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New WikiLeaks Documents Reveal NSA Spied on French Companies (techcrunch.com)
528 points by maelito on June 29, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 248 comments

The espionage is perhaps most bothering of all. In some ways, most of us can rationalize spying for the purposes of security (albeit a dangerous and perhaps short-sighted rationalization) but when it's done with the intention of economic advantage it clearly undermines our entire financial system and the best features of capitalism: which is to reward those who innovate; delivering the market with higher quality products at lower pricing over time.

Because now you have a 'special access' class of the economy that can subvert this innovation/value mechanism with stolen data. Add corrupt politicians, easily exploited loopholes, biased media channels, and a docile public - and it's easy to see how this special access class can twist, distort (and ultimately destroy) the system.

One can only imagine what humanity could achieve without these parasites infecting our lives and businesses.

Why We Spy on Our Allies

R. James Woolsey, a Washington lawyer and a former Director of Central Intelligence.


tl;dr - The CIA spies on European allies because we bribe our way to win contracts, so the CIA gets the proof then blackmails (the Saudis) into handing over some of the contracts to others. Oh sorry quietly has a word.

Look, use your spy satellites to publically shame bribery - that's fine by me. Claim the UK is bribing every government it can find - sure, Cameron and Blair were hardly discreet. But claim that after you have done this service to the world, you then "quietly have a word". Come on. If you are doing this for the greater good, make it public.

I swear, if the CIA spent the next year uploading to their web site phone taps of public officials taking bribes, international corruption would end by 2017.

we bribe our way to win contracts, so the CIA gets the proof then blackmails (the Saudis) [...] the UK is bribing every government it can find

Your comment illuminates things somewhat - at the top end of the international business food-chain there is no real free-market. We can talk about free-markets when discussing small, medium and even large domestic sized businesses. But when we think about integrated circuits, aircraft, shipping, consulting engineering, infrastructure etc, it's about discretion when lobbying to get the winning the bid, discretion in stealing key technologies, and discretion in manipulating the market.

My first instinct was to suggest that encryption is the magic bullet for having a real free market at the top end - but that doesn't stop bribery. In the one hand, we need to protect innovative businesses from having their intellectual property stolen and handed to the incumbent, in the other we need to shine a light on the corruption that pervades everything from soccer to software contracts.

I'm not sure what can be done beyond what you suggest at the end of your post: if the CIA spent the next year uploading to their web site phone taps of public officials taking bribes, international corruption would end by 2017.

Time for the spies to become Wikileaks? The reason they won't do this is because every side has nasty secrets to hide.

Well no, it could be argued that it is a free market of sorts.

...or it would take more technologically sophisticated and less traceable forms.

Really? FIFA was shoving wads of cash into brown envelopes and renting apartments in Trump Tower - for dogs.

Bribery is generally not sophisticated. Especially at the levels the CIA could give a shit about, bribery is an open secret and part of what the ruling classes expect, or at least condone.

Embezzlement- yeah that's hidden. Which is why congress pays whistleblowers. I mean the U.S. Is ridiculously out in front for these sort of things (well officially, I am sure bribery and corruption is still common)

I don't think that works because when you reveal you have a capability, your adversary works quickly to patch/block it, especially if you are quite vocal about it. International corruption wouldn't end by 2017, because the tapped phones would be secured long before then.

Looking at this[0] table of least corrupt countries by perception, Europe has 7 in the top 10. Least corrupt. Least.

Occam's razor: The person who worked in intelligence, and is/was a Washington lawyer lied. Even without data, that surely must have crossed people's minds, no?!

[0] https://www.transparency.org/cpi2014/results

> Looking at this[0] table of least corrupt countries by perception, Europe has 7 in the top 10. Least corrupt. Least.

> Occam's razor: The person who worked in intelligence, and is/was a Washington lawyer lied. Even without data, that surely must have crossed people's minds, no?! > [0] https://www.transparency.org/cpi2014/results

Perception != reality

He was referring to bribery of foreign countries (such as Brazil and Saudi Arabia in his examples) that U.S. and European countries compete to win contracts.

Even according to the PERCEPTION index, they're of tiny European countries not named France. Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Netherlands, and Luxembourg. A combined population that's about 9 million fewer than that of Italy.

The cryptome.org article refers to Europe.

> He was referring to bribery of foreign countries (such as Brazil and Saudi Arabia in his examples) that U.S. and European countries compete to win contracts.

From the first line of the cryptome.org article: 'What is the recent flap regarding Echelon and U.S. spying on European industries all about?'

> Perception != reality

Sorry, they don't have the actual corruption statistics available!


I've seen the site quoted in The Guardian (a newspaper of record).

Feel free to investigate their methods, and report back! I take them as being somewhat credible. As do you by your own admission.

Oh, such a "holier than thou" attitude in that article - US watching over the naughty naughty Europeans so we can all have a better and safer world. Maybe he should get off that really really high horse just a bit.

I love this! Of course, the US is too much of a saint to ever consider bribing. Instead, we rely on our guns to do the talking. This reminds me of the human right violations report that the American State Dept publishes, always pointing the finger at China while China publishes its own report pointing the finger at the U.S. using as evidence police brutality, Guantanamo Bay, etc.

I'm surprised he was so blunt, didn't expect there were any people like that in Washington. Or perhaps, since he had already retired.

I wish I could upvote this more, this is a fascinating read, and seems to at least give some more perspective to this conversation.

Perspective on how radically warped the mindset of these CIA types are? It was the most obnoxious thing I've read in a while.

scumbags like that with too much power and too little oversight, feeling righteous... if any of you are reading this, please do a properly good deed for this world, and either quit or shoot yourself (that's a honest request, unfortunately)

> shoot yourself

What a bizarrely horrid thing to say.

Does anyone else find it hilarious to see a bureaucrat heading up an enormous and bloated state intelligence apparatus trying to give a lecture about free markets?

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man is a book related to this topic, that I highly recommend reading: http://www.amazon.com/Confessions-Economic-Hit-John-Perkins-...

> So complicit are your governments that in several European countries bribes still are tax-deductible.

He must be confusing Europe with the US where bribing is called "lobbying" and is usually not tax deductible: http://www.irs.gov/publications/p535/ch11.html#en_US_2014_pu...

While we also have corruption at all levels of government in Europe, we still consider bribing illegal. Doing creative accounting to hide the bribes is also illegal.

I think this is referring to bribing foreign officials, not officials of the European country. See, e.g. the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

He was referring to bribery of other countries such as Brazil and Saudi Arabia in his examples.

I can't name a consumer technology category that the US was sitting at the top of in 2000.

So the reason that they spy on foreign companies is that they hope they can catch bribery going on (if they had credibly evidence without the espionage they wouldn't need the espionage in the first place, thus there must happen that they spy on innocents).

Once they find evidence of corruption they confront the government that is buying, not the one that could punish the company. Clearly the crime of corruption is not of importance to the CIA (why would it, they use it to recruit, and they aren't a police anyway).

Because it effects american business success. That bribed contract that went to an 'inferior' euro corp instead of the 'superior' american corp.

So by finding evidence of corruption, they can leverage that to potentially get the contract to the american corporation, increasing US wealth.

What makes you believe US companies don't use bribe either? Or that any US corp is 'superior'?..

Well, it's clearly superior to blackmail people rather than bribe them.

With bribing, the power balance is in favor of the person being bribed. With blackmail, the one in charge is the one doing the blackmail.

The vast majority of interventions by both the US miliary and the CIA since WWII have been economically motivated, that is, designed to protect US company interests abroad. Those that weren't were politically motivated, that is, designed to protect US political interests domestically.

I am not attempting to justify these actions, but politics and economics are one and the same. The job of the NSA is to keep the USA in a position of power economically and politically to help stabilize the world. Since WW2 we have had an unprecedented period where major world powers have not gone to war directly and this is a direct result of the American hegemony.

> Since WW2 we have had an unprecedented period where major world powers have not gone to war directly and this is a direct result of the American hegemony.

No. It's a result of nuclear deterrance (ie. doctrine of M.A.D.)

> The job of the NSA is to keep the USA in a position of power economically and politically to help stabilize the world.

I think you mean just to keep the US in power. The US destabilizes most countries in which it 'intervenes'. That's the point though, the more countries are broken up, the less likely anyone will challenge the US.

This is a suuuuuuuuuper complicated issue, keep in mind. There are a lot of things that go into the current geo-political situation and though nukes are one major card in the deck, there are many many others.

That we have not gone to war with other major powers is a debatable point as well. Though not as apparent as WW2, the proxy wars have been draining on our nations and peoples.

