In The Art of War, Chinese strategist Sun Tsu tells the story of how one ancient warlord toppled his most dangerous rival by offering a condemned prisoner a reprieve if he successfully delivered a secret message to the rival’s most capable and loyal general. The prisoner swallowed a wax ball containing the message and was sent into the enemy’s territory. When he was caught, he told the enemy warlord of the message for his general. The wax ball contained the promise of payment to the general for his proposed betrayal of his warlord. Believing his general was plotting against him, the enemy warlord had him killed. The ruse effectively destroyed the trust between the enemy warlord and those who protected him, leaving him alone and vulnerable to whoever wished to attack him.
The scandal over the National Security Agency and the PRISM program disclosed by “whistle blower” Edward Snowden is similar. Whoever is responsible for Snowden’s ball of wax being passed to the American people, has timed it perfectly. This story has broken at a time when Americans of all political views are already most distrustful of our government and has cemented in the minds of millions that our most capable spy agency is the enemy of our freedoms. Our enemies may have just achieved a fait accompli in the destruction of our intelligence communities.
This ploy would not have been possible without the actions of President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano who have undermined our trust. They consistently refuse to name people who are actively at war with the United States as enemies. Deliberate Islamic terrorist acts are labeled as “work place violence.” People who enter the United States illegally are given special status while people who speak out for the protection of our Constitution and founding principles are labeled as potential terrorists. The Prism scandal follows the revelation of the use of the IRS in targeting the TEA Party. The picture that has developed is one of a government using the apparatuses designed to ensure the political, economic, and territorial sovereignty of the United States to target the very groups of citizens who most often rise to protect our nation.
In the complicated mix of foreign and domestic defense of our nation, the NSA plays a crucial role in intercepting enemy communications. The NSA’s focus is on foreign intelligence gathering. It can only assist the Justice Department (FBI) and Homeland Security domestically when requested by those agencies and approved by the President or his designee, the Secretary of Defense. A special court provides oversight to this process.When tracking foreign sponsored terrorists and spies operating within the United States, there has to be an interface to allow the foreign intercepts to be tracked down to operations networks operating within the US. We paid the price for the Clinton Administration’s overzealous interpretation of the requirements for separation between these systems when Jamie Gorelick’s wall did not allow for the identification of Mohammed Atta to be passed to the FBI until after he flew a plane into one of the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001.
The fall out is not just domestic. Snowden has severely damaged the intelligence relationship with our closest ally, Great Britain. The revelation of Britain’s most secret and diplomatically sensitive surveillance of the G20 Summit by a junior US contract analyst has shattered their trust in our organization. For the Brits, the revelations can be likened to an intoxicated, loud-mouthed betrayal by an alcoholic brother whom you still love. You know he will stand beside you in fist fight, but you cannot trust his judgment to help you protect your family’s most intimate secrets and help keep you out of fist fights.
It will take decades to rebuild the trust of our allies. In the shorter term, this incident has the potential to lead to the dismantling of the NATO defense alliance and the destruction of US efforts to enhance our Pacific-centric coalition in the face of rising Russian and Chinese economic, diplomatic, and military aggression.
Right now, Congressman Alan Grayson leading the charge to change the laws in order to “reign-in” the NSA. This plays directly into the hands of our enemies and will destroy the single greatest asset we have to roll up the networks of Islamic terrorists and Chinese, Russian, and other foreign spies operating in the United States.
The end result of this incident could well be America alone and vulnerable.