Reuters blog archive
from Jack Shafer:
Edward Snowden's expansive disclosures to the Guardian and the Washington Post about various National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance programs have only two corollaries in contemporary history—the classified cache Bradley Manning allegedly released to WikiLeaks a few years ago and Daniel Ellsberg's dissemination of the voluminous Pentagon Papers to the New York Times and other newspapers in 1971.
Leakers like Snowden, Manning and Ellsberg don't merely risk being called narcissists, traitors or mental cases for having liberated state secrets for public scrutiny. They absolutely guarantee it. In the last two days, the New York Times's David Brooks, Politico's Roger Simon, the Washington Post's Richard Cohen and others have vilified Snowden for revealing the government's aggressive spying on its own citizens, calling him self-indulgent, a loser and a narcissist.
Yet even as the insults pile up and the amateur psychoanalysis intensifies, keep in mind that Snowden’s leak has more in common with the standard Washington leak than should make the likes of Brooks, Simon and Cohen comfortable. Without defending Snowden for breaking his vow to safeguard secrets, he's only done in the macro what the national security establishment does in the micro every day of the week to manage, manipulate and influence ongoing policy debates. Keeping the policy leak separate from the heretic leak is crucial to understanding how these stories play out in the press.
Secrets are sacrosanct in Washington until officials find political expediency in either declassifying them or leaking them selectively. It doesn't really matter which modern presidential administration you decide to scrutinize for this behavior, as all of them are guilty. For instance, President George W. Bush's administration declassified or leaked whole barrels of intelligence, raw and otherwise, to convince the public and Congress making war on Iraq was a good idea. Bush himself ordered the release of classified prewar intelligence about Iraq through Vice President Dick Cheney and Chief of Staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby to New York Times reporter Judith Miller in July 2003.
By Peter Thal Larsen
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.
Edward Snowden may have embarrassed the United States by leaking intelligence documents. But by seeking refuge in Hong Kong, the fugitive whistleblower has also put China on the spot. His case could become a high-profile test of Beijing’s policy towards the captive city-state, as well as towards its main geopolitical rival.
from The Great Debate:
“God we trust,” goes an old National Security Agency joke. “All others we monitor.
Given the revelations last week about the NSA’s domestic spying activities, the saying seems more prophecy than humor.
from Jack Shafer:
Using EFTPOS (electronic funds transfer system at point of sale) in a store in Sidney, Dec. 11, 2012. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne
Leaks to the press, like hillside rain tugged seaward by gravity, gather momentum only if the flow is steadily replenished.
from David Rohde:
from The Great Debate:
A federal appeals court rebuffed the Obama administration's drone policy on Friday, ruling that the CIA stretched its considerable secrecy powers “too far.” The stinging decision may be the biggest news in the war on terror that you've never heard about.
The ruling lays down a key marker for a significant shift in counterterrorism policy. Under President Barack Obama, the United States has moved from detaining suspected terrorists to killing many of them in targeted attacks. There were 10 times as many drone deaths in 2010 as 2004, according to the Counterterrorism Strategy Initiative. This is why there are now fewer pressing questions about detention or Guantanamo, a vestige of post-September 11 battles. The United States hardly ever captures any new terror suspects.
If President Obama’s chief counterterrorism advisor John Brennan is confirmed as director of the CIA on Thursday, he will take the role of the lead authority for CIA drone strikes, institutionalizing a program that has killed an unknown number of suspected militants and civilians since 2004. Although his confirmation is expected to help preserve the drone program while glossing over concerns about its transparency and effectiveness so far, his appointment leaves a bigger question about the CIA's future role.
Brennan’s open hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday has been pegged as a time to demand answers about the highly secretive U.S. campaigns to target and kill al Qaeda militants using unmanned aerial vehicles in places like Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. The administration is tight-lipped on the subject, and critics have assailed the campaign over its lack of public accountability. U.S. drone strikes have killed not just foreign militants, but also civilians and American citizens. Rights groups have lambasted the extrajudicial killings of American citizens, including the “Internet imam” Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son in Yemen. A New York Times report last May revealed that the government’s troubling definition of a “militant” suggests any military-age man in a strike zone is fair game. On Tuesday, a 16-page memo from the Justice Department published by NBC News further outlined the vague criteria for who can target and be targeted, as well as showed an expanded definition of conditions that the government can use to order strikes.
from Reihan Salam:
Now that President Obama has been reelected, he faces a number of basic questions about the future of America’s national security strategy. The most immediate of these concerns how the president will address the deep cuts to defense expenditures that will be triggered under last year’s Budget Control Act if congressional Republicans and Democrats can’t reach an agreement on a deficit deal. Answering this question requires a broader sense of the threats we face and what we ought to do about them.
When compared to the height of the Cold War, when the Soviet empire had nuclear weapons trained on virtually every inch of U.S. soil, it is fair to say that the world is a much less dangerous place for Americans, and we shouldn’t forget it. But when compared to the relative peace and security, Islamic terrorism notwithstanding, we’ve enjoyed in the two decades since the Soviet collapse, there is good reason to believe that the threat level is increasing. This is happening at the same time that sluggish economic growth and rising social expenditures are squeezing America’s ability to pay for an enormous military establishment.
from The Great Debate:
This piece was updated after GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s major foreign policy address on Monday. It reflects Romney’s remarks.
In the first foreign policy speech following his momentum-gaining debate against President Barack Obama, GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney expanded on his vision of an “American century,” a view he tied to the legacy of leaders like General George Marshall as he outlined a muscular, moral U.S. foreign policy with American exceptionalism at its core.
from Tales from the Trail:
A group of hawkish Democrats with close ties to President Obama’s re-election campaign announced on Thursday a new swing state television advertisement attacking Mitt Romney on national security and foreign policy issues.
The 60-second advertisement by the Truman National Security Project is part of a low six-figure media buy and is set to run in veteran-heavy Ohio, one of a handful of states that could prove pivotal to the Nov. 6 election.