serious people, of whom Andrew F. is a good proxy, thinks that the gov can ignore numbers like that – but I think similar numbers decisively influenced the non-intervention in Syria and made it impossible for Obama to follow through on the Bush policy of putting bases in Iraq.
I think it convinces the execs at Petrobas, who are wondering about their ill attended auction of offshore oil plats.
I think there will be feedback.

33

adam.smith 10.24.13 at 4:15 am

Well, because Henry’s argument seems to rest in part on the establishment (i.e. people like Diane Feinstein and their VSP defenders) not being able to keep up – or even believe – their own hypocrisy any more.
WRT Petrobras – wouldn’t they be in the camp of people who should have at least strongly suspected this before?

But we are in a unique situation in which Snowden is viewed as either a whistleblower or a hero by almost half of the U.S. population.

to be clear, my point here is quite narrow. I’m not denying that the Snowden leaks convinced a lot of Americans that the extent of surveillance is much larger than they believed before. I think this may have some repercussions nationally, though I’m not even sure of that, but I certainly wouldn’t say they haven’t had a (positive) effect. I was wondering about the specific corporate espionage issue because some here (not Henry, afaict) seem to see this as the main mechanism for blowback and I’m skeptical of that. (I’m also generally skeptical that the whole Snowden leak Episode will be more than a minor ripple in the international system. I’ve outlined in the other thread why I find the Farrel/Finnemore argument implausible).

34

John Quiggin 10.24.13 at 4:55 am

One positive sign is that papers like the NY Times are now parsing official utterances much more carefully. For example, when Obama says “We aren’t tapping Angela Merkel’s private phone” NY Times now notes that he didn’t say “We never tapped her phone”

35

heckblazer 10.24.13 at 7:51 am

roger gathman @ 10, 24 and 30:

The NSA is comfortable associating with the Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK because all of those countries along with the US are parties to the UKUSA intelligence sharing agreement that started back in 1946. I have a hunch that those countries have similar (mis)behavior as the US, it’s just that their intelligence services haven’t had a public colonoscopy like the NSA has had. (apologies in advance if I took snark too seriously)

As for France and industrial espionage, there is this straight from the horse’s mouth:

“Pierre Marion, former head of France’s equivalent of the CIA, the Direction Generale de la Securite Exterieure (DGSE), was forthright about his country’s approach.

“‘In the technological competition, we are competitors,’ he said. ‘We are not allied.’

“Marion said in a telephone interview that while head of the DGSE in 1981-82, he launched a new unit of 20 to 25 spies mainly to help France’s aerospace, telecommunications, computers and biotechnology industries – all partly government-owned.

Now, French policy could well have changed in the last three decades, but since they have their own version of the NSA electronic surveillance dragnet I doubt it.

I’d add that I think your point about degrees is a good one. Professing shock that governments spy on each other makes my eyes roll, since they’ve always been doing that. Mass surveillance of everyone OTOH is new, and I think it’s proper for people to be outraged over it.

36

Manta 10.24.13 at 9:59 am

I think the following are NOT new (i.e.: they were openly acknowledged)
1) the US was engaging in industrial espionage (see for examples link @27 and http://www.nytimes.com/1995/10/15/world/emerging-role-for-the-cia-economic-spy.html)
2) various US secret agencies had the legal authority to engage in industrial espionage (see http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//NONSGML+REPORT+A5-2001-0264+0+DOC+PDF+V0//EN&language=EN, section 10.9.2)
3) US intelligence had the wish to spy on everyone at the same time

What was a bit more newish (i.e. openly discussed, but not officially acknowledged) is:
4) US intelligence had the technical capability of doing 3)

What is new is
5) we have actual proof that 3) is happening.
6) “everyone” includes US citizens

This is important as far as public opinion goes: but I don’t see how it’s new for European governments. Henry point that EU governments are forced by their public opinions to act outraged is spot-on.

37

bill benzon 10.24.13 at 10:01 am

You know, there’s a sense in which “WE” all knew that this was going on. But it’s one thing to strongly suspect – in a sophisticated, knowing way – that this is going on. It’s something else to put it out there.

You know that old story about the Emperor’s new clothes? Imagine the moment when the Emperor struts out on the street, showing off his new finery, which is completely imaginary. Everyone can see he’s naked, but no one says anything until the boy blurts it out. Well, these days that little boy’s busy telling Truth to Power, and Power doesn’t like it, not one bit.

Game theorists talk about this. It’s called mutual information. Before the little boy blurted out the truth, the information was shared. Everyone knew the Emperor was naked, but they didn’t know that they knew. Once the boy said “he’s naked” everyone knew that everyone else knew. Shared information had become mutual information.

Steve Pinker talks about this in his book, The Stuff of Thought.

38

Tim Wilkinson 10.24.13 at 11:13 am

Of empirical matters there is no proof, only evidence – which can of course be very strong, mind you. More importantly, the evidence may exist and be publicly available without reaching a critical mass of acceptance among the population. See above; also if anyone can tolerate more of my stilted, prolix and digressive exposition, http://surelysomemistake.blogspot.co.uk/2010/10/house-of-cards-and-numbers-game-two.html

That’s why Wikileaks (before it was effectively nobbled) used to put so much emphasis on generating maximum publicity – a leak is not worth the risk if it’s going to become just one more obscure web page, referenced only by largely unfollowed links in blog comments.

BTW, I’m really not trying to be rude to anyone, nnor to address anyone in particular, but I get the impression that there’s sometimes a kind of one-upmanship of the ‘I was into Breaking Bad before it became popular’ type involved in dismissing revelations as ‘old news’. I certainly (as the vicar said to the congregation) sometimes detect that kind of proprietorial or supercilious impulse in myself, though I try not to indulge it. To some extent, acting all exasperated at others’ naiveté may play a useful rhetorical role – if one has sufficient status to be able to embarass people – but that’s only at the point of trying to convince people of the prop. in question, not afterwards, when it will just piss them off, and perhaps more importantly, make it seem infra dig to be outraged. (Again see other comments here and on previous ‘hypocrisy’ thread; re: ‘old news’ syndrome.)

