Suppose Manning and Snowden really were spies

Suppose Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden really had been spies.

spy-vs-spy-without-bombs-775529Suppose they had taken their information to the Russian, Chinese or Iranian embassies instead of Wikileaks or The Guardian.

Would we even know about them?

Dana Priest and William M. Arkin reported in the Washington Post three years ago that more than 850,000 people, working for at least 1,271 agencies and 1,931 contractors at 10,000 locations, had not just clearances, but top secret clearances.   They said no single person in government knows the names of all the secret agencies involved in intelligence, national security and counter-terrorism work.

The other day Ronan Farrow, a former Obama administration official with top secret clearance, wrote than 4.8 million people have clearances to read classified information, and trillions of new documents are classified every year.

How would it even be possible to keep track of secret information, especially when so much work is done by subcontractors outside the direct control of the government?  The Obama administration last year launched a new policy of requiring government employees to report suspicious behavior on the part of fellow employees.  This policy, besides being creepy, seems like an admission of failure of security.

Click on Top Secret America for the Washington Post’s 2010 report.  It’s reasonable to assume that everything that was true then is worse now.   I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a million people with U.S. top secret clearances.

Click on Why are so many US government documents classified? by Ronan Farrow in The Guardian for his full article.

Click on Let’s Not Pretend the Government’s Mass Spying Is an Effective and Efficient Way to Keep Us Safe  for examples of why indiscriminate collection of data has not prevented intelligence failures.  This is from Washington’s Blog, which does a great job of keeping on top of this issue.

Is mass surveillance even legal?  Click on The Criminal N.S.A. for reasons why it isn’t.

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4 Responses to “Suppose Manning and Snowden really were spies”

  1. Brian D. Buckley Says:

    “Is mass surveillance even legal? Click on The Criminal N.S.A. for reasons why it isn’t.”

    I’ve read that piece, and it’s very insightful. I completely agree that the NSA is trampling our Fourth Amendment rights.

    You might be interested to know that a protest movement has sprung up in response to the NSA’s actions:

    Thanks, Phil.


  2. Notes To Ponder Says:

    I`ve said it before and I`ll say it again – there is no way to shut Pandora`s box. With new technology comes an ever increasing `big brother`presence in our lives. Rather than considering legalities governments consider collateral damage and how much they can get away with. Espionage has been a fact of life since the dawn of time – anybody who thinks amendment rights give them a leg to stand on is sorely mistaken. The trade centre attach set the stage for justifiable (at least in government minds) intrusion. 🙂


  3. Mark Adams Says:

    What does it say about an intelligence agency which requires:
    ” government employees to report suspicious behavior on the part of fellow employees” ? This does not work for several reasons, not the least of which is turning in someone in that line of work gets you fired (and likely killed).


    • philebersole Says:

      I don’t think this means turning in someone who may be violating U.S. law or committing war crimes. I think it means turning in someone who may be a whistle-blower or unauthorized leaker.


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