I’m not sure if the article is cherry picking quotes to make Stroud sound horrible, but I’m very concerned by the viewpoint she espouses. It’s ok for Americans to target 16 year olds on Twitter, but not other Americans? This makes her a “good spy”?
Trying to interject personal morality into the grey area of Intelligence and counter-intelligence is not a fruitful conversation. That does not mean, we should not try, but its not cut and dry.
Now maybe you want to make the case that there is good and bad terrorism?
She was comfortable targeting human rights activists (such as Ahmed Mansoor who are working hard to make a positive change in the world) on behalf of a country with a horrible track record of human rights / etc. But she felt "sick to her stomach" when these targeted individuals were US citizens? How can she justify that citizenship is the differentiator between what's right and wrong?
> Stroud said her background as an intelligence operative made her comfortable with human rights targets as long as they weren’t Americans.
> Prominent Emirati activist Ahmed Mansoor, given the code name Egret, was another target, former Raven operatives say. For years, Mansoor publicly criticized the country’s war in Yemen, treatment of migrant workers and detention of political opponents.
> Mansoor was convicted in a secret trial in 2017 of damaging the country’s unity and sentenced to 10 years in jail. He is now held in solitary confinement, his health declining, a person familiar with the matter said.
> She found the work exhilarating. “It was incredible because there weren’t these limitations like there was at the NSA. There wasn’t that bullshit red tape,” she said. “I feel like we did a lot of good work on counterterrorism.”
> “I was sick to my stomach,” she said. “It kind of hit me at that macro level realizing there was a whole category for U.S. persons on this program.”
I have been offered $250K+ (tax free!) to deploy to Afghanistan on several occasions.. because they need bodies over there and it's risky. They weren't pitching esprit de corps or a just war to me, it was solely $$$. This isn't Band of Brothers. This is a war of choice not need.
By avoiding a draft via a standing professional military, and then outsourcing much of that military's internal workings to contractors we have created a mercenary culture. Same as the Romans.
Fixing this requires a political will that I wish we could muster.
If we actually imposed the costs of wars on the American Public, like we did in WWII, we wouldn't be doing as much war. Instead we "outsource" the costs to private contractors which overcharge because "pensions are more expensive than contract labor."
We need to take any and all profit out of war by eliminating as much contract labor as possible. That's easy and perfectly fit to do with software. Which is why I joined Kessel Run as a government civilian, to bring software engineering in-house to the Air Force instead of contracting it.
And once it becomes a caste, it starts drifting apart. Politically, that is fairly obvious if you look at the polls. There's a surprising geographic component to it, too - for one thing, disproportionally many recruits come from specific geographic regions (mostly the South). And there are several municipalities around the country where most people who live there are veterans and their families.
The real problem, though, is that such a military caste starts seeing it as separate and distinct from the rest of the country.
And that, in turn, allows for sentiments like these to develop:
"I am irritated by the apathy, lack of patriotic fervor, and generally anti-military and anti-American sentiment. I often wonder if my forefathers were as filled with disgust and anger when they thought of the people they were fighting to protect as I am."
If such sentiments become prevalent, how long will the military tolerate civilian control, if it considers the controlling civilian government to be run by people with "anti-American sentiment"?
Enlist/Commission, Serve for some period (maybe even retire at 39), Join a defense contractor and ride into the sunset with dual retirements. All footed by public debt.
It's pretty sickening from the inside.
It would be a better jobs program for veterans to just keep them gainfully employed by the military somehow. Or send them back to school before retirement, to be educated for useful civilian skills. You might be surprised at how many people have jobs whose only real qualification is half a lifetime of filling out a specific form.
Personally, I dunno if I necessarily oppose the phenomenon -- if we accept military work as a legitimate field, I guess that wisdom passed through generations is desirable, even if it comes with similarly inherited attitudes. As example from other disciplines: farming and doctoring families are common and undoubtedly benefit from the dynastic nature of their trades.
