NSA: Who’s Damaging American National Security?

July 5, 2014–It’s ironic–or, perhaps, fitting in this new era of government  doublespeak–that the patriotic airs of July 4 and America’s birthday are now accompanied by news of fresh security outrages. The National Security Agency’s preoccupation for covering its ass is to blame, and from the looks of this, it sounds like NSA is dragging the CIA into the muck with it. The locale is Germany and the story is spies.

As you’ll know from watching television, reading the papers, or this space, the NSA has scandalized Germany with its dragnet eavesdropping operations. President Obama issued an order to impose some limits on coverage of individuals–and specifically prohibited (only) spying on German chancellor Angela Merkel. The subject was the elephant in the closest recently when Merkel visited Washington for the two leaders to concert a policy to cope with the current troubles in the Ukraine.

That was “identifiable damage to national security”–the standard applied to claim so many citizens have hurt the spies. Here we have the spies hurting the nation. The security agencies should have taken their marching orders from the sense of Obama’s instructions. Instead we have this: the German parliament, or Bundestag, is conducting an official investigation into the NSA dragnet operation. This week the investigating committee took testimony, some of it in secret session, from former NSA employees Thomas Drake and William E. Binney. The spooks are so desperate to learn what German parliamentarians are discovering about the NSA’s operations, illegal in Germany, that CIA sources have been mobilized to service NSA desires.

Not long ago German counterespionage officers apprehended a suspected double agent, a 31-year old officer for the federal intelligence agency Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), who was suspected of spying for Russia. German state prosecutor Harald Range has confirmed the action on July 2. The BND officer is accused of selling more than two hundred secret documents, including a number that disclose activities of the Bundestag parliamentary committee. Under questioning, German sources report, the suspected spy disclosed that he does not work for the Russians at all but for the CIA–and takes his instructions direct from the U.S. embassy. Reports are that U.S. ambassador John Emerson, summoned to the German foreign ministry, has been asked to cooperate with the investigation of this espionage.

Can’t blame this on Edward Snowden. It is the activities of the intelligence agencies–in this case spying on friends America needs to make our foreign policies succeed–that damage our national security. These activities become known to the targets (as they did here) whether or not they are revealed by whistleblowers. The spooks would prefer to have us believe the damage results from revelation, not from commission. That is an arrogant and cynical stance. Do not believe it.

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