Saturday, August 10, 2013
Do Spies Really Know What They Are Doing, or Is It All Make-Believe?
The recent revelations by the whistleblower Edward Snowden were fascinating. But they - and all the reactions to them - had one enormous assumption at their heart. That the spies know what they are doing.It's funny, and fascinating, and sad. It is also saying that we are wasting a lot of money chasing shadows and illusions dreamed up by people who have nothing else to do.
Journalists don't make out any better either.
Up to this point Pincher had been the Defence correspondent on the Daily Express. He was successful for getting "scoops" from "inside sources" - although the historian EP Thompson said that really Chapman Pincher was:
"A kind of official urinal in which ministers and intelligence and defence chiefs could stand patiently leaking."
One finds out why some people left that world.
But it was a world that was all made-up. Le Carre - who had himself been a spy - admitted this, and described what the true reality of the spy world was:
"For a while you wondered whether the fools were pretending to be fools as some kind of deception, or whether there was a real efficient service somewhere else.
Later in my fiction, I invented one.
But alas the reality was the mediocrity. Ex-colonial policemen mingling with failed academics, failed lawyers, failed missionaries and failed debutantes gave our canteen the amorphous quality of an Old School outing on the Orient express. Everyone seemed to smell of failure."
As Snowden has revealed the extent of intelligence coverage its amazing the Boston bombers got through this net.
Schneier has written one of his better articles on limitations of intel https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2013/09/the_limitations.html
Yeah, I read that today. Intelligence you can't act upon is rather useless as Schneier points out. Also, there is little cost benefit analysis in dark projects. I think though, that the collect it all strategy of the NSA will likely cost US firms more than the revenues they are receiving from the $51 billion dollar black budget as government contractors due to lost private sales. People will no longer trust HP and Cisco or their gear as it may be tainted by NSA designs. Same goes for the software vendors. It will be good for the Internet, but bad for US business. Microsoft will likely take another hit. But, so will Apple and other smartphone manufacturers.