Michael Hirsh is a Politico reporter who occasionally stumbles on the truth. In a piece on how the anti-NSA campaign has run out of gas, he says the critics of the intelligence agency have failed to come up with “actual instances of state abuse of surveillance” in the United States.
Wait a minute. You mean they have no hard evidence for their sensational claims of “domestic spying” on innocent Americans?
But Hirsh goes on: “Even the American Civil Liberties Union, which once called NSA surveillance ‘a stone’s throw away from an Orwellian state,’ admits it knows of no cases where anything even remotely Orwellian has happened.”
A separate Politico article makes it plain that Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and his campaign against the agency are also at a crossroads, threatening his anticipated run for the presidency. A former National Security Agency (NSA) executive is calling him a clear threat to U.S. national security.
The Hirsh piece carries the ominous headline, “The Surveillance State Lives On,” but the article shows that innocent people are not at risk—terrorists are.
Throwing a lifeline to Glenn Greenwald, Edward Snowden’s main media mouthpiece, Hirsh said that Greenwald had “told me in an interview over the summer that five Muslim-Americans monitored by the NSA were ‘harassed by the government in different ways.’”
He may have said that, but that didn’t make it true. The allegations fizzled.
As we pointed out, Greenwald’s actual story on this “monitoring” and “harassment” fell flat because one of the most prominent activists allegedly under NSA surveillance was an official of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
Greenwald, who has spoken to conferences sponsored by CAIR and the International Socialist Organization, had insisted these Muslim-Americans were innocent victims of the NSA. Hirsh apparently bought into that.
But CAIR is an affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood, a group banned in Egypt because of its terrorist ties. It was just designated an official terrorist group by the government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
(In the interests of full disclosure, this writer has been labeled one of many “Islamophobic Individuals” by CAIR, apparently because of my articles about CAIR’s links to terrorist groups.)
Hirsh notes that the anti-NSA movement is not over, and that Senator Rand Paul is prepared to carry its banner into the 2016 presidential campaign.
The Kentucky senator and CAIR collaborated on a “Restore the Fourth” rally against the NSA on July 4, 2013.
Left unsaid in the piece is how Senator Paul thinks an anti-NSA campaign will either win him more Republican votes or make the country safe.
Exit polls from the congressional elections found 59 percent of Republicans were either very or somewhat concerned about a major terrorist attack, but 78 percent of Republicans thought Rand Paul would make a good president.
This reflects ignorance among some Republicans about the nature of the Kentucky senator’s anti-NSA campaign—which has taken the form of a class action lawsuit against the agency—and how it could undermine counter-terrorism efforts.
The senator’s flip-flops may contribute to the confusion about his actual position.
He voted against the recent anti-NSA bill in the Senate because he said he didn’t think it went far enough in crippling the intelligence agency. The bill failed to pass.
In a David Nather article, Politico characterized this as “Rand Doesn’t Stand,” a play on words on one of the senator’s favorite slogans, “Stand with Rand.”
In this case, Rand was “standing” on both sides of the issue, sort of like former Senator John Kerry (D-MA) voting for a bill before opposing it. Now, Rand’s friends in the ACLU are upset with the GOP’s “most famous libertarian,” the article states.
However, Nather says the defeat of the bill means that Paul “can keep speaking out against intrusive surveillance practices, and maintain his unique brand within the Republican Party, without having to go through the kind of lengthy debate that would have highlighted his tensions with Republican national security hawks.”
In a 2016 Republican presidential primary, Nather argued, the issue would prove “divisive,” as “the purist libertarian beliefs that built the Paul brand are going to keep crashing into traditional Republican standards, especially on national security.” Rand Paul, he argued, will be pulled into a “drawn-out debate” with other Republican contenders.
All of this may be true. But how will the senator makes his case against the NSA if Snowden and his allies have failed to come up with one credible example of an innocent person being injured or damaged by the surveillance?
How will it go over with a Republican audience when Rand Paul repeats his comparison of Edward Snowden’s treason to the disobedience of Martin Luther King Jr.?
What will the senator say when a rival notes that Julian Assange of WikiLeaks fame had once declared he was “a big admirer of Ron Paul and Rand Paul?”
Former officials of the NSA have generally refused to comment on politicians by name. Some have spoken out regarding how Snowden’s disclosures have made it easier for our enemies and adversaries to wage war against us.
But former NSA executive Charlie Speight broke the mold when he published a blog post under the headline, “Rand Paul: Putin’s Best Friend.”
Speight lambasted Sen. Paul’s anti-NSA rhetoric and actions, saying, “Buying into the uneducated, no-deeper-than-headlines ‘scandal’ claiming NSA collecting everyone’s cell phone calls, texts and emails, Paul has decided to attack one of America’s greatest assets.”
He says the result of the anti-NSA campaign “has been to damage the reputation of the single most successful and important intelligence organization in the world. That means, the organization most feared by our adversaries, primarily Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and terrorists.”
He argues that Sen. Paul “is directly enhancing the fortunes of our adversaries, weakening the U.S.’s best interests and putting our country—and her troops—at risk. Rand Paul is becoming an accomplice of Edward Snowden and becoming Vladimir Putin’s and Xi Jinping’s, Kim Jung Un’s, Hassan Rouhani’s and Al Qaeda’s best friend.”
Some may consider these comments a natural defense of an agency that once employed Speight. But it appears that our enemies also acknowledge the damage Snowden has done.
Zhang Zhaozhong, professor at the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) National Defense University, is quoted in the pro-China Global Times as saying, “The damage to the U.S. of Edward Snowden’s flight equals the loss of 10 heavy armored divisions.”
Snowden’s “flight,” of course, was to Russia through Hong Kong, China.
Writer and researcher Nevin Gussack says the quote by the Red Chinese professor is “more of a statement on the impact of an NSA contract employee who posed as a whistleblower and human/civil rights campaigner,” one “who portrayed himself as a victim of the big, bad, evil national security state.”
Snowden’s campaign, Gussack argues, has diverted attention from “the very real threat of Sino-Russian cyber-warfare and other aggressive activities directed at the U.S. It also gives the U.S. a black eye internationally, as well as galvanizing the leftists and the ‘antiwar’ elements amongst the ‘conservatives’ and left-libertarians to cripple the functions of the national security organs.”
He says the professor’s use of the “ten divisions” term is meant to characterize “a knockout blow to an enemy,” a “well-placed, well-timed psychological attack” on the United States that would “cripple our resistance and contribute to our defeat as a power without firing a volley of bullets.”
Admiral Michael S. Rogers, Commander of the U.S. Cyber Command and Director of the National Security Agency, spoke about this possibility on Thursday, during testimony before the House Intelligence Committee.
The Reuters news agency account said Rogers’ testimony included a warning that China and “probably one or two” other countries have the ability through cyber-warfare to disrupt or possibly shut down computer systems of U.S. power utilities, aviation networks and financial companies.
So while our media—and politicians like Rand Paul—have been waging war on the NSA, our enemies have been figuring out how to exploit Snowden’s disclosures and destroy the United States.
Cliff Kincaid is the Director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism, and can be contacted at [email protected].