One thing to remember about nukes is not that they are so damaging, but that the damage is so fast and long lasting. The old maxim of 'war is good for business' is not true with a-bombs. Not due to the blast and damage, but due to the radiation. We still have no idea what it does and how to contain it and make a profit, it's just too toxic (like gasses)

I'd say we have a pretty good idea about what nukes do, since we already detonated more than 2.000 of them.

Nuclear deterrence is no doubt part of the reason why major wars have ended, but another reason is greatly expanded international trade. The cost of invading a nation you trade with is much higher than the cost of invading a nation you don't trade with.

Unfortunately, WW1 indicates that trade is at most secondary in importance in keeping the peace.

Had it not been for MAD, we'd be on about WWIV right now.

If all that you said was true I'd be totally OK with justifying NSA's actions, but a pretty huge chunk of your reasoning rests on this

to help stabilize the world

Unfortunately this part of your statement is the one that couldn't be more tragically and more demonstrably wrong.

I'm not sure that is objectively true. This is worth a watch to compare the first half of the 20th century with the time since: https://vimeo.com/128373915

I dont like reading into these kinds of analyses. What do you want to conclude? The battle against human suffering is done? We are certainly doing a good job when compared to WW2, but when we look at past 20 years -- we have been degrading. Vietnam, Iraq, Syria, ... millions were impacted by these conflicts. In Israel/Palestine an entire people are facing genocide by an illegal occupation. Look at South America -- what impact has the domestic and foreign policy of the US had on those countries? Yes, its great that millions aren't dying in world wars any more. But we still have a lot of work to do.

What happened in Vietnam over the past 20 years?

>facing genocide

Either Israel is attempting to annihilate the Palestinians, or they aren't. The Palestinians are still here. Israel has strong military means. They are capable, and they are competent. If they are trying, they are failing, and thus incompetent. I do not think they are incompetent. Many generals, commentators, and experts believe they are amongst the most capable nations and praise their abilities and precision. I think it's clear they aren't trying to annihilate any group of people other than people that launch rockets, attacks, or support those activities. It ain't genocide, so why call it that?

> In Israel/Palestine an entire people are facing genocide by an illegal occupation

Sorry, you can't get away with saying things like that. This is a blatant lie.

Today I am ashamed to be a member of HN. To see your comment downmodded this way is just very sad.

Of course we still have a lot to do. The point is we have been, for the last half century or so, moving in, generally, the right direction. We live in a time when every single skirmish around the world shows up immediately, 24 hours a day. That provides a skewed view of the world, making people feel like they are surrounded by major conflict all of the time.

This doesn't mean we stop trying; it just means that we don't have to lose hope because it feels like an impossible task. Conversely, it also means we need to really need to push to keep from losing ground. We can't go back to what the world was like in the time around WWI and WWII.

That's a really enlightening video but I don't think it really makes any relevant argument other than "thank god we haven't had another world war."

Maybe you feel that NSA and similar organizations are responsible for keeping another world war from errupting by making smaller conflicts happen, or by helping unexpected regime changes occur... That still doesn't explain all the mass surveillance of it's own people, or this economic espionage of supposed allies.

If you look at total human deaths due to war then the world has become exponentially safer. Looking at a war death/population ratio then this becomes even more evident.



> this is a direct result of the American hegemony.

No, it's a direct result of nuclear proliferation and Mutually Assured Destruction doctrine.

> The job of the NSA is to keep the USA in a position of power economically and politically TO HELP STABILIZE THE WORLD

(emphasis mine)

Why do you think so?

Well, imagine there is a country called Hegemonistan, and it has the most power economically and politically at the moment. A large plurality at least.

Now define the change in stability between t0 and t1 as something like inversely proportional to the weighted average of changes in relative power rankings among countries.

By definition, maintaining stability will tend to keep Hegemonistan in its power positions. And vice versa.

So, stabilization is roughly identical to helping Hegemonistan.

Stabilize the world? are you effin' joking? the world out there is burning, and things are getting worse every day, mostly as a direct result of US meddling and power plays in given region. Not for a single second I consider US politicians stupid or unexperienced. Unjustified wars are waged with just enough people to not lose completely, but not enough to decisively win. this situation is well planned, and although i have no clue what their plans for future are, clearly they don't give a fraction of fk about some world stability. More like command & conquer approach. You americans shouldn't be that surprised that you meet a lot of friction and resistance whenever you go to "stabilize" the world

>I am not attempting to justify these actions, but

Yes, you are.

One doesn't have to like your argument to agree. If you believe in the market you believe in self-interest, and a state has a lot of that. Over time entities that don't fight to survive die, and economics are just as capable as force of threatening our safety, or at least our hegemony.

I may not be a fan of what the NSA is doing, but at the end of the day, I'm happy to hold an American passport.

"since WWII"

And prior to WWII. And, to a great extent, during WWII.

All capable states spy on each other. Enemy states spy on govt secrets and friendly states focus on industrial espionage. France, Israel and China are some of the most vigorous at industrial espionage. Like it or not that's how the world operates and, unfortunately, we can't simply wish that away.

If only we had some government agency that helped large companies be less vulnerable to industrial espionage, making sure that secrets stayed secret. Encouraging strong encryption, discovering and preventing software bugs, generally promoting computer security. Hmmm... A nation-wide security-focused agency. Maybe we could call it the National Security Agency?

Sounds great but that isn't the NSA's mission, not even the defensive mission. Their defensive mission is limited to DoD networks and national security related systems, and producing various recommendations.

DHS and/or NIST cover commercial and non-DoD government. But even then it is a voluntary and/or advisory capacity too - there is no authority to make a company fix a software product (unlike say a car defect, which gets into liability issues nobody wants to open for software).

As for discovering and preventing bugs, I think that would be a waste of time/effort in the current towards NSA and software in general. Nobody is going to take a binary patch from them, nobody is going to submit their source code for review, any help given to a company would draw complaints from their competitors, and fundamentally as long as companies aren't actually liable for damages due to bugs or security issues, they aren't going to care much about spending money to improve the situation. A corporation would just rather add another clause to a EULA to disclaim more and more responsibility.

It's a free market failure since bottom line profits aren't affected so there is no incentive to improve. That leaves the question of whether the government should be subsidizing the business world's failure to meaningfully invest in bug fixes and security improvements.

My point isn't that the NSA should suddenly become that agency. My point is that it would be pretty handy to have an agency like that. And the joke is that the agency we have under that name is doing the opposite.

> That leaves the question of whether the government should be subsidizing the business world's failure to meaningfully invest in bug fixes and security improvements.

One good way to sum up what government is good for is "things the market can't or won't do on its own." So I'd say yes.

>"things the market can't or won't do on its own."

This is one of those situations - be careful what you ask for, you might get it.

Apple and Microsoft between them make $35 billion in profit a quarter (not picking on them, just examples) - corporations don't need government handouts for this, they need proper motivation which is absent because security issues don't cost them anything except PR.

Actual monetary damages would alter that however. Fines, penalties, liability assumption, etc. You really want to see that?

Otherwise, how would it work exactly?

Existing models of the FDA (and its drug approval process) or the DoT (and its ability to force auto recalls) would introduce monetary damages, legal liability, government authority to pull products, and regulatory approval as ways to the free market ignoring costs related to security/defects - you really want to see that for the software market?

How would you REQUIRE corporations to have their code vetted by the "future software security agency" (FSSA)? Or say FSSA provides reference implementations or reviews open-source code only? That's only part of the software universe, is it enough?

If participation is voluntary/optional, corporations still aren't going to care; they will need to be compelled to participate.

If you're looking for a model, consider the CDC. Or your local health department.

The world isn't neatly divided into things that people care about (and do) and don't care about and therefore will never do). It's a continuum.

For example, many people in companies care about security but never have time to do enough. If you make it so that they can do more per unit of time, they'll do more.

That's wrong. NSAs new IDS also protects enterprises that the state considers to be "critical infrastructure", such as banks.

I wonder if this even makes sense. Today multinational corporations are becoming sovereign trans-national governments. Why would the NSA want to help protect Corporation X or its US branch, if said corporation may be a potential threat to national security?

I have yet to see any single example of 'sovereign trans-national' corporations, AFAIK big companies are definitely from their mother-country, no matter how many subsidiaries or branches they have.

There've been cases of big companies suing whole countries (Philip Morris vs Australia comes to mind). While they may be not technically sovereign entities yet, it seems to me that some megacorps have enough power to successfully compete with governments.

Sure, but they still remain US companies, and it's basically the main fact that allow them to do so (the US government negotiated treaties with countries so that US companies can sue their government).

It should probably be renamed to National Spy Agency at this point, because it does that much more than "security".