39

Tim Wilkinson 10.24.13 at 11:29 am

bill – all that stuff about the Emperor’s Clothes is old news – I was going on about it ages ago on the previous thread.

40

Manta 10.24.13 at 11:36 am

Regarding tim@38: to my list of new stuff I should have added;
7) Many people are openly discussing about and criticizing (in mainstream media) US spying.

I was not attempting to dismiss the discussion about US spying as “old news”: I think it’s quite important and welcome that we have a public discussion about it, and that governments are protesting it (even if I don’t have much hope that anything will change substantially).

However, what I am contesting is that the fact that the extent of US spying revealed by Snowden’s leaks was unknown to the EU *governments*, and that their surprise is genuine (and here I agree with Henry: even if it is a hypocritical reaction, it can have positive consequences).

41

novakant 10.24.13 at 2:22 pm

I don’t know, Angela Merkel seemed genuinely surprised to me hearing that the US had tapped her mobile and the US not even denying it, just offering a cheeky non-denial denial. Serves her well for trying to sweep everything NSA related under the carpet in the past couple of months, eager to make nice again with the imperial overlords.

The US/UK behaviour is of course totally outrageous, but one good thing about is that the overreach has angered some powerful people and they are pushing back hard, doesn’t matter if they’re hypocrites or not.

And all these ridiculous surveillance efforts seem to be symptoms of a crumbling empire, a bit like the last years of the Warsaw Pact, so there is hope that the hegemon is going down sooner or later.

42

roger gathman 10.24.13 at 3:58 pm

33 – The NSA revelations won’t, I think, turn the world upside down, but they will be a factor in what I think is the most significant foreign policy development – from the American point of view – of our time – the drift of Latin America from the US. And petrobras is important in that respect. When the Mexican gov is trying to do American bidding and “open up” Pemex to private investors, this story may hurt.

43

adam.smith 10.24.13 at 4:29 pm

@38 – Tim Wilkinson – I think that’s a perfectly valid concern and I’ve tried to make clear that I don’t think this is generally “old news” or irrelevant in any way.
But Henry is making a very broad and rather drastic claim about how important those leaks are. I’m interested in the mechanisms through which this is supposed to work. For that it does matter who believed what with what degree of certainty pre-Snowden. The mechanism proposed e.g. by Manta, which runs through industrial espionage isn’t all that plausible because I don’t think any of this is news for any of the relevant players.
The same is true for the mechanism of “what do establishment players think”, i.e. Henry’s contention that “one of the reasons American hypocrisy is so effective is that it stems from sincerity: most U.S. politicians do not recognize just how two-faced their country is”. I’m not buying the claim that the Snowden leaks force the Diane Feinstein’s of the world to come to terms with their hypocrisy.

The mechanism that runs through increased popular outrage both in the US and abroad is entirely plausible at that level – the Snowden leaks have clearly create hugely more awareness of US surveillance among large parts of the population. Here I’m just a lot less sanguine about it’s effect on the international system.
On the international level, it’s hard to overstate the degree to which the lying pre-Iraq war and the handling of post-war Iraq, including torture, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo bay have damaged US legitimacy abroad. You can look at polls to show that, but it’s also something that any American who travelled to Europe (let’s not even talk about Latin America) can tell you. I hear no end of it every time I go to Germany, and I’m not even American. I haven’t seen this change much – not really anything – in the way international relations work. There’s a German saying that roughly translates to “Once your reputation is ruined, you can live entirely without shame” that would apply here.
Within the US, there may be slightly more hope, especially given the left-liberal/libertarian coalition of DC insiders who seem to take privacy at least somewhat seriously, but there, too, I’m skeptical. There has long been what Ben Page calls the “Foreign Policy Disconnect” between public opinion and US Foreign Policy (book version and working paper version) and I don’t really see a rift in the DC foreign policy establishment.

44

bill benzon 10.24.13 at 4:41 pm

@adam.smith: “There has long been what Ben Page calls the “Foreign Policy Disconnect” between public opinion and US Foreign Policy…”

It seems to me that’s where things get interesting. It’s one thing when knowledge of “spy vs. spy” is largely confined to an elite. But when knowledge of the game leaks out to the general public, things change a bit.

@Tim Wiklerson: “…ages ago…” Ages, really? And not everyone has read the previous thread.

45

Ronan(rf) 10.24.13 at 5:02 pm

“But Henry is making a very broad and rather drastic claim about how important those leaks are. I’m interested in the mechanisms through which this is supposed to work. “

Yeah, this is what I’m trying to work out as well
From my reading it’s the leaks and data dumps specifically (and the inability to control/predict them) that make it different from previous cases. That the space to engage in these useful hypocricies no longer exists (or at least that’s the perception/fear among elites) and so this new reality will change the international order (either be straining international alliances/dividing major powers, or by leading to greater openness and transparency)
Why it’s a ‘game changer’, though, I dont know

46

Tim Wilkinson 10.24.13 at 5:17 pm

bill – yeah it was a not v funny joke

47

bill benzon 10.24.13 at 5:35 pm

@Tim #46: Ah, tone of voice doesn’t come through very will in the interwebs.

48

bill benzon 10.24.13 at 5:35 pm

@Tim #46: Ah, tone of voice doesn’t come through very will in the interwebs.

49

Ronan(rf) 10.24.13 at 6:09 pm

This, though

http://www.newamerica.net/sites/newamerica.net/files/policydocs/NAF-OTI-WC-SummerOfSnowdenPaper.pdf

makes a similar argument

“Nonetheless, the shift from an open secret to a published secret is a game changer. It is a game changer because it exposes the gap between what governments will tolerate from one another under cover of darkness and what publics will tolerate from other governments in the light of day. Those governments that were complicit with the NSA are scrambling to realign themselves with their voters. Meanwhile, Washington is building up its arsenal of justification. Major commercial actors on both continents are
preparing offensive and defensive strategies to battle in the market for a competitive advantage drawn from Snowden’s revelations. And citizens are organizing to demand sweeping change. Left unresolved, we risk that the logic of intelligence
agencies – which operate with a maxim of “trust no one” – will begin to contaminate other areas of political, governmental and social cooperation among nations.”

