Espionage Envy: Germany, Other Nations Covet US’ Spying Powers
Posted by Phoenix Woman on July 3, 2013
One of the saddest things about the whole Snowden affair is that we in the US lost the chance to have a discussion about the Surveillance State once the US’s surveillance of other countries was mentioned. Especially since the very countries complaining the most have been doing lots of spying themselves:
The truth is that the Germans would love to be able to engage in more online espionage. Until now, the only thing missing has been the means to do so. Consequently, an outraged reaction from Berlin would have seemed fairly hypocritical.
Roughly half a dozen countries maintain intelligence agencies like the NSA that operate on a global scale. In addition to the Americans, this includes the Russians, Chinese, British, French and — to a lesser extent — Israelis and Germans. They have all placed the Internet at the heart of their surveillance operations. The vision of a wildly proliferating, grassroots, democratic Internet with totally secluded niches has long since become a thing of the past. Tomorrow’s world is a digital habitat where even the most far-flung corners are exposed to outside eyes, and where everything can be stored for posterity — and actually is stored, as with Prism.
What is surprising about the NSA’s program is its size and professionalism. The objective here is also shared by agencies in other countries, above all the BND, Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, which is currently significantly extending its capabilities. Last year, BND head Gerhard Schindler told the Confidential Committee of the German parliament, the Bundestag, about a secret program that, in his opinion, would make his agency a major international player. Schindler said the BND wanted to invest €100 million ($133 million) over the coming five years. The money is to finance up to 100 new jobs in the technical surveillance department, along with enhanced computing capacities. This may sound like a pauper’s version of the Prism program, but it represents one of the most ambitious modernization projects in the BND’s history, and has been given the ambitious German name Technikaufwuchsprogramm (literally “Technological Coming-of-Age Program”).
Espionage envy, in other words. Which is why making the overseas spying revelations actually hurt Snowden’s cause where it mattered most: In America, with Americans.
As I said in the comments of Charles’ NSA piece yesterday, Snowden may have talked all the time about how he didn’t fear his impending martyrdom, but that’s because he really didn’t expect to be a martyr. His entire strategy was based on Ecuador’s giving him asylum after he got to Russia. That’s why he said and did things that would doom him in any US court of law — things like boasting that he took the Booz contract job with the intent to collect data and then leak it. (See also: http://www.esquire.com/blogs/politics/snowden-took-job-to-get-evidence-of-surveillance-062413 ) He never expected to face a US court of law.
Except, with Ecuador saying “no” to his asylum request, suddenly his plan fell apart, and with the conditions Putin has set for him, it looks very much like Snowden will be stuck in the airport no-man’s-land until either he or Putin tire of the situation and arrange for the US to come fetch him. My guess is that he will be handed over to the US Embassy in Moscow before the end of July, at which point he will be flown back to the US to await trial.
And the great national conversation about domestic snooping, a conversation which two weeks ago it looks like he could have started, won’t happen after all.
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