National Security

National Security & Espionage

By Rana Athar Javed

Leaks are not a problem for the US intelligence community. The general character known to world population now is that release of sensitive information and the process in the way a whistle-blower develops his/her intentions to discharge the “national duty” receives massive media coverage. According to press reports, “[the]…PRISM is a system the NSA uses to gain access to the private communications of users of nine popular Internet services. We know that access is governed by Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which was enacted in 2008. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper tacitly admitted PRISM’s existence in a blog post [recently]. A classified PowerPoint presentation leaked by Edward Snowden states that PRISM enables “collection directly from the servers” of Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook and other online companies”.

With the US national security policy being compromised, it is barely discussed as to which extent the espionage has cultivated human intelligence (HUMNIT) for the US and NATO countries. It was preferable to debate the role of Snowden, which in turn moves the debate to the diplomatic position of China, Russia, Iran and Pakistan. The US also managed to divert the attention from ongoing Afghan peace dilemma and, gradually strengthening Israeli supremacy in the Middle East. In emphasizing this fact, it is also valid to state that the intelligence gathered through PRISM is seemingly sufficient to exert further control over the popular social networks. From ideological positions of the Muslim youth to the role of “bloggers” in sociopolitical changes, every aspect of information control would just favor the US national security objectives, hence further risks for developing countries.

Whereas, National Security Agency (NSA) conveys detailed operational capabilities through countless leaks and espionage activities, the US explicitly establishes its own strategic views and national security imperatives. As a result, a crisis of diplomacy would last until the US plans another invasion or serious military action against the countries that have been target of the so-called espionage (e.g. Iran and Pakistan).

“Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who released secret documents describing U.S. surveillance and intelligence programs, continues to elude U.S. authorities seeking his extradition. The U.S. government’s opponents abroad are enjoying this country’s embarrassment”. In fact, the US position on systematic policy of intelligence leaks merely expands the scope of cover/overt intelligence operations thereby serious diplomatic consequences.

Precisely, this is an international provocation, the implications of which may emerge in proportional response of China, Russia, Pakistan and Iran. At a time when Pakistan is grappling with enormous national security challenges and violence, who came to the conclusion that Pakistan being the allay country should be targeted for such a huge web-based Intel program? This question should be posed to Mr. John Kerry when he visits Pakistan in the second week of July.

Publically, the psychological warfare against Pakistan’s national security policy is being justified at the behest of Indo-Afghan nexus, a regional policy program that often gets rejection as a conspiracy theory. Secretly, adopting an aggressive policy of espionage against friendly countries exposes the technological weaknesses and thus creates further sociopolitical fragmentation and mistrust in the capability of national security institutions. Such a contradictory policy combination of the US cannot serve the cause of “great expectations” of facilitating peace and “winning the hearts and minds” of ordinary Pakistanis.

“Meanwhile, China, Russia, Cuba and Ecuador — countries with dismal human rights records — have cast themselves as the champions of political freedom”. President Putin too “jabbed at the U.S. treatment of the former NSA contractor [Snowden] and his new benefactor, WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange… [because both] consider themselves human rights activists and say they are fighting for the spread of information.”

Symbolically, a sense of victory can be seen from such statements, the active and long-term opposition to Snowden’s travel status would be an unwanted policy initiative by China and Russia. From the Pakistani viewpoint, the new democratic government must commit more resources and system of strategic assessment to prevent such incidents of espionage.

The character of such a policy should be based on Pakistan’s own national security policy requirements, rather than case-to-case basis. Despite this industrial scale intelligence leak, the head of NSA, Gen. Keith B. Alexander remarkably deflects the consequences of Snowden’s act of security breach and conveyed a word of confidence to the NSA employees that, “the ongoing national dialogue is not about your performance…”

This is a carefully orchestrated statement for the NSA workforce, in order to protect the integrity of information in future and also sustaining the international pressure against this serious episode of the US espionage, which violates every rule of privacy in the book. The Obama administration must take the responsibility of this national embarrassment and the subsequent reaction of targeted nations.