This morning I read Walter Pincus in the Washington Post on the material copied by Edward Snowden that has not yet been published in the West. Whatever his claimed motives, it is now apparent that Snowden may well be the Soviet Union’s greatest intelligence asset since Richard Sorge . Sorge changed the course of history by enabling Stalin to use the Siberian Army against Hitler in the depths of winter 1941, secure in the knowledge that Japan had no plans to attack until Moscow had actually fallen.
Snowden, like Sorge, may have changed the course of history: not just crippling future US counter-intelligence but ending the US dominance of the computing and communications industries as a whole and not “just” the Internet.
I personally am more concerned about we not only extricate the UK from the wreckage, but turn the Snowden affair to advantage – reinforcing the position of the City of London (as proxy for four million jobs across the UK, from Chatham to Carlisle) as the world’s trusted on-line intermediary, akin to its position in fnancial services, shipping and freight forwarding.
Given that Chinese “due dilligence” (alias their “penetration testing” exercises) has shown that the UK financial services security infrastructures are rather more robust than those of the NSA, I am quite hopeful.
That raises the question of why they are.
Some years ago a major fraud in New York used a trap door thought to be known only to the NSA. The experience was a major wake up call to both the US and UK financial services. Either the Russians had also found the weaknesses and gone “to the dark side” or former ex-NSA employees had done so. Either way “patriotism was not enough” and former “patriots” might well have “life-style aspirations”.
During the RIPA debate I was told by some of those in the City that they were concerned that GCHQ’s expertise had been hollowed out by their raids for the talent to keep their systems secure from all-comers. They had therefore agreed a self-denying ordinance, including joint funding for collaborative exercises “contracted” to CESG, to ensure that half a dozen key individuals stayed in Cheltenham.
Whether or not those stories are true, most of what has been publicised to date was already known or rumoured across the security communities and those financial services operations who handle the affairs of the world’s sovereign wealth funds and high net worth individuals have long taken great care to avoid having these spied upon by their supposed “friends” as well as their known “foes” (but also perhaps future customers. Hence their use of multiple layers of supposedly redundant and inefficient security technology and their resistance to well-intentioned regulatory initiatives which would, in practice, weaken rather than strengthen, their security and resiliance.
Perhaps Bill Maslin is right (see his comments in response to my blog on Carlos Solari’s book) and Snowden has done us all a favour. But I doubt it will be seen that way by those who will be made redundant by the US high tech industries as their business shrink.