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Weissman writes: "The hornets' nest that Ed Snowden stirred up has already cost the US economy an estimated $180 billion, and the damage will likely become a full-fledged disaster."

Edward Snowden. (illustration: Jason Seiler/TIME Magazine)
Edward Snowden. (illustration: Jason Seiler/TIME Magazine)

US Intelligence? Not Even Close

By Steve Weissman, Reader Supported News

23 May 14


emember oxymorons, those incongruous, paradoxical, and seemingly self-contradicting terms like jumbo shrimp, military justice, and Congressional ethics? Add one to your list: US Intelligence.

Whatever one thinks of Edward Snowden – and I admit to being a fan from the start – his ability to walk away with the National Security Agency’s family jewels hardly makes the US intelligence community look intelligent.

Nor does the stunning failure of US spooks to foresee how Vladimir Putin would react to Washington and its European allies stage-managing an anti-Russian coup in Kiev (Part I and Part II) and openly challenging Moscow for control of the Eurasian heartland.

To avoid confusing readers still mired in the Cold War, I am not siding with Putin or jumping from one side to the other. In annexing Crimea, Putin broke international law and Russia's treaty commitments to Ukraine. By placing his troops near Ukraine's border, he heightened the threat level much too high, including the threat of a nuclear accident. But the greater blame goes to Washington and its European allies for provoking the crisis – and for doing it with such rotten intelligence.

Back in September, when Bill and Hillary Clinton graced the Ukrainian oligarch Victor Pinchuk's Yalta European Strategy (YES) conference in Crimea, they joined with other global leaders to encourage then-president Viktor Yanukovych and other Ukrainian leaders to press ahead with the country’s turn toward Brussels and away from Moscow. They thought it was a done deal, and Hillary even gave a public political blessing to the oligarch Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine’s “chocolate king,” who is widely expected to become the country’s next president in the election this Sunday.

If they were listening, the Clintons also heard Vladimir Putin’s man on Ukraine – the economist Sergey Glazyev – warn that Moscow would never accept Ukraine's moving so deeply into the Western orbit. Glazyev pointedly asked whether Europe was prepared to pay the billions of dollars Ukraine owed Russia’s Gazprom for past purchases of natural gas. He also threatened that Russian-speaking separatist groups in Ukraine’s south and east could cause Russia to consider current borders void. Rupert Murdoch's Times of London even reported on Glazyev’s views under the headline “Russia threatens to back Ukraine split.”

Where was US Intelligence? Not the spooks who were helping US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt organize and fund the “civil society” opposition that took to the Maidan, first to pressure Yanukovych and then to overthrow him. But the eyes and ears and analysts whose surveillance state is supposed to know everybody’s secrets. Where was their understanding of what Washington and its European allies would provoke Putin to do?

The costs of their failure are now obvious. Putin has Crimea with its naval bases, submarine pens, and vast undersea oil and gas deposits, and will not have to spend a single kopeck trying to rebuild the desolate rust-belt economy of the Ukrainian south and east. Ukraine’s likely new president, Poroshenko – a master of the oligarchic corruption that plagues his country – has spoken out against a referendum on joining NATO and seems likely to find a negotiated settlement with Putin. Billions of dollars from Europe and the International Monetary Fund will go to Moscow to pay off Ukraine’s past debts. German industrialists, London bankers, and other European business people have rebelled against any serious sanctions that would hurt their thriving business with Russia. Gazprom has just signed a 30-year, $400 billion deal to provide China with natural gas, making Russia Beijing’s junior partner and seriously setting back Washington’s grab for Eurasia. And, unless Washington and its NATO allies do something else really stupid, Putin will pull his troops back from the Ukrainian border and walk away the winner.

US Intelligence? Not even close.

But wait. Step away from Ukraine and US Intelligence looks even more oxymoronic. The hornets’ nest that Ed Snowden stirred up has already cost the US economy an estimated $180 billion, and the damage will likely become a full-fledged disaster.

