Tag Archives: espionage

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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.


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The Spies Inside Damascus – By Ronen Bergman | Foreign Policy

Syria is not North Korea.  Espionage is alive and well inside conflict arena:

“We have a very extensive knowledge of what is happening in Syria. Our ability to collect information there is profound. Israel is the eyes and ears, sometimes exclusively, sometimes as complementary aid, to what the U.S. intelligence is able or unable to collect itself,” Maj. Gen. Uri Sagi, Israels former chief of military intelligence, told me on Sept. 19. While the threat of an American attack on Syria — and a possible Syrian counterattack on Israel — has subsided for the moment, the Israeli-American efforts to penetrate the Assad regime continue. This is a history of those efforts.

via The Spies Inside Damascus – By Ronen Bergman | Foreign Policy.

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How Raymond Davis Helped Turn Pakistan Against the United States – NYTimes.com

A spy tale of a “diplomat”–that just happens to be true–explains a lot about the complex challenge to understand Pakistan.

With Davis sitting in prison, Munter argued that it was essential to go immediately to the head of the I.S.I. at the time, Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, to cut a deal. The U.S. would admit that Davis was working for the C.I.A., and Davis would quietly be spirited out of the country, never to return again. But the C.I.A. objected. Davis had been spying on a militant group with extensive ties to the I.S.I., and the C.I.A. didn’t want to own up to it. Top C.I.A. officials worried that appealing for mercy from the I.S.I. might doom Davis. He could be killed in prison before the Obama administration could pressure Islamabad to release him on the grounds that he was a foreign diplomat with immunity from local laws — even those prohibiting murder. On the day of Davis’s arrest, the C.I.A. station chief told Munter that a decision had been made to stonewall the Pakistanis. Don’t cut a deal, he warned, adding, Pakistan is the enemy.

The strategy meant that American officials, from top to bottom, had to dissemble both in public and in private about what exactly Davis had been doing in the country. On Feb. 15, more than two weeks after the shootings, President Obama offered his first comments about the Davis affair. The matter was simple, Obama said in a news conference: Davis, “our diplomat in Pakistan,” should be immediately released under the “very simple principle” of diplomatic immunity. “If our diplomats are in another country,” said the president, “then they are not subject to that country’s local prosecution.”

Calling Davis a “diplomat” was, technically, accurate. He had been admitted into Pakistan on a diplomatic passport. But there was a dispute about whether his work in the Lahore Consulate, as opposed to the American Embassy in Islamabad, gave him full diplomatic immunity under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. And after the shootings in Lahore, the Pakistanis were not exactly receptive to debating the finer points of international law. As they saw it, Davis was an American spy who had not been declared to the I.S.I. and whom C.I.A. officials still would not admit they controlled. General Pasha, the I.S.I. chief, spoke privately by phone and in person with Leon Panetta, then the director of the C.I.A., to get more information about the matter. He suspected that Davis was a C.I.A. employee and suggested to Panetta that the two spy agencies handle the matter quietly. Meeting with Panetta, he posed a direct question.

via How Raymond Davis Helped Turn Pakistan Against the United States – NYTimes.com.

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Booklist | John le Carré on Creating Spy Fiction

Spies and diplomats commingle, sometimes occupying the same public-private spaces such as embassies and international organizations.  So when the belle lettres of spy novelists speaks, its worth a listen.

The merit of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, then – or its offence, depending where you stood – was not that it was authentic, but that it was credible. The bad dream turned out to be one that a lot of people in the world were sharing, since it asked the same old question that we are asking ourselves 50 years later: how far can we go in the rightful defence of our western values, without abandoning them along the way? My fictional chief of the British Service – I called him Control – had no doubt of the answer:”I mean, you cant be less ruthless than the opposition simply because your governments policy is benevolent, can you now?”

Today, the same man, with better teeth and hair and a much smarter suit, can be heard explaining away the catastrophic illegal war in Iraq, or justifying medieval torture techniques as the preferred means of interrogation in the 21st century, or defending the inalienable right of closet psychopaths to bear semi-automatic weapons, and the use of unmanned drones as a risk-free method of assassinating ones perceived enemies and anybody who has the bad luck to be standing near them. Or, as a loyal servant of his corporation, assuring us that smoking is harmless to the health of the third world, and great banks are there to serve the public.

What have I learned over the last 50 years? Come to think of it, not much. Just that the morals of the secret world are very like our own.

via John le Carré: I was a secret even to myself | Books | The Guardian.

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