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article imageOp-Ed: Snowden vanishes, US government howls about Russia, China

By Paul Wallis     Jun 24, 2013 in World
Sydney - A bull running in a china shop is the analogy which springs to mind when watching the Keystone Kops-like efforts to apprehend Edward Snowden. The US legal system was easily outmaneuvered, and Russia and China scored a few easy points diplomatically.
The minimum requirement for extradition from anywhere is a formal application for extradition and a hearing. It’s unclear whether the United States expected China or Russia to apprehend Snowden on the basis of headlines. They couldn’t. It’s illegal. Even the basics went wrong in this case.
Security? What security? Whose security?
The US government hasn’t yet wiped the egg off its face from the Snowden revelations, either. The average online user could be forgiven for equating PRISM with a government operated phishing scam, made worse by the mere existence of vast amounts of data which is itself insecure.
According to some experts, “millions” of people have access to this classified information. Nothing like keeping a secret, and this unwieldy mass of possibly users of PRISM information is and apparently was nothing like a secret. Anyone with a basic clearance can stroll in and get data on individuals, US and foreign. Anyone with a few minutes to spare could use hacking software to get into the PRISM data.
Diplomacy? What diplomacy?
Exactly what the howls about Russia and China are supposed to achieve is anyone’s guess. This is quite uncharacteristic of the usually smooth, urbane US diplomatic corps. The fury, and equally useless diplomatic faux pas, are apparently coming from somewhere where tantrums equate to effective diplomacy. It’s hard to imagine a more encouraging sign for those trying to score points off the US than this very public rage.
Culture? What culture?
The security agencies themselves are either blissfully unaware or in systemic denial regarding their public image. “National security” has for decades been a no-go zone which is neither trusted nor respected by many sections of US society. PRISM’s mere existence has given the agencies’ many critics enough ammunition for decades. A culture of selective ignorance may have its uses, but not in intelligence.
The agencies’ actual achievements in anti-terrorism are quite significant, but that’s not what people are worrying about. It’s certainly not what they’re talking about. This very newsworthy paintball in the wedding cake and its fallout have severely tarnished their credibility and given them the image of a possible direct risk to the public. Catching X number of terrorists doesn’t rank high against the fear of third parties accessing personal information.
Nor are Americans or anyone else likely to overlook the fact that their private communications may be accessible to possibly dangerous third parties. This is a quite legitimate basis for worry for many people, and it’s not even getting mentioned. There have been no reassurances, no new laws to protect people, and no indication of any interest in doing either of these things.
The china shop shopfront is looking decidedly undignified, lacking in credibility, and just plain messy. The stock is in lousy condition after these various charges against a matador who just isn’t there any more.
I have a suspicion that a stocktake may reveal more problems, and damaged goods are likely to be hard to sell to a sceptical public and Congress. How does anyone know PRISM wasn’t already compromised by someone else? All those millions of people are 100% above suspicion? Must be one hell of a convent they have there. If PRISM was compromised, Snowden has merely run a highlighter through an existing problem.
The only good news for the bulls working in the china shop is that the landlord hasn’t decided to shut up shop and move the business to a less dramatic and disaster-prone environment.
Meanwhile, there are already articles on how to PRISM-proof your phone. Expect more. A lot more.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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