And, as Mao said, "all political power comes from a barrel of a gun". Which is why civilian control of the military is so important to preserve, and why the signs that the tail is wagging the dog (worship of all things military in US) is so disturbing.
With regards to family legacy of service, it was common for officers, but not quite so much for the enlisted ranks.
But "the public" isn't one thing. The right-wing half of the public respect the military, and the left-wing half despise it while revelling in the freedom it provides, which also includes the freedom to despise it. I mean back in Soviet Russia if you spat on the uniform of a soldier of the Red Army, I imagine you would have been in alot of trouble. Or in China with the PLA.
I doubt you can defend this statement on a factual basis
Don't take this the wrong way but the USA needs to get over regarding the founders odd ideas about standing armies it just doesn't work in a modern society.
Now, conscripted soldiers work better for some things and worse for others. They work better on defense, especially on their own territories - but that's what the good guys are supposed to be doing, no? And it's not like you can't still have a professional volunteer (from those who completed mandatory service) component, for things that require more training.
And modern warfare is no longer a case of giving some one 6 weeks training and a clapped out old rifel as old as their father.
Even late 70's early 80's the part trained Argentinian draftees didn't really stand a chance against 2 parra in the Falkland's the Junta evacuated a lot of the professional troops before then end
Citation needed. The Swiss have done a pretty good job of defending the Vatican of course, but when was their military last tested for real?
(the answer is WW1)
I get the strong impression that the nat sec community is stuck in the 1940's and 50's still thinks they can get high end cyber skills and pay enlisted wages - a cheery working class chap in the films he be played by Norman wisdom or George Formby
What makes someone OK with murder? How do you flip someone from a civilian mindset of more or less 'love thy neighbor' to a soldier mindset of 'kill the bad guy'?
In rough terms there are a lot of simple answers, like 'portray the other as a threat to your family/way of life/values'
But here we're talking about someone that believes human rights workers are valid targets unless they have her same passport. That makes the origins of the belief much harder to imagine.
That’s clearly what it is: Stroud views US citizens as “her tribe”, so people attacking them offends her, while outsiders fighting outsiders doesn’t matter.
Further, this also answers the “moral compass” question: they have a strong moral compass, it’s simply aligned to tribal protection, rather than some kind of “universal” ideal, which is precisely what you’d expect from people who volunteered as soldiers in tribal warfare.
Up until the middle of the last century, that wasn't the case. Most soldiers would (often intentionally) miss their targets because it turns out most humans are really hesitant about actually taking another human's life.
In part, the higher "efficiency" of the modern military comes down to dehumanising the target. In the US it is very easy to see from an outside perspective how this has spilled over into the media and public discourse -- I vividly remember several politicians explicitly talking in televised interviews about how Snowden was a traitor and should be killed without a trial, for example, a statement which seemed to spark no significant outrage and had no political consequences.
The trick is that the others aren't just "a threat", they're not even human. Terrorists don't have families. And if they do have children, they're the horrible animals dragging those innocent children into this -- the "migrants" are forcing us to separate their kids from them, it's their fault for even imposing this situation on their kids. Oh, sorry, hostility towards refugees and immigrants is of course a completely different topic; no idea how this slipped in there.
Humans hesitate when told to kill fellow humans. But they're pretty good at murdering if you train them not to consider their victims human.
It obviously is.
Whether or not you should let them in is another question on which I don't have any particular opinion.
It seems like you are saying it is moral to work for a U.S. intelligence agency but not for a foreign government that targets human rights activists. U.S. intelligence agencies have targeted human rights activists for decades. U.S. intelligence agencies have engaged in torture, illegal kidnappings, drug trafficking, and a host of other immoral acts. If a person is comfortable working for an American intelligence agency and you are comfortable with people who do then I don't see how this situation is any worse. I'm surprised she had any moral compunction that an American citizen was involved.