To argue that something clearly wrong is ok because everyone else is doing it is just plain stupid.

In that fashion, ISIS could argue that their torture is ok and necessary because the USA is also doing it to obtain information.

They probably do make that argument.

I can't speak for ISIS, but al queda absolutely (and frequently) uses that argument when they blow up a mosque full of innocents.

wrong + wrong != right

Nobody is arguing that it's ok. Only that it is necessary.

Edit: I'm referring to spying, not torture.

It's not necessary, it's just an easy way to get a short-term advantage. It fundamentally degrades our ability to interact peacefully on an international scale, and it is one of the reasons our politicians form a privileged class.

The only justification for it is "they did it first," which is both childish and irresponsible. Just because everyone else does it, doesn't mean it is correct, necessary, or justified.

No. The second use is to "keep them honest". It's not to gain a one time advantage or short term advantage, but it serves as a way to ensure your competition isn't doing monkey business.

It's both an out of band communications channel but also provides a feedback loop. If your enemy or your competitor is engaging in something you all agreed to is out of bounds, you can respond to it with the information you have gained.

EDS and Boeing will know if the other is underselling, bribing, receiving subsidies, etc. and be able to respond accordingly, for example.

You can also find all that out by doing investigations.

Can you tell me what legal framework will allow you to undertake these investigations --to delve into and discover economic secrets? We have enough trouble extraditing criminals, nevermind politicians from sovereign nations. What court makes decisions and who in the court is making those decisions, to whom are they beholden?

See how so many countries are rushing to resolve territorial disputes at the International Court of justice? Only the plaintiffs.

For a start, encryption could be used more widely.

Which is the polar opposite of what some governments want[0].

It's almost as if governments are playing the terrorist card to push through laws which benefit them—the political class.

Oh, but that's OK: everyone does it!


[0] http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jan/13/cameron...

I don't think he wished anything away, I think his point is that it reduces the value for all of us.

Maybe take it as an appeal to logic: if nations are to grapple with the issues raised by the NSA and her sister orgs in the five eye countries, the best approach to raising the issue and proposing solutions (in my opinion) is to appeal to the logic of each individual and demonstrate how they are best served by dismantling these espionage operations.

I think it's wishful thinking. I knew of a guy who wanted to open a coffee shop. He got to know another existing coffee shop owner and picked his brain for the dos and don'ts. He said, I'll be opening a shop (in a diff city) and I see yours is doing well...

So what does he do? Opened a shop one block down and drove the fist guy out of business.

Business is ruthless.

> unfortunately, we can't simply wish that away.

I know. If we ever hoped to get to that point, I think we'd need some esoteric unicorn shit like "checks and balances" built into our government.

Slavery is just the way societies work today. We can't just wish it away.

- Most people a few hundred years ago, probably.

That's correct. It wasn't wished away. Slavery and other forms of cheap labor were part of the human condition for millennia.

It took revolts, revolutions and changes in mores for things to advance to where they are today. Yes, some day, we may all enter a new world order where everything is placid. We're not there yet and thinking we can wish ourselves there in the near future, let's say, extremely optimistic, to the point if being wishful thinking.

Perhaps most importantly is that servitude and slavery became economically untenable.

You get what you pay for.

Up to now we have paid tens of billions to get surveillance, and tens of millions to preserve confidentiality.

It could be the other way around.

This is one of the great dangers of state sponsored industrial espionage and why governments should not engage it in outside of extreme circumstances.

>A second economic espionage order called “France: Economic Developments” shows that information was then shared with other U.S. agencies and secretaries, including the Secretary of Energy, the Secretary of Commerce, the Federal Reserve and the Secretary of Treasury. Eventually, this data could have been used to help sign export deals.

Nothing in this report directly shows that the US did or did not share this intelligence with US companies. I have not read the French articles yet.

I wonder how the US handles sharing economic intelligence with allies that have a very public record of state sponsored industrial espionage.

> clearly undermines our entire financial system and the best features of capitalism: which is to reward those who innovate

Let's not pretend that US spying on foreign companies is something new at all. It's been widely spread by other means for decades if not more. I would even say it's an integral part of doing business for larger companies, and they call it "intelligence" and they get it by whatever means they can. The NSA is just one of their tools.

I remember someone making a big point yesterday about why it's actually really expensive to manufacture in china. His argument was that China's theft of copyright is the biggest cost when your idea's get stolen and reproduced up the road.

Not sure what his argument is going to be now....

Perhaps it will in fact be destroyed one day and maybe a better system will replace it.

How do they get this information to the US company though?

SAIC, Booz Allen Hamilton, Carlyle Group, Informal networks of personal contacts of retired/former employees, ie golf, is what I would guess.

Three fun truths:

* France is one of the most notoriously brazen state sponsors of industrial espionage, especially within the EU.

* This stuff is rampant between all the industrialized nations. You can find stories going back decades about Americans being evicted from embassies over industrial espionage. Somehow, we all seem to remain allies.

* Technically --- modulo the "getting caught" part --- this is what NSA is supposed to be doing. That's a positive assertion, not a normative one!

Curious how we never seem to see Russia as the focus of Wikileaks releases. They must just be really respectful of the civil liberties of citizens of the world.

> France is one of the most notoriously brazen state sponsors of industrial espionage, especially within the EU.

When France does it, it's bad. When the USA does it it is bad too.

If my country would do this - and it is very well possible they do - I'd be very much ashamed of this.

> This stuff is rampant between all the industrialized nations. You can find stories going back decades about Americans being evicted from embassies over industrial espionage.

Those stories are along the line of the article, not much of a counterargument there then.

> Technically --- modulo the "getting caught" part --- this is what NSA is supposed to be doing. That's a positive assertion, not a normative one!

This is true, but - and this will probably surprise you - the rest of the world (the people, not necessarily the governments / those in power) considers industrial spying to be a negative activity, and considers it a hostile act against those people.

The goodwill that a country builds up can easily be eradicated by activities such as these, especially when uncovered.

The only other countries that I'm aware of that use their intelligence services in such a blatantly offensive (both meanings of the word) manner are Israel and Russia.

And none of those - and definitely not France - have been caught spying on US politicians in their own offices.

'They do it too' is such a lame excuse anyway (especially when that is not objectively the case).

I think you can safely assume that the homeland of Royal Dutch Shell is a sponsor of some economic signals intelligence here and there.

"The rest of the world" is an interesting way to frame a response to my comment, which you appear to be stipulating is correct. I'm saying that on the matter of economic spying, there is no rest of the world.

Please stop using words like "excuse" to respond to me, by the way. You put words in my mouth when you do that; I didn't make an excuse. There's a world of difference between "is" and "ought".

Shell is not the Dutch government, and I'd be fairly surprised if the Dutch government would let its intelligence services be co-opted in this way. The 1950's have not been forgotten here and Ken Saro Wiwa has streets named after him here.


Nah, just a gigantic fraction of the economy, their largest company (the second largest company in the world), and an operator in the world's most cutthroat extractive industry.

Virtually every major city in the US has a street named after MLK, but there are still cops here that single black people out for beatings.

Even if true, there is a huge differential in capability and therefore power.

Right, from Shell's perspective Dutch intelligence services are probably expensive and ineffective. Manipulating Nigerian officials to incarcerate activists is much cheaper and achieves the same goals.

But let's not assume that the Dutch government is therefore off the hook. I would not be surprised if Dutch diplomats extract trade information (through pacts, treaties and simple espionage) that gets passed on to Shell.

We might be low on the James Bond style intelligence signals, but as a country that's an order of magnitude richer than we should be by any sane measure you can bet we've got our trademark smiling men in suits wherever the money flows.

I agree that that's true.

> When France does it, it's bad. When the USA does it it is bad too.

I think that this is a legitimate moral position to take, but I think you will find that it is less widely held than other legitimate moral positions you might take (for instance spy agencies spying on their own citizens is more broadly recognized as bad).

Further, it seems to be a moral position that doesn't have much basis in practice. Industrial activities are fundamentally linked with traditional espionage targets such as diplomacy, military technology and military operations. To deny an intelligence agency access to those things seems no different than to deny them the ability to operate at all. Which is another legitimate moral stand to take, but one that has even less broad acceptance.

> for instance spy agencies spying on their own citizens is more broadly recognized as bad)

An instance of the more general value of "personal privacy" which has nothing to do with such abstract constructions as "nations".

If we value personal privacy, then spying always involves intrinsic harm, and the question is whether we should tolerate that harm for some greater good.

... and whether we want to go down the path of seeing ourselves as the sort of people who will tolerate harm to innocents for the greater good.

When morals and gains are aligned being moral is easy.

