Some Thoughts On The Recent CIA Leaks

Sometimes the best perspective comes from someone who has been there. There are a lot of diverse opinions on the information recently leaked by Wikileaks about CIA techniques. Some media have focused on the invasion into the privacy of Americans, and other media has focused on the damage the leaks do to American national security.

On Thursday, Fred Fleitz, a former CIA analyst, posted an article with his observations about the leaks. The article is posted at the Center for Security Policy website.

These are the points he makes in the article:

  • Why did CIA have a cyber warfare office at all?   I noted in this December 2016 NRO article that there are cyber warfare offices in four separate intelligence agencies.  I suspect this is because different intelligence agencies all wanted to cash in on funding opportunities on a high profile topic.   Such overlap is getting worse and make U.S. intelligence more bureaucratic and less efficient.
  • The new leaker was probably hired as a result of CIA Director Brennan’s decision to lower standards for CIA hiring because he wanted to create a more diverse CIA workforce and Brennan rushed to staff his new cyber office.  I wrote about this in Investor’s Business Daily in 2015.   It also reportedly has been difficult for the U.S. government to find personnel to staff cyber offices who can meet the Agency’s usual security requirements.   This probably is why Edward Snowden was hired despite his lack of a college degree and how he was able to increase his access to classified material and move between intelligence agencies despite his poor performance.
  • Did CIA learn nothing from the Snowden leaks on the urgency to compartment information on sensitive intelligence sources and methods?  How could another disgruntled intelligence officer have been able to access and leak such a huge number of such documents?

This is another area where President Trump needs to drain the swamp and create a more efficient and secure place to keep America‘s secret operations. We will always have a need for the CIA, but we definitely need to be more careful in hiring practices and access to information.

 

Is This Something We Really Want To Do?

CBN News posted a story today about the Obama Administration’s plan to give up control of the internet.

The article reports:

America has always been the main player in managing the World Wide Web. Even conservatives who typically want to limit the role of government say it’s an example of Washington doing something well.

“It’s a very relaxed control, which is why I think we’ve seen the Internet grow to be an incredible voice of freedom, not just in the United States, but around the world,” Jordan Sekulow, with the American Center for Law and Justice, told CBN News.

In the late 1990s, the Commerce Department formed a nonprofit agency called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, which governs the system that assigns website addresses and directs Internet traffic.

The Obama Administration has stated that as a result of the activities of Edward Snowden, America has been under international pressure to give up control of the internet.

The article points out that Russia and China are waiting to fill the vacuum if America gives up control and that eventually the internet would fall under the control of a U.N. organization called the “International Telecommunications Union.” This could easily result in the end of free speech on the internet or a curtailing of business activity.

The article further reports:

Congress is considering two actions. The first delays the transfer of control and the second requires congressional approval before the Obama administration can act.

There’s also bipartisan concern. Even former President Bill Clinton thinks the administration’s plans are a bad idea.

“A lot of people who have been trying to take this authority away from the United States wanted to do it for the sole purpose of cracking down on Internet freedom and limiting it and having governments protect their backsides instead of empower their people,” Clinton said.

President Clinton is right. This may be the first and last time I agree with him, but he is right.

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Some Perspective On The Ukraine

On Thursday the U.K. Telegraph posted an article by Edward Lucas about the situation in the Ukraine. Obviously, events there are moving very quickly. The U.K. Daily Mail posted an article by Mark Almond yesterday. Both articles point to the danger of the spread of the unrest in the Ukraine. Please follow the links to the articles. There is a lot of information in both articles.

The article in the Daily Mail reminds us that the Ukraine is made up of both Russians and Ukrainians. Each group has their own concept of what the country’s relationship with Europe and Russia should be. There is a serious division among the population of the country.

The article in the Telegraph states:

Without Vladimir Putin, Ukraine would be at peace today. It was Russia which forced Ukraine to shun the economic agreement offered by the EU in October, launching a crippling trade war against Ukrainian exports. It was Russia which offered cheap gas and soft loans as the Ukrainian economy tottered. It was Russia which installed hundreds of “advisers” in key Ukrainian public bodies and ministries, including the SBU secret police, to ensure that they toe the Moscow line. Without Russia’s silent putsch, Ukrainians would have not have needed to build barricades in the streets in protest at the regime’s misrule. Even then, without the continued and escalating Russian pressure on Mr Yanukovych, the conflict could have been defused.

