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Ex-MI6 Deputy Chief: ‘Serious Actors’ Already Knew About NSA’s Techniques Before Snowden

Glyn Moody
Tech Dirt [1]
September 16, 2013

One of the key issues in the debate surrounding Snowden’s leaks is whether they might be threatening [2] our security by letting the bad people know what the NSA and GCHQ are up to. Nigel Inkster, former deputy chief of the UK’s foreign intelligence agency, MI6, doesn’t think so [3]:

“I sense that those most interested in the activities of the NSA and GCHQ have not been told very much they didn’t know already or could have inferred.”

Al-Qaida leaders in the tribal areas of Pakistan had been “in the dark” for some time — in the sense that they had not used any form of electronic media that would “illuminate” their whereabouts, Inkster said. He was referring to counter measures they had taken to avoid detection by western intelligence agencies.

Other “serious actors” were equally aware of the risks to their own security from NSA and GCHQ eavesdroppers, he said.

That’s an important point, since it means that all the undoubted benefits of disclosing some information about the massive surveillance being conducted — for example, further important revelations of widespread NSA abuse [4] of its powers — are not undermined by any countervailing damage. It supports the view that the leaks so far have been made in a responsible way, and suggests that continuing to do so would be in the public interest. It also underlines why we should celebrate Snowden as a whisteblower who has performed a valuable service, not as a “traitor”, since nothing of value was passed to the enemy.