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I actually condone a lot of the NSA's activities, but I take serious issue with:

-Warantless surveillance of US citizens (this is bad whether it's by law enforcement, intelligence agencies, or anyone).

-Infiltration of foreign companies in allied or neutral nations purely for economic or geopolitical insight, not for military purposes (Brazil's Petrobras oil company, all sorts of spying in Germany and Norway and other places).

Personally I'm all for the kind of operations they're conducting in Iran and China, as these countries have been doing the same to us and to others for a long time. But they've become far too greedy in their desire for information domination and power, to the point where there is clearly no line that shouldn't be crossed. To them, if anything anywhere in the world is open for exploitation or surveillance, then they feel like they have a right to use it.




> Warantless surveillance of US citizens (this is bad whether it's by law enforcement, intelligence agencies, or anyone).

Agreed very strongly.

> Infiltration of foreign companies in allied or neutral nations purely for economic or geopolitical insight, not for military purposes (Brazil's Petrobras oil company, all sorts of spying in Germany and Norway and other places).

See this is where the NSA really shines. We (The US) delayed Iran's nuclear program by THREE YEARS with Stuxnet! Three! And after they finally figured out it was sabotage the US and Israel had the director assassinated for further delays.

Having Merkle's cell phone? During the Eurozone crisis? It would have been awful (financially) for the United States not to have that information. It's fun to look back and read the confused reports during the time "European Union suffering considerably from Eurozone crisis; America sees only limited effects."

PETROBRAS? We won offshore oil drilling locations because we had that information. Energy security for the country going forward decades.

Unfortunately geopolitics are important and you can't just not participate. Hacking is (one important way) that modern espionage, surveillance and sabotage are done.


It seems you've decided that US hegemony is a "good thing" regardless of the moral implications for ourselves and the world. However, some find actions like the following to be dangerous, immoral, unnecessary:

* "the US and Israel had the director assassinated"

* "we won offshore drilling"

* the blase assertion that a nuclear Iran is any worse than the existing nuclear powers (especially Israel!!!)

"Energy security" is oil company nonsense, hilarious considering their tireless efforts to block any kind of clean alternative. The OPEC crisis saved us from gas guzzlers, and now we're back to having SUV's everywhere. We could use some "energy insecurity" but with fracking we're now an exporter. Oil forever!! Climate be damned.

I disagree also with attempts to close off the discussion by saying "geopolitics are important." The US does not have to subvert governments, install dictators across the globe, prop up Saudi Arabia, blindly support Israel, be the muscle for Big Oil (and assassinate and imprison folks at home, too).

The moral hazards that have created this situation are to blame, but it doesn't help that our leaders are as a group paranoid and uncreative, all too willing to let militaristic fascists (accurate, not name-calling here) drive their decision-making.

Edward Snowden is a hero, full stop. You can't do enough damage to the NSA, these types must be resisted at all times.


> It seems you've decided

Nah that's not what I think or believe.

I'm trying to explain broader context. The US is not hacking in a vacuum. It has to make strategic decisions. We can arm chair the US strategic command all we want.

There seems to be a presumption that the US is doing these things 'just because'. What I believe is that the US is making decisions based on incentives, costs, benefits and other tradeoffs. I believe that if we don't participate in cyber intelligence warfare, we'll lose.

There are certain principles I don't want to give up in the process for sure - civil liberties of all people everyone is #1.


Presumably, I could better my negotiation position on pretty much any deal by spying or sabotaging the other party. Say I am negotiating a salary offer from a company, having access to the CEO email and that of other key decision makers (even just the prospective team and the HR reps) would presumably give me information I can use to secure a higher comp package, no? Without disrupting their operations in general, if I don't make a mistake in the process.

Is the previous an ethically valid way of conducting business? Should I not expect to be scrutinized if/when I got caught doing that, because it might imperil my interests? If I do the same, not for me but for a collective (a company, a union), would that be any less unethical? If not, why would it be different if I did it for my country?

Why is it that we consider that sort of behavior pathological for individuals, criminal for organizations and "just the way things are" when talking about (advanced, inter-dependent, presumably-friendly) nations?


These are all really good questions and I don't have answers other than to say there's a 'prisoner's dilemma'/'tragedy at the commons'/'cold war' situation. If you do no espionage and no sabotage, even though it is a higher moral ground, you don't exist for very long as a country.

So it's damned if you do and damned if you don't.


Except I suspect many countries actually do without effective espionage or sabotage, if only because they lack the capability.

I guess you can argue that many of these countries rely on allies who perform espionage and sabotage, thus benefiting from those activities despite not doing them themselves. But that still means that closely-aligned countries can survive without spying on each other. I might not have all the facts, but it seems unlikely that Germany or Brazil would be considered an existential threat to the US in the foreseeable future, so why spy on those countries? Slight economic advantages don't seem to justify the breach of ethics.

I guess I can see what you are saying and I don't think we can have a world without spying any time soon. But that doesn't mean all international spying is justified.