That implies that the people arguing for effective intelligence agencies are doing so because of expedience. I for one believe that effective intelligence agencies are a net good for the world as they decrease the instance of and shorten the length of shooting wars.

> as they decrease the instance of and shorten the length of shooting wars.

That's definitely not a proven item, in fact you could easily argue the opposite. Faulty intelligence has led to quite a few wars, and is worse than no intelligence at all, also, what intelligence there is tends to be cherry picked to support foregone conclusions.

> And none of those - and definitely not France - have been caught spying on US politicians in their own offices.

They would if they could (and I'd bet that one has at one point).

And several of them have been caught spying on European politicians.

> If my country would do this - and it is very well possible they do

Probably any country that can devote resources to industrial espionage does it.

> I'd be very much ashamed of this

"Playing nice" puts you at an disadvantage against actors that are more uninhibited. There is a reasonable argument to be made about scale and proportion; eg, the use of overwhelming capabilities in extremely asymmetric situations. But that doesn't negate the utility of those capabilities.

The uncomfortable reality is that all things exist naturally in a state of conflict (or "competition", to put a nicer spin on it). Morality is perhaps the greatest of the human inventions, but being unnatural, it does not exist in a stable equilibrium, and is rather irrelevant (and sometimes damaging) from a survivalist game theoretic perspective. Like capitalism, the rise and fall of nations mirrors Darwinism on a macro scale, so with that in mind, what we're seeing here should not be surprising -- it is the struggle for survival playing out over decades and centuries. The morality of an action, on a national scale, is a secondary concern, although it is often invoked if the effect on the nation is at least neutral or positive.

So that's why the US won't launch an outright attack against French industrial interests -- the consequences would be too damaging, not to mention the moral aspects of War Is a Bad Thing -- but has no compunction about stealing industrial secrets or snooping on politicians, where the potential gains outweigh the risks. And vice versa, for every nation that does this.

The "rules of the game" are dictated only by self-interest. Is it fair? No. Probably the only way to solve that is to collectively attain (and sustain!) enlightenment.

> rest of the world (the people, not necessarily the governments / those in power) considers industrial spying to be a negative activity

That is only true when the people/government are not the beneficiaries of the information. In reality, states (and people) will (and arguably, should) take any advantage that's given to them. Again, the reasonable argument to be made here is one of scale and proportion, not an absolutist directive of This Should Never Be Done Because It's Bad.

> 'They do it too' is such a lame excuse anyway

Yes, "they do it too" is a poor justification for anything, but it's not really the argument here. The argument is that not doing it would be more damaging to national economic interests. (I hate having to say this, but I feel like it needs to be spelled out, especially on the Internet: this is not me agreeing with anything the US is doing here, only giving a rationale. Although I will admit I'm not quite as idealistic in my convictions as you are.)

> * France is one of the most notoriously brazen state sponsors of industrial espionage, especially within the EU.

I'm not saying this is wrong, but you should back up such a statement with some real sources.

> * This stuff is rampant between all the industrialized nations. You can find stories going back decades about Americans being evicted from embassies over industrial espionage. Somehow, we all seem to remain allies.

So what?

> * Technically --- modulo the "getting caught" part --- this is what NSA is supposed to be doing. That's a positive assertion, not a normative one!

How so? According to Bruce Schneier NSA's mission is twofold: protecting the security of U.S. communications and eavesdropping on the communications of our enemies, where the enemies pretty much means Soviet, not other NATO countries. Are you saying this is not the twofold mission of NSA?

(Note that this doesn't mean there aren't "legitimate" reasons to spy on allies - but that's not what you are saying).

> Curious how we never seem to see Russia as the focus of Wikileaks releases. They must just be really respectful of the civil liberties of citizens of the world.

1) So what?

2) Maybe they just didn't get any leaks from them?

3) For everyone in the western world, the Russia is so obviously anti "civil liberties" there's not much to uncover. For people in the east, there's Radio Free Europe. You not seeing this makes me question the intention of your so called "truth-stating".

The general consensus seems to be not that the NSA is wrong for merely doing these things, but that the NSA is wrong for doing these things against specific corporations for other specific corporations' benefit, seemingly at the behest of those that would stand to profit.

You can't justify it via patriotism or service for country if the explicit purpose is to enrich a controlled, hand picked minority.

>They must just be really respectful of the civil liberties of citizens of the world.

The contents of Wikileaks archive is not solely a function of civil liberties violations. Someone has to get the information and get it to Wikileaks. I don't know how much international news you follow, but many strange and curious deaths occur to Russians who seem to defy the state. Most probably don't want to risk it (if they even have any real information to begin with).

Besides that, Russian politics are fairly obviously self serving, it doesn't need much in terms of illustration beyond what you can simply see for yourself.

Just to be clear: we're talking about an organization that stands accused of relaying information obtained from Chelsea Manning to the government of Belarus, among the worst of the Russian client regimes.

What is your proof against France industrial espionage ? The US cable about Berry Smutny ? His company was way less technologically advanced than the 2 majors French companies running for the Galileo bid, Astrium from the giant EADS and Thalès. His company was selected thanks to the masochism of the Europeans commission for competition against big companies and we can see where the Galileo project is with that choice. Saying that France is the bigger state sponsor of industrial espionage is utterly ridiculous with countries such as China, Russia and the USA and is enormous budget for the NSA, as we can see with those cables. France is rarely involved in such cases. Europeans are too naive about economic espionage.


> Europeans are too naive about economic espionage.

I kind of agree. At the same time, France is one of the few countries that put satellites in space, sells fighter jets, have semiconductor factories, aircraft engine factories (Snecma)

I know, from the outside it looks like they only care about Wine and stinky cheese.

> Curious how we never seem to see Russia as the focus of Wikileaks releases.

I can't even comprehend what you're trying to imply here. Do you genuinely think that Wikileaks is friendly to Russia for some reason? If so, say it. Because that would be really bizarre and inexplicable.

Yes, I do genuinely think that. Didn't Assange have a show on Russian state-sponsored TV? Did I miss the part where Wikileaks refuted the allegation, which ran in several mainstream media outlets, that representatives of Wikileaks funneled unpublished leaked information from the Manning dump to the dictator of Belarus?

I don't like the NSA, but, impolitic as it may be to admit it here: I like Belarus a lot less.

> Did I miss the part where Wikileaks refuted the allegation

Yes, you did. You can find it with a simple web search. The accusation is pretty tenuous when you look at the facts.

I looked. I searched for the name of the reporter who broke the story and any variation of "discredited", along with "Lukashenko" "Assange" "Wikileaks" "Belarus". Can you point me at a reported link?

Would you agree that funneling intelligence to the government of Belarus is a grave accusation?

The only sources you have refuting reports that ran in the mainstream media about Wikileaks funneling information to Belarus is Wikileaks itself? Those allegations ran in The Guardian, in Al Jazeera, in The Daily Beast (that time, from a source within Wikileaks), and several others.

I don't like the NSA. Am I required to like Wikileaks? I don't.

You wrote,

> Did I miss the part where Wikileaks refuted the allegation

that is, you asked specifically for Wikileaks response, which is contained in one of the links I posted.

I don't believe that wlcentral is Wikileaks itself, and in any case the evidence and arguments they present should stand on their own, regardless of whether one likes Wikileaks or not.

Did you read these two blog posts carefully? They don't even refute the claims. In fact, the second one appears to stipulate that Shamir got access to cables relevant to Belarus from Wikileaks, subject to an "NDA" with WL (rebutting that site's earlier suggestion that Shamir got the cables through a third-party that WL had provided them to); it then proceeds for pages and pages to discuss the question of how close Shamir was to Wikileaks and Assange in particular.

It doesn't bother you that cables that we probably haven't even seen were relayed from Chelsea Manning, through Assange and Wikileaks, through a noted holocaust denier, to the government of Belarus? Again: we don't get to see them. But the functionaries of one of the world's worst dictatorships, and one of Russia's closest satellite states, do get them. In fact: all the sources I've seen appear to stipulate that's true, disagreeing only on why that happened.

I don't like the NSA and have plenty of reasons to be skeptical about the official USG narratives on virtually any subject. But I find Wikileaks to be an incredibly sketchy organization.

Here's former WL staffer James Ball, writing for The Guardian:


So far as I can tell, the most powerful rebuttal WL has to Ball is to suggest that Ball is disgruntled and has an axe to grind. But Ball's allegations are specific, and in some cases corroborated!

There was a falling out between the Guardian and Wikileaks. Ball, who did not have any reasonable career prospects, would have had incentive to side with the Guardian and pursue a job there, by offering inside access to Wikileaks and the Wikileaks story, a job which he ultimately obtained. I don't know of any meaningful, specific and credible allegation that Ball has made.