The US is a representative democracy that has rule of law. This is not denying the bad behavior of intelligence agencies in the past. Supporting the ideals of the west (representative democracy, independent court system, individual (minority/women's) rights, freedom of the press, freedom of speech, etc.) require organizations like this to exist. This doesn't mean they shouldn't be held to a high standard (they should), but that good people should work with them and that it's critical good people do so the standard is high.
The UAE is a religious dictatorship with pretty much none of these things, supporting their intelligence agencies (particularly when they're targeting political activists that they deem a threat) is worse and not morally equivalent. This is likely why they painted it as entirely for defense against terrorism to most of the contractors.
I find it pretty disturbing that this person, knowing about the offensive targeting (particularly of political activists), only finds this morally concerning when it involves the surveillance of Americans.
The above statement holds, whoever it never stopped the support (material, logistical, etc) of murdereos regimes all over the world. Look, I'm not an idealist, I understand that the US is a power hegemon and as such it will always impose its will on smaller countries, same as the UK or France did in the past. What irritates me is that its citizens are convinced that they are "the good guys", when evidence against that is so overwhelming. At least the UK was clear in its intentions "we are building/defending the British Empire"
There are dozens of countries and millions of lives around the world which US military/foreign policy has left in ruins.
Which is not to say that the US is any worse than other global powers, or that a world where the US was completely isolationist would necessarily be better. But its hardly the force for divine progress and prosperity that we Americans often pretend it is to ourselves.
This isn't as comforting as you seem to think it is, when you're talking to people on the outside.
It will be interesting to see how well this ages. Looking at past iterations of global power(s), this era seems like one of the best. Sure, the US has done some evil, but it at least pretends to follow the law most of the time. It may have started some wars and interfered where it shouldn't, but nowhere to the degree of past global powers.
At the end of the day, the US never interferes with religious freedom, accepts homosexuality, and tends to treat men and women as equal. That has literally never happened before in the history of world powers.
One of the reasons that Ancient Persians held women in high regard might have been their religion. Zoroastrianism was the dominant religion, and its ideology stressed that men and women were equals. Naturally, this would shape the worldview of Ancient Persians, and we can say that overall women were seen as important figures in society."
Funny fun fact about Zoroastrianism: "British musician Freddie Mercury, lead singer for the rock band Queen, was of Parsi descent. Mercury, born Farrokh Bulsara, practiced Zoroastrianism."
You know why US embassy was stormed like it was? Because CIA was actively using it as a base of their operations. How you would like if your own resource-rich country was constantly interfered with bunch of spies who hide in their embassy but feel so comfortable that they don't even hide it too well?
They should have kicked staff out of country (even though most didn't have diplomatic immunity and were helping subvert the state they were in - this is still heavily punishable everywhere around the world today). Instead jailing them gave US marketing fodder to paint them as pure evil. Not that they are saints, but Saudi Arabia just next door ain't much better but was, is and will be a big US friend, as seen with treatment of horrible Khashoggi case.
The style of government matters not to me when it comes to moral culpability. Catholic priests murdered in Central America with the approval of the U.S. government did not care that we have a representative government. Since it doesn't matter to the victims of our torture, murdering, raping, and pillaging it doesn't seem germane to me. Indeed, that we are a representative democracy only causes me to be depressed further as the blame partly resides with me and my fellow countrymen since we elected the leaders of these monsters. In the UAE at least the average citizen has less culpability since they have no say in their government.
The difference in our argument is that I think it's important for good people to be involved in their government in order to support these western ideals and work to do the right thing.
It may be morally pure to just avoid the complex issues, but other than feeling good and maybe virtue signaling it doesn't actually help. Given the true need for security and organizations like this I think it's important for good people to be involved in this work. We have agency and a responsibility to make things better.
I think this argument changes when the foundational core is different (religious dictatorship) because the high level goals are not the same - you're immediately operating under a bad moral starting point when the law itself is bad and the government is not a representative democracy.
