Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Anyone remember the Glomar Explorer

In the early 1970's' the CIA commissioned the construction of the Hughes Glomar Explorer, a deep sea drill ship platform, in an attempt to recover a sunken Soviet missile submarine.

The reasons for this (still undisclosed) were most likely to get cryptological documents and equipment and obtain an intact nuclear missile.

The project did not produce much (outside of a wonderful  McGuffin for the Charles Stross's novel, The Jennifer Morgue), but I remember that when it came to light in the mid 1970's. 

This was the time of the Church Committee, which was investigating CIA misdeeds, of which there were an elegant sufficiency. 

But what I remember to be most bizarre item about the whole story was the level of criticism the CIA received for this project -- not operational criticism (e.g. whether the project was well or badly undertaken) -- but criticizing the whole idea: Why should the CIA be trying to get information from a sunken Soviet sub.

What else is the CIA supposed to do, but try to get secrets from enemies?

This is all a preamble to my feelings about latest NSA disclosures -- that the United States was intercepting communications in France and browsing through the email of the Mexican president.

I may be simple here, but my response to the NSA spying on foreign governments (earlier it was Brazil) is "So?".  I suppose that should be "Nu?".

At least one of these countries has a history of tapping US phones, and in the 70's this was so well known that the CIA intentionally passed information on compromised lines to feed disinformation to the Soviets.  Which means there was more than snooping going on at that time.

The NSA's spying on United States citizens threatens liberty, and for that reason the secrecy of the program threatens the constitution.  But that is a constitutional matter, about how we try to govern the power of our state so it cannot become 'over mighty'.

We accord no such courtesy to other states -- and should not expect any in return.  I am morally certain that all these states maintain some intelligence presence in the US -- up to and including signals intelligence. If they do not, they are idiots. I would given better than even money that most of these states knew about it. The claim that this sort of spying is not what allies to each other runs into Palmerston's dictum.

It does point out why one should minimize the number and type of secrets one has.  Had the NSA gone through any public vetting of its programs, had there actually be some legislation, then I rather doubt Snowden et al would have bothered to leak this information. The fewer secrets one has, the better they can be kept.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Bravo For Life's Little Ironies*

You have to admire the blindness to irony in these statements.

Norquist: Cruz 'Pushed House Republicans Into Traffic And Wandered Away'

Maybe, Norquist thinks that Cruz should have had people sign a pledge?

*From an old Doonesbury cartoon.