As for Shamir, it seems pretty obvious that Wikileaks did not do a whole lot of background checking on the volunteers that they used to go through the source material. That's all. There isn't any evidence to suggest that Wikileaks partnered with Shamir in order to convey cables to Belarus, a feat which could have been done far more easily in other ways.

Not central to the point but I think it's only speculation that Shamir gave any cables to Belarus.

Ball's allegations are more specific. He claims that Shamir was introduced to the group by Assange, and that he was introduced under a fake name, because a cursory check on who the guy was would reveal he was a holocaust denier. He also claims Shamir asked for documents about "the jews".

At some point, this "Ball had reason to make things up" stuff has to amount to us taking Assange's word for it. Ball signed his name to the allegations, and the Guardian found them credible enough to run. I don't love the Guardian (they are to the left what Murdoch is to the right) but it's not credible to say that the Guardian would simply make things up because they had a falling-out with Wikileaks.

Would your opinion of Wikileaks be impacted if more evidence was presented corroborating Ball's story? If Assange really did knowingly introduce a holocaust-denying agent of Belarus to Wikileaks? How much would that matter to you?

I think that's what happened. I think it's very relevant.

If you think it doesn't matter even if we stipulate that it happened, that's fine, and we can be done discussing that part of the story.

Does it bother you that whenever something comes up about Assange or Wikileaks --- the refusal to present himself to prosecutors in Sweden, the ties to allies of Lukashenko, the Russia Today show and the refusal to publish documents about Russians that he said he'd publish, the accidental doxxing of Afghani Taliban resistors --- there's always some elaborate story that exonerates Wikileaks?

The rationales aren't elaborate, they are straightforward.

Shamir: The most damning evidence is that he allegedly used a pseudonym. There isn't any reasonable evidence to suggest that Assange knew about his background, or had any reason to believe he would give documents to Belarus, if that did indeed happen.

Why doesn't he go to Sweden? Because he will certainly be extradited to the US (we know that the US wants him, we can debate how practical it would be to get him from Sweden for the umpteenth time).

Why does he have a show on RT? Because RT airs voices critical of the US, there is nothing special about Assange.

Accidental doxxing: I assume that was the result of the Guardian's publishing of the encryption keys. But in any case the standard of journalism isn't to guarantee that no one will ever get hurt, it's if the benefits outweigh the costs.

I'm not familiar with the Lukashenko and Russian documents issues but the rest of this supposedly damning evidence is pretty weak.

I'm suspicious of wikileaks too, but they do have a whole section of Russian documents.


After surfing around https://wikileaks.org/wiki/Category:Countries for a minute or two:

  - Category:Russia - 57 pages total
  - Cyprus - 54 pages
  - Latvia - 50 pages
  - Lithuania - 47 pages
  - Estonia - 46 pages
  - Japan: 90 pages
  - Italy: 99 pages
  - France: 128 pages
  - Canada: 153 pages
  - Germany: 278 pages
  - United Kingdom: 384 pages
  - United States: 9729 pages
Interesting set of priorities they have there... I'm curious as to why a G8 country has as much information posted as a country with 1/140 its population.

Whistleblowing is a process that relies on people. The Russians are probably a lot more effective at ensuring that (1) (potential) whistleblowers do not gain access to sensitive information in quantities that move the needle, (2) are much less likely to 'outsource' their intelligence affairs to contractors and (3) have a history of killing people that are not friendly to the local government even when they were living abroad.

All of these are very effective deterrents against whistleblowers stepping forward.

That we don't have much information on Russia however should definitely not be read as 'wikileaks is slacking in Russia' or 'the Russian government is not doing much that can't stand the light of day', rather the opposite.

I'm not worried about WL slacking off on Russia, or about corruption in Russia (I'm also not worried about whether water is wet). I am a little concerned about whether the narrative I'm being fed by Wikileaks is being manipulated.

That's not a baseless concern. Wikileaks has an agenda, and it is not simply "transparency".

They either release verifiable true information or they don't.

Their agenda is irrelevant, as is the personality of the people involved, their political affiliations, their haircolour and their dietary and or sexual habits.

And let's hope that others with other agendas and goals will do their bit and release as much or more information as well.

If you only accept facts from sources that are 100% neutral then you end up having to make up your mind without any facts at all, no news outlet, no journalist, no TV station and no editor is able to say that they have 'no agenda', in fact it is entirely safe to assume that anybody that sends facts out into the world has an agenda and wishes to further that agenda by the selective release of the facts that support their cause best.

Wikileaks has been slammed in the past for 'uncontrolled releases', which I thought were actually far more balanced than any kind of editorial control and or selective release.

In that sense they are damned if they do and damned if they don't.

I agree that the only issue is what they release, not why they release it. My concern is about the whats, not the whys.

I would also imagine that it's very much a cultural issue as well. You can't get these documents without people who believe strongly that they are making the world a better place by collecting them and releasing them.

Now the US has a lot of idealism going on, so much so that many people grow up idolizing institutions like the CIA and the NSA. They join these institutions as believers, but day after day they are exposed to more details on the inside that bursts that idealism and one day cognitive dissonance gets the better of them and they choose to collect information to become a whistleblower.

Compare this with other countries where there isn't as much blind reverence cultivated for such institutions. The same talented kids that would grow up under circumstances where they would have a much more realistic view of the good and bad these institutions are capable of. This in and of itself is a major limiting factor in how high you would rise in such an institution, assuming you chose to join in the first place. You can't be a whistleblower if you don't have access to anything to whistleblow about.

Whistleblowing happens when values clash with reality. If values are never really part of the equation, and you have organizations where "the ends justify the means" is not only accepted, but rewarded, then you don't get whistleblowers.

With things like Guantanamo, extraordinary rendition, drone assassinations, and all these realizations from the Snowden docs, I fully expect that idolization bubble to be pretty much popped by now insofar as institutions like the NSA and CIA are concerned. For that reason more than any other I expect whistleblowing to become less frequent for these institutions. If and when whistleblowing drops for these institutions drops, it's will be explained by better security measures, but I would expect it having more to do with those who have the personality to be whistleblowers never joining or rising high enough to have that opportunity.

Could you provide a similar list of news article from the bigs news papers (BBC, NY Times, ectra), and list the number of articles and associated page views regarding corrupt Russia officials and the Russian Mafia?

Movies and TV shows like to use corruption in Russia as a stereotypical movie plot, but that makes it less news worthy for news papers. If there isn't a large interest from readers then there is no ad revenues to be gained, and no interest for journalist to write about it.

Of course one could be conspiratorial and accuse all the large media companies to be pro-Russia or having a curios set of priorities, but I find the simple answer to be more likely. tptacek conspiracy theory need to eliminate those simple answers before I will consider it anything more than a political view.

Corruption in Russia is not a myth. In fact, it's so widespread and open it would make more sense to signal the absence of corruption rather than its presence.

I guess India is somewhat worse, but you get the idea.

I would assume so too, and thus the lack of articles regarding corruption in Russia. Publishing that there is corruption in Russia or that water is wet will not gain any readers.

If someone leaked that there is an absence of corruption then that would news worthy, but such false information doesn't seem to be the kind of articles Wikileaks would publish. Logically, if you can't publish about the existence of corruption because everyone knows about it and you can't publish about the absence of corruption because it would be false, then Russian coverage regarding corruption will be lackluster. Maybe they should just post a bunch of empty pages with the title "Russia corruption" to make statistics like the parent posted look better.

> Could you provide a similar list ...

I may very well be able to do that, but it wouldn't do anything to disprove the notion that Wikileaks has a pro- Russian, anti-US bias.

I see two simple reasons for the lack of Russian coverage at Wikileaks: either Russians aren't providing material, or Assange isn't publishing it.

Probably because Russia has a very different approach to whistleblowers compared to most other countries on their list.

Didn't Assange have a show on Russian state-sponsored TV?

More baseless allegations. Isn't that one of the tactics the NSA uses? To attempt to destroy reputations of selected targets?


How is it a baseless allegation? Assange did in fact have a show on Russian state-sponsored TV [1].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Tomorrow

I'm pretty sure Assange's presence on Russian state-sponsored TV is not in fact a baseless allegation.

FWIW, "state-sponsored" TV doesn't necessarily imply what you're suggesting. If Assange appeared on the BBC or the CBC, you would not accuse him of being a shill for the British or Canadian governments.

EDIT: Of course I'm aware that Russia has a different relationship with its media than the UK, Canada, etc. Just pointing out a thing.