50

LFC 10.24.13 at 6:55 pm

@49–good link; it is a similar argument

There is sort of a tension, istm, in ‘The End of Hypocrisy’ article perhaps worth noting: U.S. is hypocritical but it also provides “global public goods,” and countries have been heretofore reluctant to criticize its bad behavior b.c “public criticism risks pushing the U.S. government toward self-interested positions that would undermine the larger world order.” Perhaps the authors mean “more narrowly self-interested positions than the ones it currently has, which already are fairly self-interested, with certain exceptions”?

Speaking of hypocrisy, what of the revelations (big surprise) that CIA had been briefing Pakistan govt on the drone strikes, while the latter was simultaneously denouncing them?

51

Ronan(rf) 10.24.13 at 7:21 pm

I would say it meant “more narrowly self-interested positions than the ones it currently has, which already are fairly self-interested, with certain exceptions”

Pakistan could be an example; a relationship that was always tense but relatively stable, where drone strikes were tolerated (probably supported) and possibly constrained by US/Pak cooperation, but that cooperation (perhaps) becomes untenable due to leaks and the public reaction (while the national seurity ‘threats’ remain, so US policy remains, and the relationship disintegrates from there)

Just apply that to more important relationships (such as with the EU)

I guess, as well, a lot of it depends on how you conceptualise international politics, so should be read with this:

http://henryfarrell.net/wp/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/New_Interdependence.pdf

which imagines a more fluid international system, where across border relationships affect policy and power is disaggregated away from the state.
So the remolding of the international order is the result of the interactions between various semi/private actors (corps, regulatory bodies) international instsitutions, domestic politics, and elite level poliy making (I guess?)

52

LFC 10.24.13 at 7:53 pm

you come up w links much faster than I can read them :)
[actually must do some non-blogosphere things rt now]

53

novakant 10.24.13 at 8:01 pm

54

Bill Benzon 10.24.13 at 8:33 pm

@Ronan(rf) #51: thanks for the link; I just blogged the abstract over at New Savanna.

55

hix 10.25.13 at 12:20 am

Is hypocrisy considered bad by every nation (both public/elite) in the first place? My understanding of e.g. Chinese culture is that they should be ok with it, even expecting it.

56

Tim Wilkinson 10.25.13 at 3:58 am

The issue is not so much that they were hypocritical about doing this stuff, but that they were doing this stuff.

Hypocrisy is relevant too, but primarily because it establishes untrustworthiness, not because all hypocrisy is evil.

57

dax 10.25.13 at 12:00 pm

Remember Spiderman: with power comes responsibility.

What I think is bothering the Europeans is that the US is using specific benefits to itself (access to American-based servers and American-made technology and companies) which no one else can. This makes the balance of power unequal and is therefore dangerous (to the Europeans). The Americans have succeeded in doing this by using free trade agreements to beat European competitors into submission. Well, that’s going to have to turn in one of two ways: either the US will restrain itself, thereby levelling the spying field; or the Europeans will need to ban Google, Facebook, maybe Apple, and so forth, and encourage European companies to fill the void. I don’t see a third possibility.

58

Manta 10.25.13 at 12:14 pm

“Europeans will need to ban Google, Facebook, maybe Apple, and so forth, and encourage European companies to fill the void”

The latest law in the European parliament does exactly that: “Internet companies would face fines of up to 5% of their yearly revenue — a price that could reach into the billions of dollars for giants like Google — if they continue handing over their users’ data without consent.”

http://world.time.com/2013/10/21/e-u-pushes-for-stricter-data-protection-after-snowden-nsa-revelations/

59

Andrew F. 10.25.13 at 12:54 pm

Manta @36 and others:

On commercial espionage -

There is to date ZERO good evidence that the US Intelligence Community (USIC) practices espionage to benefit particular companies. That is, the US will not steal Company A’s information in order to benefit Company B.

NONE of the articles cited give good evidence of such an occurrence. This type of mission was openly discussed during the 1990s, and the answer to it was resoundingly in the negative.

1) The New York Times article cited discusses the USIC aiding the US Trade Representative in negotiations with Japan, i.e. aiding the US Government in negotiations with another government. That is NOT the same as the USIC aiding Company B by stealing from Company A. And indeed the Times article explicitly notes this:

When corporate America talks to the C.I.A. about economic espionage, it often pleads for its competitors’ secrets — but in vain.

“If we’re willing to do dirty tricks for the defense part of national security, then why aren’t we able to do dirty tricks for the economic part?” asks Robert Kohler, a retired C.I.A. official and general manager of TRW Avionics & Surveillance Group.

The agency says it will not ask its officers to risk their lives for companies instead of their country. It will, however, continue to spy on American allies to understand national strategies.

I’ve discussed the European Parliament report in a different thread at length. I’ll simply say here that it cites some completely unsubstantiated and discredited cases in which the NSA was accused of stealing secrets about a windmill from a German company. The accusation was made by the German company after it was sued for infringing on a patent. Those interested can read the Wikipedia entry: <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enercon#Patent_dispute"<Enercon Patent Dispute.

The EP report does accurately report cases where the US revealed bribery by foreign companies to win contracts. That kind of activity has been long-standing policy of the US. US companies that engage in bribery overseas don’t simply find themselves embarrassed by a State Department protest to the foreign government; they’re prosecuted.

Unlike certain other nations, the policy of the US has been to encourage free trade and to allow – indeed welcome – foreign companies and multinationals to research and sell innovations in the United States. The US has no favored pharmaceutical company, unlike other nations have, nor a mini-army of state enterprises, as still other nations have. While the US Government collects economic data to the extent it bears upon national security, as it can, I have yet to see a single documented case of commercial espionage on behalf of a company.

The distinction is a hugely important one for companies everywhere. It’s the difference between the US infiltrating a foreign bank to determine whether it is enabling (say, Iran) to evade sanctions, and the US infiltrating a foreign bank to feed trade secrets to Goldman Sachs. I expect the former to occur, and it shouldn’t trouble financial companies when it does. I do not expect the latter to occur, and it should greatly trouble everyone if it does.

