Wednesday 3 May 2023

On Sharing Intelligence

 By now we have all heard about how a young National Guard airman, Jack Teixeira, leaked classified Pentagon documents to a Discord chat group of a dozen people.  Eventually, some of the materials were promulgated by the Donbass Devushka (aka Sarah Bils) to 65,000 followers of her podcast.  What caught my attention in this story is how long it took for anyone to notice that these "top secret" files were available on social media.  The New York Times is now reporting that some of the documents have been available online for more than a year.

Uhhh, I write a blog see.  So I find myself asking, if you think you have valuable content to share and you make it available online, what do you have to do to get people to notice and read it?  It appears the answer is to get yourself arrested, like Teixeira, and have every major newspaper publish a picture on their front pages of you being taken away in handcuffs.  If you have seen the movie Snowden, you know that the major breakthrough was to get The Guardian to publish the fact that the USA was breaking its own laws and spying on American citizens.

From the Snowden story, we know the NSA used a program called PRISM to collect surveillance on US citizens and American allies.  From the Teixeira story, we know the US secret services are still collecting intel on American allies and have undisclosed info on the war in Ukraine.  From Snowden to Teixeira, the real story seems to be that nothing has changed, not even how the intelligence community protects its secrets from public disclosure.  In this era of massive social media, it feels like everybody is talking  . . . at once .  . . and nobody is really listening.

In fact, the much bigger story is the one that is widely available in the media and, I bet, you are less likely to have noticed:  William Binney.  Binney, an NSA intelligence officer, developed a surveillance program called ThinThread which allowed the government to collect metadata on foreign operatives without spying on American citizens.   In 2000, the NSA closed down Binney's in-house, inexpensive program; opting for a program call Trailblazer, developed by Boeing, Computer Sciences Corporation, and Booz Allen Hamilton. Trailblazer directly contravened the US constitution by collecting massive amounts of data on American citizens and cost billions of dollars by the time it was closed down in 2006.  Binney claims that ThinThread would have prevented 9/11 if it had been allowed to keep running. When Binney and a number of patriotic American whistleblowers--Diane Roark, Thomas Andrews Drake, J. Kirk Wiebe, and Ed Loomis--tried to inform their superiors and the US government about the abuse, mismanagement, fraud and other crimes of the NSA, they were arrested by the FBI.

If you have watch the recent Netflix release of Official Secrets, the Katharine Gun story, you are aware that nothing has changed because, above all, the secret services are designed to protect themselves and the government of the day.

Does anyone remember the ending of Three Days of the Condor?

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