Your original point was:
> "If a person is comfortable working for an American intelligence agency and you are comfortable with people who do then I don't see how this situation is any worse."
I'm arguing it's both a lot worse and that there are good reasons for a moral person to work with western intelligence agencies.
The high level goals of the U.S. are to maintain hegemonic dominance and our government appears to be willing to engage in all sorts of immoral deeds to accomplish this goal. It’s not virtue signaling to point out the American government is untrustworthy, engages in illegal behavior, tortures, murders, rapes, and pillages and that I personally don’t see how working for American intelligence agencies is not significantly more moral than working for UAE agencies. It’s how I see things.
That said, the core goals and ideas that countries stand for are vastly different between western representative democracies like the US, UK and religious theocracies like the UAE, KSA (or kleptocratic governments like Russia). I think this is an important difference.
The pragmatic approach is given the need for intelligence organizations to exist it's important for good people to work there and try to do the right thing.
Opting out and implying that any moral person would have to act similarly leads to a government of the worst people and it kind of abandons the principle goals of representative democracy. It's not the pointing out of bad behavior that's virtue signaling, it's the side stepping of the difficulty of the issue - how do you actually solve these kinds of complex problems?
But imagine UAE or KSA by the will of Allah get the military and economic power of the US?
What would they be doing?
Bombing and sanctioning countries until they convert to their particular brand of Islam and accept sharia law?
I'd bet the distinction will get unblurred pretty quickly.
I think bad actors in both places should be viewed negatively and be accountable for bad things they do. I do think risk is higher in a place with fewer rules (or bad laws), but that's more of a separate thing.
I'm generally suspicious of giving any powerful group the benefit of the doubt - it's good to be skeptical.
Our main difference is that I think the US government is still worth supporting (even if the current administration is absolutely not). I also see a significant difference between the US and the UAE.
Anyway - I appreciate the nuanced discussion, thanks.
What are these goals and ideas worth? About 100B of USD?
In principle maybe, but not under the what's being played out in the US. Given you have these principles I should put more faith in you and hope that you don't murder me when it's convenient? An intelligence agency is not the government and vice-versa. It only reflects the people's mandate in just its core function, intelligence among other things.
But to say it is okay for someone to work for those agencies is to deny their bad behavior in the past. There has been no change to those agencies except they are better at covering up their current day bad behavior, so to say it is at all moral to support them is only possible if you find that their past behaviors weren't really bad.
Though also, it might just my be inner cynicism reading this article having spent a long time working on security/human rights etc, but it sort of feel reading between the lines that the so-called "moral compunction" of many of the former US intel people was actually more of a "legal compunction" ("Oh crap, I've ignored things I've seen because I am getting paid a huge wedge of tax free money but now the the FBI are sniffing around it's time to grow a conscience and get ahead of this.")
There is a giant difference between communitarian acts one might carry out for the ostensible good of the community (we may not always agree with our own geopolitics, but at least we can vote) - and for other, arbitrary regimes, working for money.
Most people even in the regular civil service have a sense of duty, and it's generally 'not about the money' - and wouldn't be very interested in just 'doing it for the money' anyhow.
The first statement about 'as long as it's not Americans' is a little disturbing though.
AIUI (not an American) that's a dividing line for a lot of US law relating to intelligence agency activities. More observation than explanation, but to some people what's legal and what's ethical is very tightly coupled.
I grew up in the UAE where xenophobia/racism is rampant. If you really want to see white privilege in action and more shockingly, out in the open, move to any Arab country.
Pets. Guard dogs. Familiar == good, !Familiar == bad. Grey doesn't exist.
Makes me worry about how military AI's will be "trained". That revolution can be delayed indefinitely.
Perhaps she is lying and cares not as to who is on the receiving end of her expertise regardless of nationality.
Perhaps in the end it's just a business disagreement.
She can get away by targeting an arab activist. Targeting US citizen for another government is spying.