A dramatic new twist on the story appeared last week after Glenn Greenwald published his wonderfully readable “No Place to Hide.” Glenn also released a new batch of Snowden’s NSA documents. As most of you probably know, one of those documents contains NSA photographs of technicians from their Tailored Access Operations (TAO) unit intercepting packages of servers, routers, and other network gear from Cisco Systems, and implanting a beacon into the device, which allowed NSA to monitor the transmission of information. The NSA technicians then repackaged the device and sent it on to the customer.

Seeing the widely circulated photographs, Cisco was horrified. According to the Financial Times , Cisco’s CEO John Chambers wrote to President Obama demanding “‘standards of conduct’ to rein in government surveillance so that national security objectives do not interfere with the US’s leading position in the global technology market.”

Marc Andreessen, a venture capitalist and one of Silicon Valley’s legendary figures, voiced similar sentiments this week. “The level of trust in U.S. companies has been seriously damaged, especially but not exclusively outside the U.S.,” he said. “Every time a new shoe drops — and there are 10,000 of them — it serves a blow to the U.S.”

No one should expect Cisco, Microsoft, Google, Facebook and other digital giants to stand up against the NSA or lead a serious movement against the surveillance state. As “No Place to Hide” and Snowden’s NSA documents show in gruesome detail, these folks have been too much part of the problem for much too long, and they simply want the controversy and the whistleblowers to go away. A far better bet is that individual scientists and technicians will create spy-free alternatives, and many of their efforts will find homes beyond US borders.

“Already, a number of European tech companies are promoting their emails and chat services as an alternative to offerings from Google and Facebook, trumpeting the fact that they do not – and will not – provide user data to the NSA,” Greenwald writes in the epilogue to “No Place to Hide.”

Snowden himself has gone even further. Speaking by videoconference to the South by Southwest conference in March, he urged developers, cryptographers, and privacy activists to make mass surveillance significantly more expensive for government agencies – if not impossible.

According to The New York Times, one of the audience twittered a question. Could any data ever be truly safe from a malicious hacker or the NSA?

“Let’s put it this way,” Snowden said with a bit of a laugh. “The United States government has assembled a massive investigation team into me personally, into my work with journalists, and they still have no idea you know what documents were provided to the journalists, what they have, what they don’t have, because encryption works.”

In other words, the surveillance state is neither inevitable nor unbeatable, and it’s oxymoronic to think that it is.

A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly Ramparts, Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France, where he is researching a new book, "Big Money and the Corporate State: How Global Banks, Corporations, and Speculators Rule and How to Nonviolently Break Their Hold."

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


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For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

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Founder, Reader Supported News

+56 # DaveM 2014-05-23 09:42
Edward Snowden did not cause the problem. He merely made it public. This sort of money has been wasted all along....for who knows how long?

We should note that the Soviet Union collapsed, at least in part, because it went bankrupt. A key ingredient to that bankruptcy was an attempt to match the Reagan Administration' s massive increase in defense spending, as well as the "Star Wars" anti-missile defense program which never existed other than on paper. The last may well be the best large-scale stage illusion ever performed.

Reagan-era deficit spending may well have bankrupted this country also. It just hasn't caught up with us yet.
+26 # A_Har 2014-05-23 10:41
"We should note that the Soviet Union collapsed, at least in part, because it went bankrupt. A key ingredient to that bankruptcy was an attempt to match the Reagan Administration' s massive increase in defense spending, as well as the "Star Wars" anti-missile defense program which never existed other than on paper. The last may well be the best large-scale stage illusion ever performed".

This is not altogether accurate reletive to winning because of the massive increase in defense spending although it is the narrative pushed by the MSM in this country. One of the things that happened that pushed it over the edge was a decline in oil prices which was set up by the USA and Saudi Arabia that lowered oil prices. Russia was and is a major oil exporter and this made a mess of their economy:

"Why did the Soviet Union collapse? Two major factors caused this massive break down, namely the weakened political structure and economic problems. The United States, under former President Ronald Reagan, convinced Saudi Arabia to reduce their oil prices. In doing so, the U.S.S.R cannot profit from its very own oil products. This move resulted in the depletion of the hard currency reserves of the Soviet Union."