I think the Snowden documents raises a genuine question as to how intelligence agencies should treat private data that is of no apparent national security concern, and whether intelligence agencies should institute safeguards for foreign private data along the lines of such safeguards for US Person (including foreigners on US soil) private data.

But the commercial espionage aspect – which is immensely important – is a red herring as far as the US is concerned. And while friendly nations do practice it – France and Israel come to mind – the biggest violator, and potentially the most harmful violator, is China. Every company with something to lose, and every person involved in this issue, knows it. And the drive to persuade China to respect intellectual property will only grow. Snowden’s disclosures leave the motivation and interests untouched.

60

LFC 10.25.13 at 1:23 pm

Ronan @51:

Pakistan could be an example; a relationship that was always tense but relatively stable, where drone strikes were tolerated (probably supported) and possibly constrained by US/Pak cooperation, but that cooperation (perhaps) becomes untenable due to leaks and the public reaction (while the national security ‘threats’ remain, so US policy remains, and the relationship disintegrates from there)

Just apply that to more important relationships (such as with the EU)

I don’t think “always tense but relatively stable” is an esp. accurate characterization of US/Pakistan relations. The U.S. suspended most mil. aid to Pakistan a couple of yrs ago, and apparently has resumed it only recently (link on this to follow). There have been severe tensions not only in the public (as opposed to private) interactions over drones, but also over the bin Laden/Abbottabad raid, the Lahore incident in which a CIA contractor shot a Pakistani and another one (complete bystander, iirc) was killed as a result of the attendant car accident, and over the fact that, despite the drone strikes and some ops by the Pakistan army, cross-border raids into Afghanistan continue to occur by groups based in the Pakistan border regions. The relationship, at least viewed from one angle, has been almost constantly teetering on the brink of near-disintegration such that the revelation of this particular ‘hypocrisy’ on the part of the Pak govt could hardly worsen it much, istm.

61

LFC 10.25.13 at 1:47 pm

further to 60:
http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/world/july-dec13/newswrap_10-23.html

[scroll down to M. Warner section of the transcript]

62

LFC 10.25.13 at 1:56 pm

Andrew F.:
US companies that engage in bribery overseas don’t simply find themselves embarrassed by a State Department protest to the foreign government; they’re prosecuted.
But the bribery has to be known in order to be prosecuted. I suppose that’s partly why US oil companies have a filed a lawsuit against the SEC regulation that wd require them to disclose all their payments to host govts. Because those payments amt to bribery. (?)

Unlike certain other nations, the policy of the US has been to encourage free trade
Except, of course, where free trade interferes w protecting the US agricultural sector and certain other parts of the US domestic economy.

63

Ronan(rf) 10.25.13 at 1:59 pm

I might have overstated the stability of the relationship but they definitly do cooperate in a number of areas that are domestically unpopular in Pakistan, and it’s arguable that they need secrecy to continue (and that the inability to gaurantee that secrecy could seriously undermine it)
I’m not saying I agree with the OP, for no other reason than I still dont really know what the argument is, and Im not really committed to any strong statements on the US/Pak relationship

64

Manta 10.25.13 at 2:08 pm

Andrew, you are being more loyalist than the King:

“But if US intelligence did compile intelligence on technical breakthroughs by foreign companies, [Former CIA Director] Woolsey believed that this would be passed on.
“Would […] somebody do a technological analysis of something from a friendly country, which had no importance, other than a commercial use, and then let it sit on the shelf because it couldn’t be given to the American company? I think that would be a misuse of the [intelligence] community’s resources. I don’t think it would be done.”

http://www.heise.de/tp/artikel/6/6662/1.html

65

ajay 10.25.13 at 4:09 pm

64 could be interpreted as “stealing a secret of merely commercial value and then letting it sit on a shelf would be useless, so we wouldn’t steal it” rather than “stealing a secret of merely commercial value and then letting it sit on a shelf would be useless, so we would steal it, and then we’d give it to a US company”.

cf. “I certainly wouldn’t spend my free time growing mushrooms and then throwing them away. I’d sell them” doesn’t necessarily mean that I actually grow and sell mushrooms. It could equally mean that I don’t grow mushrooms at all.

I would want to see a bit more context and maybe more than one report, to be honest. That article feels a bit cherry picked.

66

wjca 10.25.13 at 4:36 pm

You may well be correct that Snowdon and Greenwald are not trying to attack the US with their actions. But the fact that they do not have ill intentions does not mean that their actions may not have ill effects — even serious ill effects.

67

Manta 10.25.13 at 4:44 pm

Ops, you are right, ajay: here is the complete transcript.

http://cryptome.org/echelon-cia.htm

68

Tim Wilkinson 10.25.13 at 5:01 pm

On the other hand, I think the idea that the US intel agencies do in fact provide info of all sorts to big US corporations – whose interests are after regarded as part of the National Interest (see United Fruit for one old-ish and fairly extreme example) – is one of those which will one day turn out to have been obvious all along.

And the idea that a member of the intel/’security’ establishment should be believed when they say that said establishment doesn’t engage in a certain kind of activity seems to me risible.

Also, that chap’s reliance on the proposition that US corporations don’t need to get hold of foreign tech companies’ trade secrets, and the implicit restriction of his denials to that domain – is pretty thin, even if all true. There are plenty of other kinds of info about foreign firms which would be of great interest to US corporations – what they are up to, what they are planning, how much their bid is for some tender or other, etc.

69

Ned Ludd 10.25.13 at 6:44 pm

You say this:

“If Snowden, or Greenwald, were looking simply to ‘attack’ the US, they would be behaving in very different ways. It is pretty clear that they are (or, in Snowden’s case, were) sitting on a hoard of material, some of which is potentially far more damaging to US intelligence (by revealing methodologies etc) than anything they have revealed. What they have chosen to reveal is embarrassing, and revelatory of US hypocrisy, rather than striking at the heart of NSA methodologies. You may like this, or dislike this, depending on your political druthers. “

This seems to kind of miss the point. Snowden stole that hoard of potentially damaging material and high-tailed it straight into the midst of two of the US’s greatest geopolitical adversaries. It doesn’t matter what Snowden and team have revealed to *us*. If you’re the NSA and associated US intelligence agencies, you *have* to assume now that your Russian and Chinese counterparts now have full access to all of the documents that Snowden stole. Snowden claims they don’t and that he’s secured the data, but that’s the word of the guy who lied to you in order to steal the documents in the first place. If the stakes are as high as Snowden and others in the know are hinting at, US intelligence needs to now assume the worst, that every aspect of their activites documented in Snowden’s cache is in the wind and now worthless. It’s no longer just “potentially” damaging; the near full extent of damage is already done because every program documented in Snowden’s cache must be considered fatally compromised and needs to be abandoned or rebuilt. Those of us on the outside looking in have no real clue of the true extent of that damage.

