This BBC blog post on the British secret security services by Adam Curtis is a ray of light in the darkness. It’s entertaining as well as illuminating.
Bruce Schneier’s essays on security are, I think, the best on the subject on the other side of the atlantic.
Richard Falk’s comments on Snowden’s asylum in Russian resonated with me; then I noticed that I was reading them on a web site most Americans never visit. There’s little chance of America’s security services being caught looking ridiculous any time soon, domestically anyway.
The arrogance, stupidity and amorality of the American security state, and Obama’s complicity in it, remain unfathomable. It appears that he has been co-opted by forces he couldn’t resist, has bought into their world view, and mislaid either his moral compass or the courage to use it. He’s right to think that America’s reputation has suffered. And so has his. Granted, other states are as bad or worse and are less open to challenge, so far. What matters is the example America sets, in correcting itself. Again.
I am optimistic that Americans will eventually roll back the surveillance and establish a new moral rather than technological norm for what can be done by the state. What a pity the presidential election wasn’t fought on a substantive issue such as this, with a more serious opponent than a brylcreemed oligarch.
However, even when that happens America’s ideas of how it can behave internationally may not change, and that will have consequences. The private sector gets it. The west’s spymasters didn’t see the fall of the soviet union coming but, famously, Shell Oil’s scenario planners did. It hasn’t taken much scenario planning in Silicon Valley to see where things will end when America is the world’s least trusted power. Alas, the decision to seek to assert dominant cyberoffensive capabilities, from spying to deployment of cyberweapons, will have unintended consequences on which there has been little evident public debate or reflection.
Above all, the asymmetric waste, the fortune spent on self-inflicted damage is astonishing. Even a small part of the protection money directed at, say, protecting children in poor countries from malaria, or polio, would achieve tangible benefits of global significance, morally and in terms of security (the misuse of vaccination as a cover for covert activities by the CIA was, of course, the moral antithesis).
Some levity is needed to avoid feelings of depression when reflecting on such things. Mr Curtis delivers.