Also, the drain of the Afghan war did not help them either. There is a reason they can wars in Afghanistan "The Graveyard of Empires." The USA itself is now bankrupt and stands to suffer the same fate: a collapse
+15 # polfrosch 2014-05-24 00:56
You are dead right.

The core points of Reagans strategy against the USSR were:

- Raise the defence spending through massive weapons programs intended to be interpreted as war preparations by the USSR

- Minimize the income by lowering the oil price (and this is the reason for the special relationship with Saudi Arabia ever since!!!)

- Provoke and humble the USSR with aggressive military operations which could be misinterpreted as first strike operations (which brought us as close to WW3 as the cuban missile crisis, google "able archer")

- Deception operations against the USSR like establishing the Afghanistan quagmire for USSR (again with the help of Saudi Arabia! Creating Osama Bin Laden!) supporting the polish Solidarnosc and funding muslim fundamentalism in the former USSR.

- Deception operations against allied states which were not in line with this strategy, like Sweden (not neutral but secretly NATO!) and Germany. This was directed against the successful "Common Security Strategy" of Olof Palme, Egon Bahr and Michail Gorbachev.

Gorbachev even proposed this "Common Security Strategy", but the USA wanted unilateral world domination.

Now the rest of the world suffers from this megalomanic idea of a unilateral world, the "Project for a New American Century", or the "end of history", "Full Spectrum Dominance", worldwide NSA surveillance, whatever you want to call it, the idea got many names.
+11 # polfrosch 2014-05-24 01:27
Also, Steve Weissman mentions gas in the Ukraine, links to the New York Times article - but that article meticulously avoids essential points.

The FRACKING which had been organized with the oligarchs in Ukraine.

See this about the shale gas in Ukraine.

Shortly before the coup in Ukraine treaties with SECRET CONTENT were signed which have a duration of 50 years (!) with Chevron, Shell and Exon Mobile.

Just one of these deals:

This is my main criticism of Steve Weissman: he is somewhat naive regarding US foreign policy.

I don´t assume that US intelligence did not know about Russias position and response. It´s just not important.

The US "Deep State" structure, which includes an elite of the intelligence system, e.g. the oil giants, politicians, military -maybe even Obama- which takes these decisions and governs USA bypassing and making use of the constitutional institutions just doesn´t care.

This is not an accident or failure.

This is their geostrategic agenda: regime change and civil war and access to ressources and market-dominati on, in Libya, Egypt, Syria and now also in Ukraine and latest Nigeria and soon to come other African nations. And then in the pacific area.

Wake up.
+10 # polfrosch 2014-05-24 01:36
Look at this:

Vice President Joe Biden’s youngest son R. Hunter Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry’s family friend Devon Archer were appointed to the board of directors of Ukraines biggest private gas company.
+31 # tigerlillie 2014-05-23 09:47
Ha. It might be easier to shorten the term oxymoronic to moronic.

What we are witnessing is the inevitable dissolution of the U.S. as the dominant world power, which is as it should be. The U.K. had their down fall, now it is our turn. Unfortunately that inevitable decline is very difficult for those of us in this country who are financially vulnerable. Combine that with the environmental disaster, and holy crap. Interesting times.
+4 # theshift 33 2014-05-25 02:17
Agreed and it's coming faster than the U.S. populace will be ready for. Grab your investments and figure out what you are going to do. The warnings are out there as the global masters, plan, organize, direct and control the orchestration of all this. The de-dollarizatio n of the U.S. dollar is next. n-of-russia-china-trade-mutual-payments-in-rubles-and-renminbi/5383064 AND
+31 # tomwalker8 2014-05-23 10:00
How Orwellian is it to acknowledge that a massive abuse of government power has been ongoing for years, and at the same time to banish the source of that knowledge because of his expectation that his disclosures will result in his incarceration? We are not just lost, but becoming more so every day.
+35 # reiverpacific 2014-05-23 10:32
Just tickles you to death to be paying taxes to keep this mockery of a "Security" apparatus goin' dunnit!?
+8 # torch and pitchfork 2014-05-23 10:38
" "Star Wars" anti-missile defense program which never existed other than on paper. The last may well be the best large-scale stage illusion ever performed." I think this is second, the first being the invention of Easter Sunday.
+3 # kalpal 2014-05-23 20:48
The Israelis produced a viable missile defense system and the USA is investing heavily in it so as to forestall anyone else buying parts of it. Saint Ronnie's efforts were a product of demented brain and a rosy expectation that American science can conquer and solve every problem.
+27 # A_Har 2014-05-23 11:08
"In annexing Crimea, Putin broke international law"....