Having Merkle's cell phone? During the Eurozone crisis? It would have been awful (financially) for the United States not to have that information.

The cost of this sort of machiavellian policy is of course the opprobrium of former allies and friends, and a loss of moral standing.

The US loses a lot of soft power if it chooses this route, and the consequences will be felt for decades in mistrust and distance from her allies. A dangerous course both for the US and for the world.


I fluxuate with how I feel about it (it = 'machiavellian policy'). I'm not going to defend US policy in this case, nor claim to understand all of the nuances required to make global strategic geopolitical decisions.

But I will say that the NSA's perspective is that: it is only because of the Snowden leaks if we have lost face with allies. To the NSA, the secrets were kept well enough until Snowden and friends disclosed them.

This is my basic issue with this article. America and the NSA ate mud pie for the actions disclosed in the leaks. This article has the very real possibility of doing a lot more damage. One could say it is good because justice has been served, but one could also suggest that it is bad because similar disclosures of German surveillance programs (a touchy subject given the history), Chinese capabilities, Russian objectives etc haven't been disclosed by a Snowden-like actor.

Really the whole situation is bad. I don't like being at war, cyber or otherwise.


This is my basic issue with this article. America and the NSA ate mud pie for the actions disclosed in the leaks. This article has the very real possibility of doing a lot more damage.

Not because of the leaks, but because of their actions. That's an important distinction.

If you take actions like this, you should be prepared for them to be exposed, and if you use the argument the NSA and you yourself have made here (it would be ok if we were evil and no-one knew about it), you should expect no one to trust you. You've just declared yourself untrustworthy and a bad ally in perpetuity, because you think this is ok as long as no-one knew about it.


> Not because of the leaks, but because of their actions. That's an important distinction.

Right. I agree with that. There's actually sort of a boolean AND. Because we did them AND we got caught.

My guess is that all major players are doing the same stuff and that if the US doesn't participate it loses. I doubt the US hacked Germany on a whim - I bet it was a pretty labored decision with cost-benefit analysis (one being chance of getting caught).


>But I will say that the NSA's perspective is that: it is only because of the Snowden leaks if we have lost face with allies. To the NSA, the secrets were kept well enough until Snowden and friends disclosed them.

Of course that's their perspective, as is the perspective of anyone committing an embarrassing or morally unscrupulous act.

"The thing I regret most is getting caught."

Secrets of this nature have a tendency to leak. If it wasn't Snowden, it could've been anyone else.

I don't think all of the NSA's capabilities or actions should be leaked, but reporting of confirmed infiltrations of US and allied companies and systems is fine by my book. All's fair in love and war, but we are not at war with Germany or Brazil or, hopefully, ourselves.


> the perspective of anyone committing an embarrassing or morally unscrupulous act

In this instance it was embarrassing because it brought into question how well the US would be able to keep secret strategic information.

And yeah hacking into allies is pretty unscrupulous. A bunch of the Snowden leaks showed that Israel, France, Germany and others have hacked into us.

It's the way it all works.

> Secrets of this nature have a tendency to leak. If it wasn't Snowden, it could've been anyone else

There were many such leaks, e.g. Binney.

> reporting of confirmed infiltrations of US and allied companies and systems is fine by my book

I agree wholeheartedly with this.


> ... Germany and others have hacked into us.

Could you elaborate? As far as I know, Germany has some kind of agreement to not spy on the US.


Found the reference to Israel/France, looking for Germany references.

http://hbpub.vo.llnwd.net/o16/video/olmk/holt/greenwald/NoPl... (pg 40/125)

Why the downvote here? The comment contributes to the conversation...


This PDF does not appear to have searchable text.

Could you provide direct citations or quotes of allied countries infiltrating our government or private infrastructure? Excluding Israel, because they have the same mindset as the NSA/CIA (in which case I also don't take issue with us hacking Israel).


If your excuse for doing plainly immoral things is 'geopolitics is important', where do you draw the line? Your excuse can be used to justify pretty much any form of self-serving barbarity. How about if we just don't do evil shit and deal with the lack of an ill-gotten advantage? Works well enough in everyday life (assuming you aren't a mafioso). Why hold people who work for government agencies to such a pitifully lower standard of decency?


It's not my excuse. It's the NSA's (really the US Gov's) excuse.

I don't know where they draw the line.

If you didn't see it, there's a link on another branch of the conversation containing (at least) 37 other countries involved in cyberwarfare.

It's happening. I'm not excusing it. Honestly, it really sucks.


>See this is where the NSA really shines. We (The US) delayed Iran's nuclear program by THREE YEARS with Stuxnet! Three! And after they finally figured out it was sabotage the US and Israel had the director assassinated for further delays.

I'm honestly okay with this (except for the assassination part, though it was speculated that was Mossad and not US).

The other things though are simply to gain an unfair advantage in political and economic situations, even against countries that are supposedly our allies. Realistically, these things happen all around the world and have been forever, but ethically I don't think it's a good thing for the NSA or CIA to be doing.


It's one of those catch 22's.

Damned if you do and damned if you don't.




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