Meet Bradford Smith, the “Tech World’s Envoy”

A lawyer that you can like–and other compliments abound for this corporate leader who combines policy knowledge with negotiation skills.  Bradford Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel, plays a key role on both coasts and around the glob–much like a diplomat-in-chief for tech interests.

Coalition building isn’t just for diplomats:

And in the fall of 2013, Mr. Smith and Erika Rottenberg, the general counsel of LinkedIn, the social media company, organized a meeting of general counsels from a half dozen or so major technology companies to talk about further unifying their efforts to press for government change. The meeting, in a private dining room of a restaurant in Palo Alto, Calif., eventually led to the formation of the Reform Government Surveillance coalition, which counts Google, Facebook, Twitter, Apple, Microsoft and LinkedIn as members.

“He’s good glue for those kinds of groups because of his policy skills and general intelligence,” Bruce Sewell, the general counsel of Apple, said of Mr. Smith.

via Microsoft’s Top Lawyer Is the Tech World’s Envoy – NYTimes.com.

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Attributes for Espionage

The sparse but effective prose of Kai Bird in his new book on Robert Ames, one of the CIA’s most effective Middle East hands, paints the careful operator in this way:

People warmed to him because he took an interest in them. Ames liked to wear Western boots, but he was more John le Carré than Louis L’Amour. A colleague described him as being “anonymous, perceptive, knowledgeable, highly motivated, critical, discreet — with a priest’s and cop’s understanding of the complexity of human nature in action.”
Mr. Bird

via The Good Spy

Defending the Actions of Snowden?

As Fareed Zakaria noted on his CNN GPS program today, smart people are starting to make that case that Snowden’s leaks have served U.S. national interests, moving to a more “multi-polar internet” as one commentator notes.

Most national security professionals still don’t agree, but this may be a change in the dominant view.  Edward Luce’s main arguments:

  • “Snowden reminds us there is more at stake over America’s sprawling data intelligence complex than hunting terrorists.”
  • “Nowadays anyone can download enough classified information to construct Tolstoyan epics about US espionage. Here too, Mr Snowden’s actions have been helpful.”
  • Obama now has the reason to reform the national security system, to repair the post 9/11 overcorrection.

To sum up, Luce notes that America’s soft power is taking a relative hit over these NSA spy leaks, and the US President has a chance to change the view of US power, from its “coming to stand for Big Brother” to an emphasis on the positive aspects.

via Edward Snowden has done us all a favour – even Barack Obama – FT.com.

Merkel Challenges Obama on the Nature of National Friendship

Among friends, spying in bad form.  What does it say about the relationship of nations? Business as usual or a breach of trust?

The angry allegation by the German government that the National Security Agency monitored the cellphone of Chancellor Angela Merkel may force President Obama into making a choice he has avoided for years: whether to continue the age-old game of spying on America’s friends and risk undercutting cooperation with important partners in tracking terrorists, managing the global economy and slowing Iran’s nuclear program.

via Allegation of U.S. Spying on Merkel Puts Obama at Crossroads – NYTimes.com.

The debate is on. Is it time for a Euro-pivot?

Northern Spy Lifts Cloak on Koreas’ Deadly Rivalry – NYTimes.com

A spy novel that is real– in the form of a literary memoir by Kim Dong-sik–makes for an incredible read with insights into the black hole of North Korean society:

“I wrote the memoir so that my sons will read it when they get old enough to understand who their father was,” he said. “Sometimes I think my life was like a movie. I wish it had been just that.”

via Northern Spy Lifts Cloak on Koreas’ Deadly Rivalry – NYTimes.com.

Have a Nice Day, N.S.A. – NYTimes.com

Brazil’s president pulled a “Dilma Bolada.” Everyone else in the one of the world’s newest rising powers has another strategy to confound the NSA:

It has become something of a joke among my friends in Brazil to, whenever you write a personal e-mail, include a few polite lines addressed to the agents of the N.S.A., wishing them a good day or a Happy Thanksgiving. Sometimes I’ll add a few extra explanations and footnotes about the contents of the message, summarizing it and clarifying some of the Portuguese words that could be difficult to translate.

Other people have gone so far as to send nonsensical e-mails just to confuse N.S.A. agents. For example: first use some key words to attract their surveillance filters, like “chemical brothers,” “chocolate bombs” or “stop holding my heart hostage, my emotions are like a blasting of fundamentalist explosion” (one of my personal favorites, inspired by an online sentence-generator designed to confound the N.S.A.).

via Have a Nice Day, N.S.A. – NYTimes.com.

As Brazil Snubs the U.S., Who Loses? – Room for Debate – NYTimes.com

As Brazil Snubs the U.S., Who Loses? A discussion among Oliver Stuenkiel, Julia Sweig, Mauicio Snatoro, Eric Farnsworth, and Joao Augusto de Castro Neves on what may have been no big deal–but could also portend something more.

via As Brazil Snubs the U.S., Who Loses? – Room for Debate – NYTimes.com.