70

Consumatopia 10.25.13 at 9:01 pm

The New York Times article cited discusses the USIC aiding the US Trade Representative in negotiations with Japan, i.e. aiding the US Government in negotiations with another government. That is NOT the same as the USIC aiding Company B by stealing from Company A.

From the perspective of a country with many state-owned businesses, those are the same–spying in order to get a more advantageous position in a trade deal is no different from spying to give your company an advantage.

Perhaps it is the position of the United States that owning many state-owned businesses is somehow fundamentally immoral, but other countries are likely find Washington’s insistence on sticking its nose into other countries internal economic affairs annoying and absurd.

China may be the worst offender when it comes to intellectual property, but the loss of state and trade secrets can be fundamentally more damaging. There is such a huge discrepancy between the capabilities of the U.S., U.K. and cooperating nations that it’s worth worrying at least as much about them as other nations with more transparently cynical intentions. It doesn’t make sense for the E.U. to ignore U.S. espionage just so they can cooperate with the U.S. to pressure China. It’s the other way around–the U.S. should avoid offending the E.U. because it wants the E.U.’s cooperation in pressuring China. The variable that should change here is U.S. espionage, not other countries’ reaction to it.

71

novakant 10.26.13 at 2:31 pm

72

Tim Wilkinson 10.26.13 at 4:22 pm

On US bribery: http://bpi.transparency.org/bpi2011/results/

The US comes in quite high up the list – only just behind the UK, which notably under Blair refused to act against BAe on generic National Interest grounds – though admittedly a pretext was pretty quickly ginned up that ‘our’ Saudi allies were threatening to withdraw co-operation in the GWOT, so National Security, end of story. Surely just about everyone already acknowledges this one as pretty obvious (again, with the usual exception).

73

roger gathman 10.26.13 at 4:42 pm

69 – it seems to me that you are looking at the wrong thief. The NSA seemed to be the original cat burglar. So if Snowden was stealing material, it was pre-stolen material.
Let’s not pretend that the NSA was just a charity that was given a bunch of encrypton for its good works. Normally, when a person is caught trying to counterfeit encrypton to get into a phone, or a financial transaction nexus, there are severe consequences – especially from the Obama Department of Justice, which spent a lot of time persecuting Aaron Schwartz for the crime of violating the terms of use he agreed to to make use of various tools on the Internet. So, under the Schwartz rule, the NSA would be under a life sentence right now.
Oh, but when the government does it is isn’t stealing? How sweet … for the authoritarians.

74

Ned Ludd 10.26.13 at 6:30 pm

73- “Oh, but when the government does it is isn’t stealing? How sweet … for the authoritarians.”

Sure. Just keep telling yourself that you’re a bold anti-authoritarian for letting Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald, two guys with exactly ZERO democratic accountability, decide which aspects of our classified national security aparatus are legitimate and should remain secret, and which should be burned to the ground with no apparent consideration of the consequences.

75

Ned Ludd 10.26.13 at 7:07 pm

73- ” So if Snowden was stealing material, it was pre-stolen material.”

My point is that you have no clue what Snowden has stolen. I’m not even sure that Snowden himself (or the NSA for that matter) knows the full scope of what he has stolen. Sure, some of it could be considered “pre-stolen” as you say. But what about the rest? I mean, unless your point is that the NSA is fundamentally illegitimate then you have to concede the strong possibility that Snowden took detailed data on legitimate and important classified security activities to China and Russia. Those activities are now fully compromised. Whether or not Snowden “meant well”, the outcome is similar if not equivalent to an act of espionage.

76

Tim Wilkinson 10.26.13 at 8:59 pm

Yes roger, why did you let them do it?

77

novakant 10.26.13 at 9:10 pm

After all that’s been revealed you still think the NSA has any legitimacy left?

O tempora o mores!

78

Ned Ludd 10.26.13 at 11:35 pm

77- “After all that’s been revealed you still think the NSA has any legitimacy left?”

Oh, I don’t know. Depends on your criteria I guess. I happen to think that the fact that the NSA and its overall mission are a product of a democratically-elected representative government does in fact lend the NSA some prima facie legitimacy. Call me crazy. OTOH, if your criterion is whatever you personally find acceptable then I can see why we have a difference of opinion about this. Not sure how that makes *me* the authoritarian though.

Its cool guys, I get it. The NSA has clearly done some nasty and abusive things and since Snowden and Greenwald have apparently established their libertarian bona-fides to the satisfaction of the important people, we should just shut up and defer to their judgment and authority in how to handle all of this. We shouldn’t worry our pretty little heads at all about whatever collateral damage may result from the incompetent and reckless manner that Snowden chose for himself to make this go down.

79

par4 10.26.13 at 11:47 pm

The U.S. U.K., France, Germany, Mexico … etc… are NOT FUCKING democracies! They are FUCKING republics! If you don’t know the FUCKING difference you should study it before writing on politics. And another FUCKING thing liberals are NOT “of the left” and there is NO FUCKING “Nobel Prize” in FUCKING economics.

80

adam.smith 10.27.13 at 2:28 am

par4 – get over yourself. The language of political systems has evolved since Aristotle. Both by expert terminology (i.e. how political scientists refer to them) and by common usage of the term those are democracies. Liberals are left of the political center in the US and hence by definition “on the left” and there is a prize given every year to an economist at the Nobel prize ceremony in Stockholm and listed on nobelprize.org

81

Consumatopia 10.27.13 at 3:52 am

If you’re for keeping more secrets from the people, you are not a democrat. Before the people can give you legitimacy, they have to know what they’re giving it to. Voters who insist on expansive, secret security states are voting for authoritarianism. It wouldn’t be the first time voters have voted against democracy.