You could accuse him of being a shill if he repeatedly appeared on the BBC solely to advance the policies of the British government. Assange didn't merely appear on RT, he hosted a weekly show on RT entitled "The World Tomorrow with Julian Assange" which featured a who's-who of US critics. That's a bit more than an occasional appearance on BBC.

I don't know enough about the BBC to comment on its independence from the UK government. On national security and signals intelligence matters, I do not have a lot of faith in the UK government.

Right, me neither, and yet no one would ever use one of Assange's multiple appearances on the BBC as evidence that he's a shill for the British government. (I do concede that giving interviews is different from having his own show, but can't really think of a way that it matters in this context.)

It does certainly seem like Wikileaks is mainly focused on publishing anti-US material, but I can think of a million reasons for that which are more plausible than them being in Putin's pocket (which, in fairness, you've merely implied).

EDIT: No idea why you're being down-voted. I've up-voted in case it helps. To everyone else: I know it's become customary to down-vote for disagreement, but in situations like this it discourages dialogue.

I didn't notice the downvotes, but thanks anyways.

RT is an organ of Russian government propaganda.

If the US had a meaningful state sponsored media presence, I'm sure it would be bad too. But nobody should kid themselves about what RT is.

There's a decent amount of documentation as to the role of the Kremlin in RT's editorial process.

I don't have any examples in mind but I feel like the BBC has never held back on criticizing the government/people in power, and doing reports on gov't scandals and the like.

In the run-up to the Iraq war the BBC was very much a mouthpiece for the UK government.

As a rule of thumb you can use any news service as a source of information as long as you don't use it for information about the government of the country where it originates from and the major adversaries of that government or country.

That makes reading the news and staying current a lot harder and probably will require you to gain language proficiency beyond what you can get at through the English language press.

So what? How is this relevant to the discussion? We're not talking about whether state-sponsored media is a bad idea (I think it is, too!) We're discussing the question of whether Wikileaks has weird ties to Russia. Its founder and leader has a show on Russia's state-sponsored propaganda network. That is, in fact, a tie to Russia.

We can debate whether it's a meaningful or indicative tie. That seems like a live debate. But "the BBC was a mouthpiece for the Iraq War effort" isn't germane to this discussion. I agree that it was too. Believe it or not: it is possible to (a) oppose the Iraq War, (b) believe that it was disingenuously sold to the American and British people through media manipulation, (c) oppose the NSA, and (d) still think Wikileaks is suspicious and untrustworthy. I fall into that a-b-c-d bucket.

You're focussing too much on the messenger, focus on the message.

> EDIT: No idea why you're being down-voted.

Making wild accusations with absolutely no proof would be my guess. Also the bogus moral equivalence he used to kick this thread off.

For whatever it's worth to you: I think it's telling that you thing the allegations I'm bringing up are "wild". They obviously aren't that: they're first-Google-SERP, running- under- the- Guardian- masthead allegations. I didn't make any of them up. I didn't get them from WorldNetDaily. What your wording suggests is that you'd find any allegation that challenged your perception of Wikileaks to be wild and unfounded.

Note that JTRIG is a GCHQ activity, not an NSA activity.

No one seems to tout the "everyone's doing it" mantra when China does it.

It's hard to coherently sum up the response to Chinese hacking, because it's as big a component of the public dialog as NSA spying is.

However, I do think there's a difference between remarks about Chinese hacking and NSA spying. Outrage about NSA spying seems always to be moral. Outrage over Chinese hacking seems more practical: it's taken as given that China is going to sponsor hackers and that they're really good at it.

Look at the recent OPM debacle. Virtually all the coverage I see about it is about how OPM (and the USG more broadly) fell down on the job, not about we should retaliate against the people who broke in.

I'm pretty confident that if you were to do a study of American media coverage of the events, or a survey of American public sentiment regarding Chinese hacking, they would both overwhelmingly indicate a perception of immorality.

Ditto outside of the USA.

I think U.S. government rhetoric about this has changed sharply and used to morally condemn the PRC, but has now virtually stopped doing so.

But that's just my intuition; I'd love to see it more properly and systematically studied.

I think assange admitted as much along the lines they have a target for the largest agent of badness, as they saw it. So, given they interpret the US to be the greater agent of spying/espionage and implied they'd like to level the playing field, it's little surprise we don't see much in regards to Russia and China, along with Iran or Sudan.

Personally I don't agree with their tack, but that is what I gather is their tack from their, assange's, statements.

French sources (former head of the French DGSE, of course you may question him) tell however that "we (in France) are light years behind the US in terms of offensive espionage, although we are pretty good at counterintelligence".

And I might be naïve but think that Russia had, and lost after 1991, its networks and spying capabilities. It probably takes some time to rebuild them.

Major news sources are acquired and politicked. Who is the good guy depends on what news your reading.

Say tomorrow the US intelligence agencies shut down any cyber capabilities would then China and Russia stop their hacking groups or increase their activities?

Interactions between states are struggles for power and the concept of fairness does not apply.

"There are no good guys. There are no bad guys. It's just... a bunch of guys."

There are good occurrences and bad occurrences.

Based on perspective.

There were/are people that think the 9/11 attack was a good occurrence. There are people who think it was a bad occurrence. Same action, different perspectives.

> this is what NSA is supposed to be doing

I don't think anyone knows what the purpose of the NSA is. To have more secrets than everyone else?

I think a reasonable mission statement would be "To exploit foreign signals intelligence for the benefit of the USA".

(Push to shove on my opinion about NSA, which is pretty fuzzy: I think the NSA does important work, but that the organization is probably corrupt, and that it should be reorganized and much of its career leadership removed).

> "To exploit foreign signals intelligence for the benefit of the USA"

Does it benefit the average U.S. citizen? If not, then how can you say NSA does this for the benefit of the USA. And if it does, then how exactly does a U.S. citizen benefit from this? Making a bunch of rich people even richer doesn't seem all that beneficial to me.

Long term? No. Long term we're better off if NSA spends all it's money hardening US tech infrastructure.

There are a lot of benefits, both direct and indirect, to your country when in your populace you contain a large concentration of rich people. Why does every government agency need to benefit the average US citizen directly?

Yet their stated mission, and the justification (at least to the public) of their funding, is:

>>> We will protect national security interests by adhering to the highest standards of behavior.

So by your own argument they're going beyond their own mission statement to fulfill a secret one in direct contradiction to the American public's wishes. i.e. Not doing what they are supposed to do

I don't think the NSA has any business using the words "highest standards of behavior" in any communications, ever.

>I think a reasonable mission statement would be "To exploit foreign signals intelligence for the benefit of the USA".

So we can all stop whining about Russia asserting influence over Ukraine and China hacking US government right?

I don't follow, but I can tell you've mistaken what I just said.

The commenter upthread asked what NSA's goals were. When I offered up a mission statement for them, it wasn't what I want their mission to be. It's what I think it actually is.

"They do it (trust me!) so it's okay that we do it."

It's really difficult to see any logic in your recent comment history, frankly.

It's really difficult to see any of my comments in your fictitious quote.


> Your allegations and innuendo add nothing to the conversion.

Ditto for your comment. Flagged.

Not sure why you've been downvoted - it's pretty much the truth.

Maybe for the last snarky remark on russia ;)

> Curious how we never seem to see Russia as the focus of Wikileaks releases. They must just be really respectful of the civil liberties of citizens of the world.

I agree. I've also actually found Russian statesmen and politics to be incredibly transparent. Far beyond anything the US has. So it's totally logical that Wikileaks doesn't focus on them.

I am a German SaaS developer. More and more customers are asking me for not using infrastracture services from US companies.

On the one hand this is bad for me because google and microsoft have top products for my needs. On the other hand this means big opportunities because my customers are heavily searching for alternatives.

The trust in US IT companies was never so bad here. It can become a desaster for their european sales.

If only that led to a surge in usage of open source software in Europe, especially in government institutions, as well as for EU services and products that would need to fill the void.

I've already noticed a small increase in interest for using open source in EU governments, but it's still far too small and far less aggressive than I would like it to be. The adoption should be 10x faster than it is now, post-Snowden.

I'm all for open source, but I don't really understand what its relevance is here. I'm pretty sure OP was talking about infrastructure services. I'm guessing (s)he develops all of his software with OSS backend and frontend frameworks, and open source is completely orthogonal to his client's concerns.

You can't trust what you cannot audit. Open Source is auditable software. You can hire non-vested 3rd parties to validate it.

I wonder how much that has to do with CCC and general German culture. The only stories about European customers refusing to use US web infrastructure I hear come from Germany. I live next doors, in Poland, and here it seems like nobody cares.