We don't choose that anymore than we do our gender or our skin color.
But yet, we deny rights. Food. Safety. Life, because of it. And it's fine. Because they were born in that country.
Or it’s some wacky under the radar US action.
Same also UAE vs the USA. If the NSA is doing it, why wouldn't any Middle East country be able to hack other citizens/companies/governments? Sounds like a band of thieves bad-mouthing other thieves
Yes, that's literally what a signals intelligence service is about.
> But then publicly the USA point fingers at Huawei or Chinese government from doing the same.
Uh, yeah, countries have always done espionage and punished espionage committed against them, and, particularly, vilified entities that are overtly something other than an intelligence service that are caught acting as an agent of hostile intelligence services.
> If the NSA is doing it, why wouldn't any Middle East country be able to hack other citizens/companies/governments?
They are clearly able to do it.
1 - https://foreignpolicy.com/2012/12/06/we-were-pirates-too
I can't wait to see this line of thinking applied to ethnic cleansing.
P.S. Are you seriously comparing ethnic cleansing to IP theft?
I can't find a link for it but during Clinton's presidency in the 90s he setup a government office to disseminate NSA collected economic intelligence to private US businesses.
Edit: here's another example.
The first link says that US intelligence exposed bribes made by European companies. That seems good. The second link says that US intelligence gave US government trade negotiators useful info on foreign government negotiators. Seems valid.
From the first link:
"But a report published by the European Parliament in February alleges that Echelon twice helped US companies gain a commercial advantage over European firms."
Echelon = US intelligence.
Some other quotes that support my comments.
"two alleged instances of US snooping in the 1990s, which he says followed the newly-elected Clinton administration's policy of "aggressive advocacy" for US firms bidding for foreign contracts."
Go and read Secret Power. After the conclusion of the cold war and before the war on terror US intelligence didn't have incredibly clear deliverables and the US had just come off a recession. Supporting the US in the global marketplace did become a priority for both the CIA and NSA, driven by Clinton.
And yes, exposing bribes is good. But exposing bribes for personal profit? That's more debatable.
True, it was GCHQ not NSA, but it's similar enough.
Other nations would be reporting it generally, so it'd be absurd to suppress public information.
Now, it might be 'spun' in the national interest, in a time of war or something like that.
But if the US Government stile IP from Didi, handed it over to Apple execs, then blocked Didi from doing business in the US thus giving Apple a monopoly there ... it would be news.
The US gov. plays geopolitical games, and maybe does some political interference 'for business' - but is not stealing trade secrets to hand over to arbitrary US businesses.
I think the US would steal the plans for a new 'jet engine' or weapon system however.
Also consider that for really valuable stuff, the US pays a lot of money in the private sector. US companies pay top dollar for 'top talent' which is a lot easier than stealing.
Security related espionage and industrial espionage are entirely different things.
They overlap a little bit when it relates to 'defence industry' - but the US is not actively stealing stuff from DiDi and handing it off to Apple whereas the inverse is true.
In that case, might as well root for whoever the home team is
We have a set of rules we follow and China has different rules, rules that violate ours, so we point fingers.
How do you know this does not happen in defense-related industries?
It's commonly touted that the purpose of forcing foreign companies to submit their IP to a Chinese owned branch as a prerequisite to conducting business in China is so the government can exfiltrate foreign IP back to China. The government isn't in the business of building out all these industries themselves - they anoint some select chosen in their cabal who profits enormously from getting the blessing of their local party members, while sending generous kickbacks their way. There's some Chinese billionaire who talks about it on YouTube - I can't recall his name off the top of my head.
There is less of an incentive for the US to steal commercial tech, but that would probably change if "our tech" fell behind "their tech."
Uh, they totally did. To French companies, to Brazilian companies, and passed it on for advantage in negotiations and
The only thing remarkable about this is the mechanism: Mainstream media mouthpiecing these viewpoints. Surely, they know better. But they are obviously willing tools.
