Friday, June 28, 2013

Rigging for Silent Running?

I never like the argument that minimized the effects of Snowden's NSA revelations by saying, "Of course jihadis knew we were listening in." I did not assume that. The Internet is so useful that it would be natural to gravitate to it if nobody was rubbing your face in the fact that we could tap that communications grid.

Jihadis are changing their use of the Internet, it seems:

U.S. intelligence agencies are scrambling to salvage their surveillance of al-Qaida and other terrorists who are working frantically to change how they communicate after a National Security Agency contractor leaked details of two NSA spying programs. It's an electronic game of cat-and-mouse that could have deadly consequences if a plot is missed or a terrorist operative manages to drop out of sight.

Two U.S. intelligence officials say members of virtually every terrorist group, including core al-Qaida, are attempting to change how they communicate, based on what they are reading in the media, to hide from U.S. surveillance — the first time intelligence officials have described which groups are reacting to the leaks. The officials spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to speak about the intelligence matters publicly.

Assuming this is true, damage was done. Jihadis might have assumed we listened in and took steps to encrypt their use that they were confident would work. They could have been wrong. Or they could have been right but they didn't realize that we could learn a lot just by analyzing the patterns of communication.

Unless Snowden is actually working for us (wittingly or unwittingly)--and Lord I hope we are good enough to not make that notion laughable--I'm still on the side of Snowden being a criminal or traitor rather than a hero.

And unless I read more that the safeguards against abuse to target civil rights rather than jihadis are inadequate, I'm inclined to continue defending the administration's program.

But I'm persuadable.