I'm seeing some of this in NL as well, especially companies that deal with sensitive data.

It's happening quite a bit in the UK as well.

Yes this has also to do with german culture (german angst).

Non-US IT infrastructure companies are guaranteed to have been pwned by US intelligence. That is explicitly what we pay it to do.

It might help "send a message," but it certainly won't make you safer.

It would be very interesting to know, technically, what are the interception means. Does it target phone calls, emails, internal spys, other things?

From other documents, it appears that the NSA has the ability to listen to phone calls on French networks. As most of the "targets" use Orange, the historical telecom operator, and that collaboration from Orange with the NSA is unlikely, it would mean that their IT systems are owned.

Regarding email, most French companies use Microsoft products both as servers (Exchange) and client (Outlook). Are there exploitable vulnerabilities in these products? As we are in that space, we have to push hard, for people even to consider French-written, open source communication software such as ours (https://github.com/MLstate/PEPS).


"Although the feds denied it, Peter Biddle, the head of the engineering team working on BitLocker in 2005, claimed that the government makes 'informal requests' for backdoors. Allegedly after making claims about 'going dark,' the FBI 'informally' asked Microsoft for a backdoor in BitLocker."

> From other documents, it appears that the NSA has the ability to listen to phone calls on French networks. As most of the "targets" use Orange, the historical telecom operator, and that collaboration from Orange with the NSA is unlikely, it would mean that their IT systems are owned.

It's probably much worse than that. France, Germany, and most of the rest of Europe are vassal states of the US through cooperation among intelligence agencies. In other words, France is being sold out not only by Orange and/or employees of Orange, but by their own intelligence services who have a stronger allegiance to their links with Five Eyes intelligence services than to French interests.

This is another reason "everyone does it" doesn't hold water as a justification. The situation is massively asymmetrical.

by their own intelligence services who have a stronger allegiance to their links with Five Eyes intelligence services than to French interests.

This is probably pushing it a little too far.

Meh. Do you think the French are governed by a government with actual autonomy to go wherever the people wish to be led, or just pretend autonomy within a narrow range of bouncing a little to the left or right within the neoliberal framework?

If the NSA commits an act of industrial espionage, who gets access to that information?

Ostenscibly, this information would be valuable to American companies, but I don't recall there being any federal registration where I can sign up to receive such information. Certainly, some company is getting access to this information, but because this process isn't transparent, the other problem with such espionage is that it leads to greater corruption. Basically, someone gets to pick and choose who receives this extremely valuable information in private industry with no external oversight.

When Bush Sr. was head of the CIA, agents would routinely meet with American businessmen after overseas trips for off-the-record conversations. Both sides learned from the other.

My father once cryptically told me "every American businessman overseas is a spy." At first I didn't know what he was talking about—now I get it.

Does anyone know of a modern, comprehensive list of such industrial espionage events from a trustworthy source?

One of my go-tos was the European Parliament's report on the ECHELON interception system[1] as it gives an idea of how long this has been happening (the report was published 2001), but it's so very old now.

Under "Published Cases", the European Parliament list industrial espionage attacks on a variety of companies and government agencies. Some you might consider reasonable (exposing bribery in the bidding process then nudging the contract to a US firm) but others are incredibly dodgy (forwarding technical details about a wind generator to a US firm so they could patent it first).

[1]: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//...

One of the things that annoys me about these revelations is that, particularly in regards to the espionage aspect of things, essentially private businesses are de facto in some way gaining from either increased inside knowledge or increased protection from the likes of the NSA or French equivalents etc...

However, if private people, journalists or NGOs are targeted by foreign governments (or corporate intelligence) they are never told about it (probably leading to the death of sources etc) - and if they conducted hacking/espionage activities for the greater public good (for example to expose information about people wanted for genocide in Darfur, those who murder journalists in Russia, diamond corruption in the DRC) they would go to jail...What a sad world we live in that we would rather prioritise protecting clean engine patents and airplane deals instead of human life :(

Isn't the real problem with "economic espionage" who the NSA gives the info to? By picking and choosing who gets the info, the NSA/executive branch isn't really letting the free market make the choices any longer. There could be political implications, giving info to companies that do campaign contributions, or lobby more expensively.

It seems like a reasonable assumption that the information in question has monetary value. So the NSA is essentially stealing from the companies in question. Usually stealing things has a distorting effect on markets but it usually taken as something of a "wrong in itself".

I find it remarkable the number of commentators who put things as "it's OK if it's being done to non-Americans".

So it's piracy with government approval, i.e. privateering?

Geez. At first glance you're just playing word games, but that really made me stop and think. It IS just like privateering.

To some degree, yes.



US/French economic espionage has been an ongoing problem since before the Cold War ended.

Its the "normal" state of affairs, similar to US v. China. Its simply a question of how "gentlemanly" the matter is handled. France/US tends to be rather "gentlemanly" as they tend to target the negotiations/technology/contracts specifically.

> According to an economic espionage order, the NSA intercepted all French corporate contracts and negotiations valued at more than $200 million in many different industries, such as telecommunications, electrical generation, gas, oil, nuclear and renewable energy, and environmental and healthcare technologies.

I think I might have been unclear.

I often read that "this is the sort of thing we expect spy agencies to do". I stipulate that economic espionage is part of what spy agencies do, and should do. So, "normal" it is.

I'm interested in what information gets distributed to which US corporations, and maybe why. That is, should the NSA give Boeing info it's filched from Airbus, or should Lockheed-Martin get it, too? Why exclude Grumman-Northup? Did LockMart give more in campaign contributions? Is that why they got the insider info?

I want to use real US companies, I'm pretty certain that defense contractors aren't multi-nationals. Certainly you could erase specific corporate names and re-fill the blanks with corporations from another, arbitrary, market.

The problem is that the NSA (or whoever, the President maybe) becomes the arbiter of which corporation succeeds and which doesn't, regardless of what the rest of the market perceives, and how the rest of the market acts. This seems like a bad idea.

Fair enough :)

French and US relations have been "odd" ever since WW2, if not before.

The Euro was in part seeded by De Gaulle in an attempt to restrict US economic involvement in western Europe.

There's no evidence whatsoever that the NSA has given any industrial intelligence to private US companies.

According to this brief article (why we link to TechCrunch instead of WikiLeaks on HN is not clear to me), the leaked documents do not bridge the gap between the NSA spying and the NSA delivering industry secrets to private US companies, which we know China to actually do.

There's no evidence whatsoever that the NSA has given any industrial intelligence to private US companies.

Thank you, yes, I believe that's true: there's no direct evidence, or direct admission, that intellectual property gets given to US corporations. But it's only a small step from pirating that intellectual property to giving it away to a great US company, a company that has had no problem in the past with "acquiring" documentation: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-weissman/the-boeing-sca...

It also appears the in the 1950s, a time when honesty was prized, someone made money in the stock market based on advance knowledge of a CIA coup: http://www.slate.com/articles/business/the_dismal_science/20...

I'm just saying that it appears that industrial intelligence does make its way to various corporations. Given the mendacity of the Intelligence Community with Congress lately, one has to wonder about the fierce denials of giving industrial intelligence to private companies.

I suspect that most of the time the information isn't given directly, but merely assumes the form of advice or innuendo. Think of the classic line from the British House of Cards, "You might think that, I couldn't possibly comment."

It's pretty trivial to engage in the relaying of highly valuable information via indirect means. The only requirement is that the person with access to information establish a reputation as someone worth listening to without having to truly explain yourself.

>free market

Why can't competitors obtain and release the info to those they consider more deserving?

Espionage is standard practice in the world today. So are isolated assassinations, torture, coups, and state sponsorship of terrorism. The United States participated in all of the above.

Domestic citizens in America feel as though their government is 'clean' or 'noble'. This is a myth propelled by Public Affairs, PR and supported by the media (at worst, the media will say, the US made blunders and mistakes).

The United States is in the boxing ring with every other nation. It's a heavyweight.

What's happening right now is that the United States is 'short of breath'. It's overextended. Long term plans haven't worked out. The US is finding itself reacting to other nations rather than keeping them on their toes. It's dropped in its financial, economic, and technological development capabilities. It is having trouble facing challenges brought by new technology. It is losing the support of its closest allies.

It's a difficult time for America. Not everything is decided. It may yet remain a unipolar power.

But to do so it will need to get in and scrap.

The hawks want to scrap. They want to fight for continued supremacy. There are no doves that are serious contenders for president and I don't know if the system would allow a dove to be elected, even if the candidate had majority support from citizens.

In this turbulence, we have to think about what we can do as citizens. The clearest answer is to get quality information and to be informed. Taking the Snowden and Wikileaks documents as a list of things that the US does that are bad is not the best way to read them.