This is not true, but it certainly is a constantly repeated meme in the western press. The Crimeans voted *overwhelmingly * to JOIN UP with Russia under the same criterion that was applied relative to Kosavo when it removed itself from Serbia. You seem to operate here under a double standard. Democracy fine when it favors the west, but it is not OK in this situation.

Also, considering what has happened in the eastern Ukraine to ethnic Russians in relation to the massacres, it looks rather life threatening to them to stay with the Ukraine. It seems to me that it was a wise move for them to join Russia with whom they have centuries long historic TIES.


The Key Man Behind the May 2nd Odessa Ukraine Trade Unions Building Massacre: His Many Connections to the White House

Posted on May 18, 2014 by WashingtonsBlog

I feel sorry for the Ukrainians caught up in the meddling and destabilization that the USA spent $5billion to promote.
+9 # dascher 2014-05-23 16:42

Weissman should try not to forget EVERYTHING that was going on before the Maidan protests. The democratically elected dirty crook Yanukovych was not too dirty for NATO and the EU to work with until he backed away from whatever deal he was cutting to sell them the country (presumably with him getting a nice commission). Once he backed away from the deal, he became an undemocratic, corrupt, s.o.b. who had to be chased out of office.

From the point of view of those who voted FOR Yanukovych, primarily people in the 'eastern ukraine', this was a coup that overturned the legitimate government. Resistance to that coup has been portrayed in the West as 'pro-Russian' and 'Putin-manipulated'.

That is a complete distortion of the reality of what occurred.
+3 # polfrosch 2014-05-24 02:39
Watch this excellent news piece from german public tv with english subtitles about the Maidan sniper murders:

look for the part where they prove with laser pointers directed through the bullet tracks in trees where the snipers were located.
+10 # Douglas Jack 2014-05-23 11:38
Great article Steve & hopeful. Snowden's forced move to Russia is a miracle for humanity.
With Russia, China & Iran joining into a Eurasian currency block, the USA loses monopoly on world oil-currency trades & ability to 'print' unlimited money.
1st Saddam Hussein began trading off of US Dollar Oil & was invaded. 2nd Muammar Gaddafi trading in African gold-backed Dinar was immediately invaded. Western oligarchs know currency control is their key weakness. 3rd US funded Ukraine putsch is another violent attempt to break the once Communist sphere.
NSA & US, Canadian, NATO & Israeli governments are only a front for western oligarch colonial trillionaires (hidden masters of billionaire control of the political process, media & computerized voting) who on every front are in the process of trying to gain world resource & population control. Trillionaire control harks back to the European aristocrat funded Crusades, plundering of the Middle-east, conquering of Africa & the Americas. They promulgated holocausts of 100s of millions in each of Africa, Americas & Worldwide colonizations.
Western colonial minded oligarchs are presently destabilizing over 80 less compliant nations worldwide through: funding mercenaries, arming violent dissidents for terrorism in: Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Venezuela, Cuba, Nigeria, Congo, Ukraine etc. Oligarchs colonise ideals rather than culture collective actuality.
+11 # GrittedTeeth 2014-05-23 11:51
I entirely agree with the comment, but I have a problem with the notion of John Chambers of CISCO being mortified. I believe that the CEO of CISCO has been on the governing board of the NSA (or vice versa - NSA have reps on the CISCO leadership governance). This guy has been a part of this nefarious machinery. Methinks the CEO doth protest too much.
+9 # Rockster 2014-05-23 12:36
I was working in banking , when the computers got fast enough that humans need not actually underwrite loans. The absolute greedy glee with which the bosses embraced this accelerated mechanized process was unsettling at the time but lite did we know...... These are similar control patterns and mass manipulations of data which the world is reaping the whirlwind of now. I recognize the phony bravado of the upper level management in "intelligence business" as the same as the pretend understanding of the rate setting and underwriting algorithms put in place in banking a couple decades ago. In simple words; they only really knew that $$$ could ow faster and some would stick to them the supposed smart guys really had no clue how the math worked or did not work... And did not care. Guess what; the big intelligence industry scam does not know nor does it care either . Just look at the Snowden evidence. Too bad for all of us since we know how this ends.....
+12 # Gere 2014-05-23 12:54
As I read the damage done by those we trust to operate our government I could be reminded of history repeating itself. I could see another parallel to the inevitability of world leaders reaching the end of their rope - history repeats.... But we are about to enter a new and historic time that has not ever been faced by the human race. It is like the invasion of the aliens.