By weakening cryptography standards, the NSA has put the security of American communications at risk and betrayed part of their mission. So even under the bizarre anti-logic in which authoritarianism can have democratic legitimacy, the NSA has lost it.

Finally, the U.S. is not the only democracy. Europeans and South Americans also have a right to know what kind of surveillance is going on in their country. From what I can see, it appears that European governments have been cooperating with the NSA in ways that the European public doesn’t find legitimate.

82

geo 10.27.13 at 5:19 am

Ned @75, 77: Yes, the NSA has “prima facie” legitimacy, but “prima facie” just means “at first sight, before closer inspection” (American Heritage Dictionary). We’re a long way past first sight now. The US government has squandered its credibility and democratic legitimacy in countless ways by now: by lying the country into war in Vietnam and Iraq; by heavy lying and censorship throughout both those wars; by enormous over-classification of documents; by selective and self-serving prosecution of whistle-blowers but not of government officials who anonymously leak classified information in support of government policies; by comprehensively denying information necessary for legally mandated oversight to Congress and the courts on “national security” grounds; and by specious rationalizations of torture, assassination, rendition, and indefinite detention without charges. Virtually no one outside the United States trusts or believes the US government, and a large proportion of the US population doesn’t either. Quite rightly, don’t you think?

And as for the “democratically elected” part, I hope you don’t mean to suggest that the badly compromised US electoral system provides a full and fair airing of issues, thus conferring presumptive legitimacy on any policy the winning party (which has almost been elected by less than half of those eligible to vote) chooses to adopt afterward?

83

geo 10.27.13 at 5:21 am

Last sentence: “almost certainly been elected by less than half.” Sorry.

84

Mao Cheng Ji 10.27.13 at 9:16 am

As one famous linguist said: “I think it only makes sense to seek out and identify structures of authority, hierarchy, and domination in every aspect of life, and to challenge them; unless a justification for them can be given, they are illegitimate, and should be dismantled, to increase the scope of human freedom.”

I’m afraid, though, the justification in this case is probably classified…

85

novakant 10.27.13 at 10:57 am

86

Guido Nius 10.27.13 at 11:06 am

@85: first evidence Obama has been president for much longer than his official term!

More serious, I was ambivalent about Snowden at first but I stand corrected. He is trying to do the right thing in the right way. I think there can be justification for eavesdropping, the problem clearly is that the eavesdroppers believe they are beyond the need to justify themselves. Somebody needs to get fired.

87

djr 10.27.13 at 1:16 pm

par4 @ 79:

The U.K. is a republic? When did this happen? What does the “K” stand for now?

88

ZM 10.27.13 at 2:40 pm

@87 In terms of an OP on contradictions/hypocrisy in government, contemporary monarchies are interesting. I think I remember a recentish post on the Dutch (?) monarch’s speech (on dismantling aspects of the welfare state I think?) and discussion in the comments as to the subject position from which such a speech would be made.

In Australia, in republican debates, the contemporary structure of government has been referred to as a “crowned Republic”, I think in both positive and pejorative senses. I don’t know how old the term is, but Tennyson used it in his introduction addressed to Queen Victoria (I think) to Idylls of the King, I think in an almost ideal sense – “our…crowned Republic’s crowning common sense, that saved her many times…” referring to a brewing storm sensed to be coming.

Crowned republic while perhaps seeming contradictory/hypocritical, however does evince some of the tensions in a structure whereby the King or Queen is at the head of the government, under, in Westminster structures, the Christian God (and therefore, in the old days meant to be bound to take counsel from the High Lord Chancelor, as well as the Church – things which while never perfect in practice were undone in spectacular fashion by Henry VIII), but also has the parliament to advise them, and the increasing power of the role of Prime Minister.

It is usually expected thesedays that the monarch will follow the Prime Minister who holds the majority in the lower house, however, in the most recent significant Constitutional crisis in Australia the Queen, advised by the Governor General, dismissed Prime Minister Whitlam. Of course, things recently went in the opposite direction in Papua New Guinea.

89

Andrew F. 10.27.13 at 5:37 pm

Germany and France are now apparently angling to achieve some form of agreement with the US akin to the Five Eyes arrangement. Which is to say that the predictable actual response (not the one for domestic public theater) of the German and French governments, who do plenty of surveillance of their own, to the NSA revelations is “wow, how do we get a piece of this?” Further action on the draft data privacy rules has been delayed until 2015, with the full acquiescence of Germany. The political consequences of the revelations in Le Monde have been public theater in the EU Parliament (no doubt mindful of elections next year), the products of which were quickly delayed until the matter might be resolved in a better environment.

Most relevantly, though, the negative consequences that did occur did not come about because of outrage over hypocrisy, but because of anger over the actions exposed.

As to the second point in the post, Snowden has most certainly exposed sources and methods. And if he had his druthers much more of them would have been exposed.

Moreover, and this point cannot be stressed enough, the full damage of Snowden’s actions are not limited to what has been published. He claims to have taken documents detailing operations and precise methods and personnel with him to Hong Kong. One of the most chilling parts of a recent interview he gave to The New York Times is where he argues that the Chinese did not obtain all the documents. His reasoning is that he took a full list of all ongoing NSA operations against China, and that if the Chinese really had acquired them, then all those operations would now be failing, and the US Government would be more upset than it currently is. Leaving aside the crass, mind-boggling, felonious stupidity of that argument (he also claims to have taught a course in counter-intelligence and to be an expert on Chinese espionage techniques), just focus on the fact that this guy may have taken a complete detailing of NSA operations against China with him to China. How trustworthy are those operations now? How comfortable are you leaving personnel in place who may be compromised? If Snowden is half the expert he claims to be, then he knows all this. He believes that the US shouldn’t be spying on countries unless Congress declares war on them. It’s obviously an idiotic stance, but it’s nonetheless the view he expressed. And so behind the shield of the laws protecting free speech and free press, he has made a kind of war on American intelligence. The timing and placement of the various leaks should resolve any remaining doubt as to the effect they are intended to have.

