THE BLOG
10/24/2013 08:50 am ET Updated Dec 24, 2013

Did They Think They Would Get Away With it Forever?

co-authored by Dr. Stephen Bryen, CEO Ziklag Systems

Now we know that among world leaders, NSA allegedly spied on Angela Merkel's mobile phone. We don't know what mobile phone Angela Merkel uses, but we can guess that it is a special model that was made for her by Germany's secret services. And it probably has the same flaw that all these bandaid phones have --it put on top of a regular commercial platform some encryption for voice. This is a half measure at best because the phone itself can still be targeted and most commercial phones are an agglomeration of spaghetti code that any 12 year old will delight in exploiting.

Merkel was deeply offended that "her" phone was tapped by the U.S. government. No doubt she knew very well what happened to Mexico's President and his cabinet and leading law enforcement officials. The same happened in Brazil. And in France too. So why would Merkel think she was anything special?

Well, it is clear she was just another "box" to be checked on the list of "authorized" targets. And the targets were more a group of our "friends" than our enemies, or so it seems.

We do know from various news reports that NSA are not just a bunch of Boy Scouts out targeting anything that moves. At least for high level targets permission is needed, and it seems this permission must come from the National Security Council and from the White House, with the President signing off on the targets before NSA puts its billions of dollars of equipment to the task at hand.

In effect, therefore, there is culpability all the way up and all the way down too.

This puts in play a few questions that should be answered.

First and foremost, did our leaders really believe that they would not eventually be found out? While the Snowden case is truly extraordinary, in any organization there not only are Snowdens, but there are also likely to be a fair number of spies, not all of them coming from hostile powers.

Did the British, our partners in crime, know about the authorized targets and did they aid and abet the effort?

Did our partners actually know what was going on, but preferred not to complain so long as it was a private matter? Or were they truly surprised?

Why would the President of the United States risk his credibility and viability as President to spy on generally reliable allies? Was there enough benefit to offset the risk?

Is this just a higher level version of the Jofi Joseph syndrome. Jofi Joseph, a key player on the National Security Staff, was fired this week because he was tweeting all kinds of blasphemous stuff over Twitter under an assumed name. He was found out because the pattern of attacks led investigators to zero in on him. He was a 40 year old top NSA staffer responsible for nuclear non-proliferation matters, an existential issue for our country, doing wise-cracking about fellow members in the administration, on Capitol Hill, and in society generally. The syndrome is the syndrome of cynicism and arrogance. Were the authorization of NSA targets a product of similar cynicism and arrogance? What is the price of it for our country?

If, in fact, the first responsibility of the President is to protect national security, then that responsibility needed to be wisely and carefully executed. So far as can be determined, that not only has not happened but much worse.

Instead of just apologizing profusely, rationalizing what was done, and moving on, it is time to get serious about our security and only take risks when we need to in order to protect our country.