Was it yesterday that the House voted to stop the military from diverting money from buying oil so they could instead try to help mitigate climate change? We can't look at the past anymore. We all need to do whatever we can to convince our city governments to make our cities sustainable by ending every way we contribute to climate change. We can't do it alone and will never get Congress run by the 1% to do it. Sit down with your brothers and sisters and find a plan that can work. Act on it every day until your city is 100% green. Then show another city here and abroad how to do it. Without our leadership there will never be a new and better US to replace us. Some of us already know the world ends or begins in our lifetime.
+12 # Archie1954 2014-05-23 13:27
What European providers are offering alternatives to Google and Hotmail? I want to ditch those complicit US bastards and go where I can be assured some level of human privacy and decency.
+4 # polfrosch 2014-05-24 02:19
Use as search engines:
Ixquick or Duckduckgo or Startpage

Use encryption for emails: e.g.
for Windows or Linux
Thunderbird plus Addon Enigmail plus GNUPG (open PGP)
for Macs
+4 # kalpal 2014-05-23 20:43
The CIA's failures, spectacular though they have been, are well known worldwide. If it has had any successes, they are and will likely remain state secrets. Neither Snowden nor Wikileaks have managed to uncover any signs of US intelligence successes.
+2 # wtvs 2014-05-24 04:34
If the CIA did have successes, I'm pretty sure the word would get out.
+1 # polfrosch 2014-05-24 05:02
The successful CIA operations are those you never heard about.

To a lesser degree those which were effectivly branded in the general public as "conspiracy theory".(The term originates from the Kennedy murder, by the way.)

All operations you know about ARE failures - by definition. They are not secret any more.

(Some of them were probably intentionally leaked to send messages to adversaries.)

If an operation is successful it is of utmost importance to keep it secret so it´s successful methods can be used again.

It may hurt reputation, but it can be very useful if the general public thinks your intelligence service is clumsy, ineffective, dumb and falls over it´s own feet everytime it tries to do something. = CIA

What the general public thinks about your intel service is not important. But you have to make shure your elites know how capable it really is.

Which they take great care of. And it works. This is why they get 80 billion USD per year.

It is also useful -e.g. for funding- if the general public considers adversaries brilliant, effective, threatening and ruthless. =KGB

The CIA had no successes? Really? Who won the cold war? Who toppled one government after the other - to this day in Ukraine? Who rules the world?
+2 # BKnowswhitt 2014-05-23 21:24
Weissman explains what is going on in Ukraine with what appears to be factual. We are beholden to whether or not information provide to us via news sources is acurate or not. For sure none of this is reported in USA main stream media. Laying out these facts about Ukraine if true should be mainstream news and reporting in USA today .. unless he's making it all up .. How 'come we dont' get any of this in our media today? And supposedly we are fighting for democracies and democracy around the world .. 'you think so' ...???
+2 # fenox 2014-05-26 14:09
The answer is simple. Who own the media? And do they belong to the 4% or the 96%?
Where is their interest?
+10 # polfrosch 2014-05-24 02:09
"In other words, the surveillance state is neither inevitable nor unbeatable, and it’s oxymoronic to think that it is."