And things have not improved. Because now those documents are in the sage and prudent hands of intelligence expert Glenn Greenwald, who no doubt can be trusted to implement the kind of information security that can defeat the intense interest intelligence agencies across the globe have in acquiring those documents. And, no doubt, he can be trusted, now that he is breaking free of the stuffy (and less remunerative) shackles of The Guardian, to continue to publish details on such documents with his usual sound and well-informed judgment.

Finally, revealing that the US and allies were attempting to listen to the communications of foreign governments isn’t whistle-blowing, or exposing a scandal, or exposing hypocrisy (NB I am NOT claiming that to be the extent of the leaks, but the inclusion of such facts in the leaks is telling). When did ANY country claim to NOT attempt to acquire key communications of foreign governments? The purpose of these revelations is to damage the foreign relations of the US (and, just possibly, to result in a nice bit of coin for certain individuals, a subject about which I suspect we’ll hear more about in the future), either by provoking public reaction at the actions themselves (how dare they tap the phones of our government) or in the more juvenile hope (which Greenwald exhibits in full during the more adolescent portions of his articles) that the actions will outrage foreign governments (no doubt foreign governments were absolutely scandalized by the news).

In sum, the damage to the US, and its allies, has not been by the exposure of hypocrisy, but by the exposure of intelligence operations. The damage has been foreseeable and the damage has been deliberate. Is it the kind of damage that a state would have done? No. Greenwald’s, Snowden’s, Assange’s, and others – to the extent their political and personal objectives overlap here – are indeed using the information they have (in part) similar to the way an organized political campaign would use it. They leak it strategically, at the times and places it will have maximum effect; they use the media to preserve the thin legitimacy that these leaks now have and to shield the leaks themselves from government interference. But Henry, this does not detract in the slightest from the argument that the purpose of the leaks is to attack the US and allied intelligence community and, as far as some of the individuals involved are concerned, the efficacy of the US and allied governments.

All that said, hypocrisy has damaged some of the parties involved in this, but none of those parties is a government. The hypocrisy of those who claim the mantle of whistle blower while revealing intelligence operations that are beyond the shadow of any doubt legal and appropriate (such as eavesdropping on foreign governments) has damaged permanently their credibility – though shoddy reporting and deliberate exaggeration have no doubt taken their toll as well.

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William Timberman 10.27.13 at 6:07 pm

When you look up Very Serious Person in Wikipedia, the entry ought to illustrated by a picture of Alex K. Fortunately, the world doesn’t belong in perpetuity either to him or to Keith Alexander, or to their paymasters. The juvenility of the people’s representatives, Greenwald and Snowden, is as precise a proof as anyone is likely to encounter of the uselessness of a definition of maturity which insists that sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, and therefore seriousness must always be as moribund as he reveals it to be in the present instance.

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Consumatopia 10.27.13 at 8:27 pm

Germany and France are now apparently angling to achieve some form of agreement with the US akin to the Five Eyes arrangement. Which is to say that the predictable actual response (not the one for domestic public theater) of the German and French governments, who do plenty of surveillance of their own, to the NSA revelations is “wow, how do we get a piece of this?”

Getting in on Five Eyes-like cooperation would not only allow your country to spy better, but also to see how the U.S. is spying upon you–you’ll get a good idea of the scope of American methods and results, and probably a good idea of how to make yourself a harder target. It might also leave you in a better position to demand privacy protections for your citizens.

Spying between allies represents a negative sum competition–the allies would all be better off if they could all avoid spending resources on espionage and counter-espionage directed at each other. So even if the only outcome of this is greater intelligence cooperation–and less competition–between the US and EU, that represents a sort of progress, albeit not really progress for transparency or privacy.

At the very least, expanding Five Eyes type alliances would contradict the predictions some have made that these leaks would result in governments tightening down. If, OTOH, those predictions are true and the US doesn’t share any more intel with France and Germany, then their new found anti-allied spying stances will likely harden. If there is a front of competition on which your country will always lose, it’s in your national interest to change norms so that that front is closed, or at least that the winners pay a price for their victory.

The surveillance state itself is a threat to democracy, and therefore represents hypocrisy on the part of any country that claims to adhere to democratic values. Acquiescence to other countries spying on your government or your citizens represents hypocrisy, as most countries have laws on the books to prosecute other countries’ spies. The act of spying on allied countries may not be quite hypocritical, but depending on context and extent can be scandalous. The privacy rights of citizens of foreign allies still matter, even if they aren’t protected by U.S. law and American citizens don’t actually care about them. A whistle-blower might have a constituency other than their own in mind. Greenwald probably genuinely believes–as I do–that Germans and Brazilians have a right to know how America is spying on them, regardless of any hypocrisy or complicity in the German/Brazilian governments themselves.

All that said, hypocrisy has damaged some of the parties involved in this, but none of those parties is a government.

It is now logically impossible for none of the hypocrites to be governments, as France and Germany have both condemned spying between allies. OTOH, if the reports that Obama actually did know about and approve of listening to Merkel’s phone are true, then Obama becomes not just a hypocrite, but a liar.

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LFC 10.28.13 at 5:36 pm

@ronan
I’ve now downloaded that Farrell/Newman ‘New Interdependence’ piece you linked above. (downloaded, but only read the first couple of pp.) Looks possibly interesting, thks.

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Mao Cheng Ji 10.28.13 at 10:52 pm

The French I can understand, but Germany? There are, like, 200 Murcan military bases, 50,000 troops in Germany. And they get all excited that they are listening to their phone calls? Dummkopfe.

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LFC 10.29.13 at 1:52 am

Andrew F.
The hypocrisy of those who claim the mantle of whistle blower while revealing intelligence operations that are beyond the shadow of any doubt legal and appropriate

It wasn’t “appropriate” to go after Merkel’s own phone. It was counterproductive.
Was it “appropriate” to sweep up 60 million Spanish calls in the space of a month?

