Thanks to Edward Snowden, the entire world now knows that it is being watched, or at least listened to, by the US National Security Agency, which along with some of our allies, such as the United Kingdom, is monitoring an ever increasing amount of electronic communications. This includes collecting information on Americans, which activity constitutes the most blatant and extensive violation of the Fourth Amendment ever witnessed in this country. The “oversight” of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is a clear sham, since virtually every aspect of this mechanism is classified and there is no provision for advocates arguing against the NSA. That the court is simply a rubber stamp is strongly suggested by the statistics: over the entire 33-year period of its existence the FISA court has granted 33,942 warrants and denied 11. One would have to believe that America is filled with terrorists, spies and wreckers, like the USSR under Stalin.
In addition to compelling communications companies by secret warrants to turn over their data and say nothing about it, the NSA has also been bugging foreign embassies and offices of the European Union, acts which can hardly be justified by the eternal war on terrorism. Unfortunately, many foreign governments, such as Germany, whose privacy laws are certainly being violated, are loathe to offend the United States. Governments inevitably like other governments, especially when it comes to angry citizens in the streets.
Snowden is quite clearly a whistleblower, but as an embarrassment to the government, even a government touted, ironically, to be the most transparent ever, he must be punished, for which President Obama has been using with great enthusiasm the Espionage Act of 1917. Odd, I thought that espionage involved an enemy, a foreign government to whom the secrets are given, though I imagine every government considers the press to be an enemy. Even more odd, all this raw data being collected by the NSA is in fact being turned over to a foreign government – by the NSA itself. Would that not make the NSA more open to a charge of espionage than Snowden, who leaked no information to any foreign government, made no money and is now seriously in danger of losing his freedom and perhaps his life?
The foreign country so privileged to receive all this information, including masses of data about American citizens? Why, Israel of course. Our “special relationship” with Israel has cost the American taxpayer billions, has injured our national interests and embarrassed us before the world for decades, and now we discover that Israeli intelligence agencies are in possession of huge amounts of information about everyday Americans who have committed no crimes. But let’s be fair. We do get something in return: an Israeli company, Narus, has been supplying the NSA with new technology that helps facilitate the collection all this vital data. Further, part of the agreement to share all this intelligence is a request that Israel “destroy upon recognition” any communications involving American government officials. Apparently ordinary Americans do not matter.
And if you actually believe Israel will honor this request, you put yourself right in the company of the thoughtful people who deny the Holocaust, think there is no global warming and consider the American health care system to be the best in the world. Why would the Light unto the Nations ignore any of this information when they are already recognized by our own government to be running one of the most aggressive espionage campaigns against the US, putting them in the same league as Russia and China? Remember Jonathon Pollard, whose paid espionage was so extensive that even the normally compliant US government has resisted Israeli pressure for his release? The FBI and counterintelligence agents have publically stated that the Israeli network in the US is one of the most extensive and damaging. “But everyone does it.” No, not to this extent they don’t. Corporations may be spying on one another around the world, but our other important allies are satisfied with the mutual sharing of intelligence. Simply put, Israel spies on us. But then, we are spying on everyone on the planet, including ourselves, so perhaps we have something in common with our special friend in the Near East?
Finally, spying can be juicy. In 1997 the Washington Post and others reported that the NSA had caught a phone conversation between a Mossad (Israel’s CIA) agent at the Israeli embassy in Washington and the Mossad chief in Tel Aviv. The agent spoke of a mole high in the Clinton administration, which triggered an FBI probe, which in turn brought on a reaction from Mossad when they discovered they had been overheard. A bugging team was sent to Washington, and among the targets was Monica Lewinsky, who subsequently provided some 30 steamy chats with our nation’s horniest President. Israel threatened to leak the tapes if the FBI search for the mole continued. No more is heard of the affair, and no mole was ever revealed. We mortals will probably never know for certain if all this actually happened, but the known history of Mossad is filled with such spy thriller operations, and Israel knows exactly how much it can get away with fin the US, which is a lot.
This is yet another example of what happens when domestic politics are allowed to determine foreign policy.