If Edward Snowden is greeted back home with a ticker parade I would start to believe in that possibility.

But he has to hide, fearing for his life. He is a hero, but the only one among 30.000+ apparatchiks.

All of these other NSA INSOC idiots just obeyed and consider themselves patriotic.

Without Snowden the worldwide total surveillance would still be called "paranoid conspiracy theory".

All of this developed without the media watchdogs ringing alarmbells to the public. They failed miserably.

Snowden offered us a short look into a part of the machine room keeping the worlds hyperpower in command.

The USA became the plague for which it once pretended to be the cure.

Snowden is hunted, state airplanes are grounded to catch him, he faces decades in prison, the intelligence apparatus runs amok, the deep state claims it has to wreck freedom of expression for the press to stop him (the american hero of the 21st century, a true american spirit, the one person you should be proud of, the one person proving to the world there are US intelligence operatives who do believe in the values the USA preached to the world)

and you want to tell me the surveillance state is on the brink of defeat?

Wishful thinking. The struggle has just started, and all we have in our hands is a fork, while the other side has Gatling guns.
+7 # RMDC 2014-05-24 05:38
Yes, "US intelligence" is an oxymoron. Same with "military intelligence" or "defense intelligence." But the people who believe in and run these oxymorons are themseves simply minded and vicious. The kill and imprison people all over the world. They are quite happy with the faulty or false intelligence they have. They just kill.

In fact these so-called "intelligence" agencies are often called on to produce deliberately false intelligence, as in the case of Iraq's non-WMDs. Or any of the false dis-information they release about al Qaeda.

In fact, they are not "intelligence" agencies at all. They are part of a huge propaganda industry run by the US regime in order to fool people into supporting the policies it wants. And what is wants is to kill and dominate people all over the world. For the US regime and the psychopaths who run it, it is all about domination. That's why they want to collect all the information on you possible to collect. They want to control you and kill you if they think it is needed.

You can be damn sure that they are developing plans to assassinate Ed Snowden. It is just a matter of timing.
+4 # fdawei 2014-05-25 06:21
Enough of all the oxymorons!!!
We must finally and forever rid ourselves of all the nincompoops that purport to be able to run this government.
Bernie Sanders for president !
-3 # Leslie Hittner 2014-05-26 09:33
I am less inclined to blame the intelligence community and more inclined to blame the rest of the federal bureaucracy. They are the "customers" who order intelligence operations. While one may question the intelligence operations that are being conducted, there is no indication that our intelligence agencies are running wild right now. They pretty much seem to be doing what they are told.

Any lack of intelligence regarding Russia is probably a fault of the administration, not the intelligence agencies.

Just a thought...
+1 # fenox 2014-05-26 14:25
Leslie Hittner,
Remember how Hoover, the FBI Mongol for forty years had files on all politicians? His connections with the Maffia? The same maffia, he assured the American people didn't exist?
Remember the Kennedy/Kroutch ev trouble over Cuba? A last minute agreement between both to avoid war? No Russian missiles in Cuba, no American attack on Cuba either. The CIA attacked Cuba a few months later....Kenned y was furious.
Remember the Cheney/ Wolfewitz manipulation with the secret services? The WDM/in Iraq? Do you really believe "the government", gave orders?
0 # Leslie Hittner 2014-05-27 15:25
Yes, I do. In the case of Guatemala, for instance, there is evidence that what the CIA did there was with the knowledge and support of the White House. I first blame the politicians.
-4 # Leslie Hittner 2014-05-26 09:36
BTW. The cost to IBM and others is because of Snowden's revelations, not because of the collection efforts themselves. Any breach of an intelligence operation comes with costs - in lives - in dollars - in confidence - in alliances.

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