Not just American. The Microsoft has to show source code I read in news has to demo it to china. But china has no choice here.
But when it happens to America, natural course of action I think.
I find it laughable when the US "attributes" an attack to a foreign power, and the media just laps it up and preaches it as gospel. In the vault-7 release on wikileaks, the NSA has a pretty nifty tool to....manipulate packets to make them look like they are coming from a different source, and insert comments in 4 foreign languages.
We are asked to believe that Russias most talented hackers, somehow are stupid enough to leave comments in Acrylic that mentions the head of the GRU. Yes, I'm sure they did that. Just like our payloads have comments attributing our code to Obama or Trump. The "stolen" emails were "downloaded" at 3x the rate of the internet connection going to the email server. It happens to match the rate of USB2, and most likely a USB stick was used to copy the emails directly from the server.
Here's a talk by Ray McGovern (ex cia), which lays the case out. Don't take his word for it. Research the facts he claims. I kind of poo-poo'd him at first. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ngIKjpucQh8
Here's an article describing the NSA's "Marble Framework". Go to the vault and look at their own words from the NSA's docs: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/wikil...
Vault-7 NSA's "Marble Framework": https://wikileaks.org/ciav7p1/cms/page_14588467.html
compilation artifacts and strings in malware - very common method of researching attribution and most tools pull them as IoCs
even if you write tools to strip or null them out all it takes is a single OPSEC failure and you've leaked this info, and we see those all the time
should also be noted that the build paths was not the only attribution indicator in that case
These are violations of ethics. They can quickly become a betrayal of US citizens.
I think these former INTL workers don't understand that a wave of wrath is coming from US citizens that the shit pulled by INTL services isn't okay.
I wonder how much these folks accepted...
When the US intervenes in other nations there is typically a rival political faction that the US is aligned with:
- The US funds rival political groups of many foreign regimes abroad. The important thing is to have the group established. From there it can exist in semi-dormancy until it is needed.
- The rival political groups then hire former US intelligence agency employees as consultants.
- The rival political groups then hire former US officials as lobbyists.
- US political figures openly accept indirect campaign funding from foreign lobbying groups.
So, anyone with some gossip from that world care to comment?
But she started out in the US military:
> She spent a decade at the NSA, first as a military service member from 2003 to 2009 and later as a contractor in the agency for the giant technology consultant Booz Allen Hamilton from 2009 to 2014.
And that's some programming that you don't shake off lightly. So it's not at all surprising that her break with UAE was triggered by operations against Americans:
> “I don’t think Americans should be doing this to other Americans,” she told Reuters. “I’m a spy, I get that. I’m an intelligence officer, but I’m not a bad one.”
That's how soldiers are trained to think.
But not a legal one? I can see intel alumni being allowed to go into private sector work but surely not where there's a geopolitical conflict of interest?
>A moral obligation without a corresponding legal obligation is a Business Opportunity
Were the Hessians turned American considered British spies later?
Were the American pilots less trustworthy later?
It is impossible to generalize about mercenaries except to say they are a fact of life where people will take up the baton to hurt others for pay. The only way to prevent the atrocities that continue to plague our 'civilized' world is to treat people like the 'children' they are. Put them in a playpen and take away their toys. The equivalent is to build walls around every center of conflict and deprive them of any currency that would work outside these walls.
The concept of 'prison states' needs to be explored.
Possibly inflammatory post coming your way ...
Qatar, Turkey, Iran, Syria (at least historically, maybe not so much with the current Al-Asad), old Libya (Qaddafi) are very leftist, and thus get along better with left-ish media and left-leaning governments like France and Canada. Also the Muslim Brotherhood, Hizb ut-Tahrir, even ISIS is (extremely) leftist and there are allegiances and/or sentiments shared between all these.
Saudi Arabia, UAE, are very rightist. And thus they get along better with USA, Russia and also even Israel.