Where’s Waldo?

In the TS/SBI/LIMDIS/NOFORN/CODEWORD National Security Agency soap opera edition of “Where’s Waldo”, our Waldo, Edward Snowden, is allegedly still at the Moscow airport transit area.

NSA logoReading that the U.S. asked Russia to send Snowden home-made me wonder if Secretary of State John Kerry managed to keep a straight, Botox chiseled, face doing so. Great future as a stand-up comedy ‘straight man’ if he could.

So Snowden gets to do the Casablanca waiting game, at airport bar prices. After some leftist chain pulling theatrical swipes at the U.S.A., the Equadorans all-too-quickly yanked their safe transit document offer.  Some diplomat originally from Quito will be “punished” with an embassy assignment in Chad with a full body condom in this diplo-Kabuki face-saving dance. Ole Mockba is a rather expensive city these days, and film director Steven Spielberg already paid a reported quarter mil plus residuals for a Iranian dude’s seventeen year Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport transit lounge marathon stay story. Mr. Snowden’s stock value is plummeting with an ENRON trajectory.

The six-figure college dropout ex-Booz Allen & Hamilton systems administrator coyly showed some leg under his slip to capture the world’s attention, but even if he managed to evade agency access controls and audit trails, there’s a limit to how much intel gold he was able to copy onto his thumb drives. Remember, intelligence is a very old craft for everyone but Americans; the Russian experience dates back to the Czars. Our amateur is finding out that he is dealing with first class intelligence agencies who frankly expect the Gen X gadfly to “put out.”  Snowden is out of his depth in the spy biz, and the NSA is down to figuring out what beans Snowden had to spill. Damage control.

It was frankly easier back when secrets were sold for cash. Fox News ought to be trumpeting Moscow’s Reaganesque “free market” progress. The Russians don’t shoot spies any more; the recent espionage trials there put offenders in prison for a decade or two.  Blood-stained “confessions” before being shot right after a Andrey Januarevich Vyshinsky-ringmastered 1930s purge show trial went out with “world socialism in our time.”  Now Russian spies do it for the money. The rates have gone up.

Yes, we have had a couple of NSA government employees over the past several decades seek to quickly bail themselves out of financial difficulty by selling secrets long ago. They’re in Federal prison finding out how damned patriotic ordinary decent criminals can be. Child molesters have more fun behind bars than spies, and the perverts aren’t popular. Back when spooks were on the government payroll instead of being privatized, they never saw the princely paychecks of a contractor such as Snowden.

The price of Snowden’s compromising revelations will set the treasury and we taxpayers back some millions.  The scandal will prompt us to examine our intelligence gathering and analysis in the decades to come a bit more messily than we would have desired.  It’s foolish to think we can stuff the intel genie back in the bottle. Nobody gets a second go at virginity. Reagan’s Bronx cowboy CIA director, Bill Casey, was spot on when he wrote “intelligence saves blood and treasure.”  It is much cheaper, even at black project contractor rates, than shooting wars, without the horrific human toll of combat of arms.  Nobody “wins” wars any more.

Privatization over the past dozen years may well have expanded intelligence processing quicker, but it has also produced huge profits, from a bloated, duplicative, privatized intelligence empire in need of the Jenny Craig Mogadishu diet.

There’s a balance between privacy and security which needs examining and adult discussion. The requirement for a level of secrecy in a dangerous world means it will need to be done in secret in Congress. Unfortunately, this is the same dysfunctional Congress which put the likes of Rep. Mindless Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) on its’ “ntelligence” committee.

The needed exorcism will not be cheap. It’s here, and we’ll just have to deal with it.