We have seen enough of Putin to know that he will not let the Ukraine move toward Europe politically and economically without a fight. President Putin has openly stated that his dream is to bring back the old Soviet Union.

The Telegraph reports:

But Russia’s interference in Ukraine has intensified in recent months, just as Western efforts have floundered. European policymakers still cling to the notion that talks with Russia can bring a mutually beneficial solution to Ukraine’s agony. That is a false hope. The Kremlin does not like win-win solutions. It likes outcomes in which it wins, and its detestable Western rivals lose, preferably humiliatingly – this, for Mr Putin, is a matter of personal prestige. In short, though the EU finds the whole notion of geopolitics old-fashioned and unappealing, geopolitics is happening on its doorstep. And it is losing.

America is out of the game, too. The Obama administration has neglected its European allies since the day it took office. Its senior official dealing with Ukraine, Toria Nuland, is admirably energetic – and blunt (she recently declared “F— the EU” in a phone call to her ambassador in Kiev, bugged and then leaked by Russian intelligence). But she lacks the clout to make the wheels of policy turn in Washington. Without Moscow’s interference, the EU and United States could marshal their modest resources to make a difference. Faced with Russia in all its implacable fury, both are outgunned. The fallout from Edward Snowden’s leaks of secret material from the National Security Agency has corroded and weakened the transatlantic alliance: fury with American snooping in countries such as Germany has paralysed what should be vital discussions on security.

Hopefully this will end with freedom for the people of the Ukraine, but I am not optimistic. I remember how hard Poland fought to be free of the Soviet Union. Putin does not give up easily, and he does not compromise.

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The Problems With Electing Rodney Dangerfield To The American Presidency

In case you are under the age of forty, Rodney Dangerfield was a comedian whose tag line was, “I don’t get no respect!” Unfortunately, we seem to have elected a President who has the same problem.

“One of the things I intend to do as president is to restore America’s standing in the world. We are less respected now than we were eight years ago even four years ago.” That statement was made by President Obama in his first 2008 presidential debate. The problem with this statement is a lack of understanding of the fact that it would be good to be feared as well as respected. Sometimes respect is rooted in fear.

Today’s Wall Street Journal (no link–subscribers only) included an editorial entitled, “Portrait in Respect.” The editorial related to the problems the Obama Administration has had in trying to bring Edward Snowden back to the United States. Hong Kong said they could not return Mr. Snowden because of a technical glitch in the extradition request. Several news sources reported that Hong Kong was under pressure from China not to return Mr. Snowden. Since then, Mr. Snowden has fled to Russia, where the Russians have said that they will not send him back to America. Meanwhile it is a safe bet that the FSB (the new KGB) is downloading information from the four computers Mr. Snowden is traveling with.

Somehow I don’t think America has achieved the respect that was promised in the 2008 Presidential debate.

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Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?

Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?” was an educational computer game that we used to help our children learn geography. I don’t think he’s doing it to teach us all geography, but that is the gist of the Edward Snowden story right now.

I still have not figured out whether Mr. Snowden is a hero or a goat. I do have a few general comments on the entire episode, however. Mr. Snowden is a product of the American education system. He is a high school dropout. He is young–he is not necessarily mature enough to make the decisions he is currently facing, nor does he have enough knowledge to make those decisions.

Consider this. Mr. Snowden grew up in an education system that does not value America or American values. He has been taught on one hand not to trust the government and on the other hand that the government will take care of him and solve all of his problems. He finds himself working at a job that increases his suspicions of the government (and who knows how many “Matrix” movies he has watched), and he has no idea what to do. He starts exploring the InternetWikileaks websites–and decides Wikileaks has the right idea, so he gets in touch with them. At that point he has started a runaway train that cannot be stopped.

Mr. Snowden will never again enjoy the freedom that we have as Americans. He has been so miseducated in America that he has no idea what he has lost. Admittedly, the present Administration has a lot to answer for in terms of spying on Americans and friends and foes of America, but unfortunately, that is all too easy to do in today’s world. I think spying on innocent Americans is wrong–I don’t think it requires fleeing the country with four computers. I wonder exactly what was on those four computers.

As I have said, I have not yet concluded whether Mr. Snowden is a hero or a goat, but his choice of countries to align himself with has me leaning toward goat.

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