Writing in Lebanon’s Daily Star, former CIA officer and author Robert Baer opines that we have been sold a bill of goods about the effectiveness of vacuum-cleaner surveillance. In the process, he demolishes the claims of success that are commonly used by the surveillance cadre to trumpet their effectiveness.
My suspicion throughout has been that
- they surveil because they can;
- because they can, they want to;
- because they want to, they need a cover story;
- because they need a cover story, “surveillance works”;
- because “surveillance works,” they can;
- because they can, they want to . . . .
It’s the best catch there is.
A nugget from the article. Consider the rest your weekend assignment.
Washington is simply overdramatizing the value of this type of information. I haven’t heard of any NSA program that has prompted an investigation that stopped people from being killed.Take the case of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who died in a car-bomb blast in 2005. After the assassination, investigators trolled the data and found there were eight suspicious phone calls around the time of his death. But they only found the evidence after the fact. They weren’t able to anticipate the murder – there’s simply too much data to examine unless you can narrow it down somehow.