The best way to read these and other documents is to better understand dog-eat-dog realpolitiks of global power games.

No matter whether you want to support the United States in this moment or demand it change course one thing is certain: you must be as educated as possible about the tradeoffs, the current investments, the challenges and the nature of the Great Game. Read across different sources of information and focus not only on domestic news but good foreign policy sources. Talk with neighbors and friends about your and American ideals and how and whether to negotiate and achieve those goals in a world that is 96% non-American.

Wikileaks is a great place to start. The reason for this is not that they have 'the dirt'. It's because they have primary documents. When you read, prioritize information that isn't summarized or filtered.

Muckrack is another great source. Washington Thinktanks another.

A state intelligence agency found spying on foreign private cos. in critical sectors like nuclear power plants, planes, high speed trains, telecommunications and energy, in order to pass on the intelligence and aid its own domestic firms.

For a minute I almost thought we were talking about China.

The news usually shows China as the bad-bad hacker-land, which is evil because of their IT-espionage. So what is the US now?

the US is the exceptional country. Some polishing using double-standards, and it will shine like a brightest star again.

I've thought for a long time that the most likely corruption we'd see around the surveillance issue is industrial espionage. It'd be a great way for the NSA to give an unfair advantage to state-linked American corporations, or for independent actors within NSA to line their pockets.

A related issue would be insider trading. I mean, with a source of data like that you could basically 'jackpot' stock markets and extract arbitrary amounts of money from the global economy. Members of Congress are immune from prosecution for insider trading.

There is probably no spy agency in any developed country that can rival the reach, effectiveness and immediacy of the NSA.

So this kind of industrial espionage is a huge unfair trade advantage, at least from the victim's point of view.

I wonder how long it's going to be until Europe levies an NSA trade tax against US goods and services.

What really has not been highlighted to even remotely an adequate level is the huge damage to the trust and confidence in the USA as the stalwart and upstanding sentinel image that we have cultivated to exquisitely over decades now.

If there had only been some really good alternatives for the global focus to orient itself by, the USA would have been side-lined and crushed economically by now due to the direct and deliberate self-sabotage by our intelligence community.

Will we see the USA recover from all the damage, abuse, and devastation it has caused to its relationships and self-destruction it has wrecked upon itself? I don't know, but I can tell you that if the European Union rightfully moves against American companies as a justified threat to their national security, it will cost our economy billions. Facebook's market cap is currently $245 billion, how many billions do you think would be shaved off if the EU and / or other countries acted against that facade of USA global surveillance domination? How about Google? How about Cisco? Apple ... even though at least in terms of impression, I think Apple is playing a smart card by siding with encryption of their devices. Personally, though, I think the lies by the NSA to our own government and the revealed actions prove one thing, that you can't trust anything that comes from our government and you really can't trust anyone that is affiliated, either voluntarily or compulsory, and Apple has been working with the government and intel agencies. Can they be trusted? Are their efforts to secure and encrypt their devices really genuine or just lip service and smoke and mirrors? Who knows. The trust is permanently destroyed, really!

We have been hearing this trope for years and Europe is more dependent upon the US than ever.

Yes, but it takes time to make the switch. It isn't like one build AWS over night.

Network effects are intensely powerful. People use the big SV data silos because people use them.

Actually this has been SOP for US corps and the US gov since the days of the telegraph - literally.


Source of Pride

In this case, I read that as "Standard Operating Procedure".

And I read it as "Source Of Profit", let's wait and see who's right :)

> A related issue would be insider trading.

To be honest, all of the data hoovers such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Co. have a pretty obvious insider knowledge-like cash machine: simply look into a few correlations between what data their users (as signed in users or as involuntary shadow profiles) put into these companies' databases and the movements of the stock market. Then predict and cash out.

This is actually the case in at least one public example[1].

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday filed a lawsuit in federal court in Philadelphia against Bonan Huang and Nan Huang, saying the analysts used the nonpublic data to trade in the shares of consumer retail companies ahead of sales and earnings reports. The lawsuit said from November 2013 to January 2015, the two analysts, who had access to the data as fraud investigators, made hundreds, if not thousands, of keyword searches for sales data on at least 170 publicly traded companies. The SEC said the two employees were able to analyze the data to determine if a company's sales were increasing or decreasing on a periodic basis.


> Members of Congress are immune from prosecution for insider trading.

This is a strong claim. Are you referring to trading in global equity markets?

There has been some controversy over the years regarding Congress and insider trading:



> It'd be a great way for the NSA to give an unfair advantage to state-linked American corporations, or for independent actors within NSA to line their pockets.

Funny, because this is exactly the reason that the NSA is spying on these French companies(to determine if they are illegally affecting the US via hidden state subsidies, breaking of international regulations, etc).

The two are not mutually exclusive. That could well be the official above-board reason. I was simply pointing out the absolutely immense opportunity for unchecked corruption that's inherent in programs like this. They're classified, therefore they get little to no external oversight.

Corruption need not be top-down. If Snowden could walk out with so much data without discovery, what could a more 'entrepreneurial' insider do?

"economic intelligence" sounds so much nicer than "corporate espionage"

I think it's a bigger problem when we just accept it as it is, something that is necessary.

Is anybody even remotely surprised? even slightly? Any country with sufficient power will spy on any and all people, countries and entities it can. If they don't either something bad will happen (and the public will be demanding to know why someone didn't do anything about it) or they will be out-maneuvered by countries that do. Information is power and all types of information add to a map of what's going on and with who. Companies/Corporations are modern day dukes, robber barons and tyrants, and people with power and influence have always been spied upon.

With respect - I don't know why people always say this when government misbehavior comes to light. Other than to demonstrate that they were more jaded than everyone else.

Yes -- everybody knows that the government does bad things. Having evidence is different. I'm sure the French government knew they were being spied on to some degree, but with this evidence they can now react officially. Allied countries will be less likely to engage in mutual intelligence sharing, knowing that their domestic industries can suffer. Non-aligned countries might walk away entirely. And the US government will have more difficulty internally when these powers are brought up for legislative review.

Also, we know the government does bad things. However, they don't do every conceivable bad thing - they wouldn't have time or resources. Knowing which bad things they are doing is also helpful.

Corporate espionage is like tax havens. You can't expect one country to stop it, everyone needs to agree to stop doing it at the same time. Otherwise the first to stop will be at a disadvantage.

And a lot of countries do this.

And Microsoft Turkey (future partner) ask us to host our web application in Azure. I'll do my best to keep my employer out of this way.

Zzzzzz this has gone from one of the shocking news in the world to a regular occurrence that its not much a news anymore.

Asylum for Snowden in France now!

It might be shorter to list who the NSA didn't spy on.

reminds me of the snl sketch where the other colors of soylent individually turn out to also be made out of people

off course if you can find someone nsa didn't spy on. ;)

So what? I certainly don't mind if my Government spies on _other_ countries. It's just spying on its own citizens that's an issue.

I honestly can't tell if this is sarcastic or not. Are you saying that you believe ethical practices are so vastly different across arbitrary distinctions like state borders?

Well, your government ostensibly has an obligation to protect your interests, while other state governments have no such obligation.

You can certainly argue against the ethics of any spying, but it should be abundantly clear that a government and its agents have a duty to its citizens that is greater than its duty to the citizens of other sovereign nations.

That's kind of ignorant of the fact that such a mentality starts breaking down a system of trust and confidence that can lead to major cracks in economy and retaliatory actions. It is never a good rule to simply play a game that only has one rule, that everyone is allowed to cheat.

I wonder how Barack Obama will stand against this assumption.

There are some serious accusation, I'm pretty sure both side will temper all the way they can but may lead to intense change in business as company already starting to file complain !

Basically the rules of the game are there are no rules. Whoever can steal anyone's secrets does and probably should or risk being left behind. China plays by these rules, it's about time that everyone else wisen up to this and accept it as the real state of affairs outside of rhetoric and propaganda.

Ok so next US officials accuse the Chinese of spying based on some very shaky evidence we can just all collectively tell them to stop whining right?

yup. or even very concrete evidence. or pretty much any other country. one strategy the US employs in all of its dealings is holier than thou. As Chomsky says, never listen to what the US says, always look at their actions. They never match what they say.

> China plays by these rules, it about time that everyone else wisen up to this.

Are you aware that this story is about the US, right?

Obviously. I meant in addition China also plays by these rules.

You're being sarcastic, right?

France's intelligence agencies are known to engage in this same kind of economic espionage, including against the US.

Not that that necessarily makes it right for us to do it, but any outrage from France's government is feigned.

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