Categories
Intelligence

Why Would the US Spy on its Allies? Because Everyone Does

People in Berlin protesting the NSA surveillance program. Image: Digitale Gesellschaft/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by The Conversation on 24 June, 2015.

The spotlight must be an uncomfortable position for intelligence organisations that would far prefer to remain in the shadows. But since Edward Snowden fled the United States in the summer of 2013, there has been an almost constant drip-feed of stories concerning the operations of the US National Security Agency (NSA) and the UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). Yet the most recent scoop – originating from Wikileaks – has shown that we would do well to consider these kinds of “revelations” with a little greater care.

At its heart, the claim that the NSA spied on French presidents Jacques Chirac, Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Holland, effectively boils down to: “country A spied on country B”. As a piece of news, this surely sits alongside the Pope’s status as a Catholic. What else would we expect a national intelligence gathering agency to do? The fundamental purpose of such organisations is to seek out national advantage, in whatever field – whether it is political, economic, military, or otherwise.

Categories
Intelligence

We Need to Fix the Way We Talk about National Intelligence

CIA memorial wall. Image: Wikimedia

This article was originally published by The Conversation on 10 October 2014.

In the last few years, the list of sensitive government information made public as a result of unauthorised disclosures has increased exponentially. But who really benefits from these leaks?

While they are media catnip and provide useful information to hostile individuals and organisations, they only occasionally contribute to the public debate on intelligence and truly advance the cause of democracy.

A scoop on the secret world of espionage is a guaranteed journalistic coup. And with good reason; at the simplest level, news exposures of intelligence service activities inform the public and contribute to a self-evidently important public debate on the role of intelligence in modern democracies.