Who has done more than anyone else to increase public understanding of what the National Security Agency does? A top-10 list would have to include James Bamford, its first and most prolific journalistic chronicler, and Glenn Greenwald, a primary recipient of classified documents leaked months ago by whistleblower Edward Snowden. Over the weekend, I engaged in a back-and-forth with a former NSA employee who harshly criticized both (and me, too) with words that illuminate how some insiders view the press and the national-security state.
His name is John R. Schindler. In his own words, he is a “professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College, where he’s been since 2005, and where he teaches courses on security, strategy, intelligence, terrorism, and occasionally military history.” He previously spent “nearly a decade with the National Security Agency as an intelligence analyst and counterintelligence officer,” and he is “a senior fellow of the International History Institute at Boston University and is chairman of the Partnership for Peace Consortium's Combating Terrorism Working Group, a unique body which brings together scholars and practitioners from more than two dozen countries across Eurasia to tackle problems of terrorism, extremism, and political violence.” In addition, hisbloghas some smart commentary on it.
He is certainly a surveillance-state expert. In comparison, I started writing regularly about surveillance in June when the Snowden story broke. If we’re going by the dictionary definition, Schindler is correct that I am a neophyte, “a person who is new to a subject, skill, or belief.” As Schindler and I interacted on Twitter, a predictable divide opened up between his followers, who are generally supportive of the surveillance state, and mine, who are more skeptical of it. Highlighting parts of our exchange* will permit me to better explain what it is that many of us “outsiders” find so frustrating about how “insiders” treat this subject.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]