The NSA surveillance debate has been at center stage for about four months now and shows no sign of abating, with Edward Snowden-derived leaks continuing to appear on at least a weekly basis. I wrote about this early in the debate and will return to it on OZY at some point. For now, though, my point is simply to assert, based on my personal dealings with NSA over many years, that it is truly not interested in our personal lives — that kind of data is the province of Google, Amazon, Facebook and other organizations that want to understand our habits in order to sell us something.
The NSA wants only to figure out whether any phone numbers or Internet accounts associated with terrorists are trying to contact supporters who may be in the United States. OZY readers may or not be convinced of this, but for now let’s think about a few things not in the headlines that probably should preoccupy us more than the NSA over the long term.
Whatever concerns people may have about NSA, at least it is on our side. Not so the many countries and independent “hacktivists” that are constantly attacking our information systems. China is reportedly behind much of this. One expert says that every Fortune 1000 company has been the target of Chinese hackers. It is difficult to establish beyond dispute that the Chinese government is behind this, but the authoritative Mandiant Intelligence Center recently published a report alleging that it is, and identifying a specific unit as responsible.
[The resignation of assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs Wess Mitchell] is surprising news, which seems to have caught everyone off guard. He doesn’t appear to have shared this news with his ambassadors, who were in Washington last week for a global chiefs of mission conference. His deputy is also slated to retire soon, which raises question of near term leadership on European policy at a time of challenges there.
[Wess] Mitchell was a strong supporter of NATO, particularly in Eastern Europe where he will be sorely missed. His departure comes follows the resignation of senior Pentagon officials – Robert Karem and Tom Goffus – working on NATO along with Secretary Mattis. Without this pro-alliance caucus, NATO is now more vulnerable than at any time since the beginning of the Trump administration.