Someone who is capable of writing the bald, unqualified assertion that “Unlike certain other nations, the policy of the US has been to encourage free trade” — which is what Andrew F. wrote upthread — ignoring e.g. agricultural subsidies that harm farmers in developing countries — is perhaps not in the ideal position to deliver a lecture on what is “appropriate.” (Which is not to say I think Snowden is a heroic whistleblower — I don’t. But neither is everything the NSA does “appropriate.”)

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Collin Street 10.29.13 at 2:10 am

It wasn’t “appropriate” to go after Merkel’s own phone. It was counterproductive.

Look. I read spycatcher. It was written by a crazy person, but most importantly someone who seemed to be really bad at understanding the motivations of others. If you’ve got some sort of problem that leaves you with difficulty in that area, working out what people think by watching what they do, of course you’re going to want confidential insights into “what they’re really thinking”. And the information you get will even be useful. To you. To other people, not so much.

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ajay 10.29.13 at 11:10 am

67: Manta, thanks, but that transcript puzzles me still further. It contains several very strong and direct denials that the US engages in industrial espionage. Woolsey is backing Andrew F.’s position, not yours. In context, it’s pretty clear that my interpretation of the Woolsey quote is close to the mark:
“Would […] somebody do a technological analysis of something from a friendly country, which had no importance, other than a commercial use, and then let it sit on the shelf because it couldn’t be given to the American company? I think that would be a misuse of the [intelligence] community’s resources. I don’t think it would be done.”

means “and therefore we wouldn’t bother doing the analysis”, not “and therefore we would do the analysis and give the results to a US company”.

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Manta 10.29.13 at 11:46 am

I thougth “Ops, you are right, ajay” was clear enough to mean that you were, indeed, right.

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Tim Wilkinson 10.29.13 at 11:47 am

Studied ambiguity?

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ajay 10.29.13 at 12:09 pm

97: ah. OK, sorry, I thought that was just about the lack of context… fair enough and I apologise for quibbling.

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ZM 10.29.13 at 12:15 pm

Does he read Shakespeare? The oddest thing is this combination:

“So if people are inventing out of whole cloth in spite of what’s said in the Aspin-Brown report, in spite of what I said when I was DCI, as far as I know, I believe what is being said publicly and officially on the record by the U.S. government today, that the United States does not conduct industrial espionage, it doesn’t steal secrets of foreign companies to give them to American companies for purposes of competitions and so forth — if the hubbub in Brussels ignores that, then those who are creating the hubbub are intentionally looking away from the major issue.

WOOLSEY: If this were Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” to discuss the issue without talking about bribery, is like talking about it without talking about the prince of Denmark. It’s the central thing.”

In Shakespeare’s Hamet to discuss the issue (murder of the King) without talking about it directly, Hamlet goes to no end of trouble addressing it indirectly etc. The play’s play and what Hamlet feigns are the central things – I think. But perhaps he doesn’t read Shakespeare?

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ZM 10.29.13 at 12:26 pm

Well, he acts, no idea if he reads.

“R. James Woolsey Jr., the director of central intelligence under President Clinton from 1993 to 1995, has lately been appearing in workshop presentations of the Broadway-aspiring musical John Goldfarb, Please Come Home. The musical, which until recently put on its workshops at the Cutting Room on East 32nd Street, is based on The Exorcist author William Peter Blatty’s novel about a pilot lost in the Middle East. Mr. Woolsey, not stretching at all, plays a CIA director named Heinous Overreach.”

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hix 10.30.13 at 3:12 pm

Now we know why Merkels phone was taped: Her driver could be a terrorist who uses Merkels phone.

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Ned Ludd 10.30.13 at 9:37 pm

geo @ 82– Yes, I know what “prima facie” means and I used the phrase deliberately. The point I’ve been trying to make is an objection to the way that some people, notably Snowden himself, are seemingly trying to frame this discussion in terms of a simplistic, binary choice between an unbounded, out-of-control surveillance state or the dismantling of our intelligence/counter-intelligence agencies entirely. I make this claim about Snowden by observing that his consciously-chosen actions were predictably consistent with a broad-based attack on US intelligence and counter-intelligence agencies. The damage that he did to the NSA by taking classified documents to China and Russia goes well beyond the reputational stuff that you guys seem to be fixating on.

I do agree that it’s pretty obvious that the NSA has abused its authority and damaged the credibility of our government. It just doesn’t follow to me that that means there is no legitimate role for the NSA at all as part of our national security apparatus or that covert surveillance of potential violent threats to the security of real people is a fundamentally immoral activity.

It just seems to me that the more sensible discussion should be about the appropriate scope of intelligence/counter-intelligence (which, in fairness to libertarians, could include “none at all”) and how best to design mechanisms for enforcement and oversight, balancing our concerns for privacy, democratic empowerment, and pragmatic security.

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ZM 10.30.13 at 10:00 pm

@103
“I do agree that it’s pretty obvious that the NSA has abused it’s authority and damaged the credibility of our government”

Isn’t trying to determine whether these overreaches are only done and known by government agencies, or are implicitly part of government policy and known to executive and governmental figures kind of the purpose for leaks in the first place.

Did the NSA overstep the mark, or did (part of?) the government overstep the mark? Is it a matter of the agency’s internal procedures or government policy? How do we tell?

Our friend Woolsey:
“When it comes to how his onstage role differs from the real deal, Mr. Woolsey noted that “the job of that person is not to make policy recommendations, and I didn’t, and most directors don’t. The job is to steal secrets from enemies of the United States and prepare intelligence reports for the country’s leaders.””

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Ned Ludd 10.30.13 at 10:39 pm

@104– I suppose there are lots of possible uses for leaks, depending on the intentions of the leaker. Again, what skeeves me out about the situation at hand is that Snowden leaked in a manner that forces the NSA to scuttle a broad range of programs, the scope of which we’re not even aware of. What Snowden did, in effect, was to launch an attack on the NSA and then leak to justify it.

You ask a lot of good, insightful questions. I appreciate that. I also note that they hit at what I think is the real crux which is the problem of oversight. It’s not that the NSA spies per se (at least for me), but that they are apparently doing so in a manner that extends beyond the consent that they’ve been given and with no effective accountability.

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