has lots of interesting info on the latest wrinkles in the NSA scandal.
However, after trying to avoid the question, over the weekend, the NSA admitted that Keith Alexander had never briefed the President about spying on Merkel (though, it's possible he heard about it from others).
This makes it sound, again, like the NSA has gone rogue. How can President Obama seriously allow Keith Alexander and James Clapper to remain in charge when they've just made him look like a complete fool, supposedly totally unaware of what his own intelligence apparatus is up to -- especially when it concerns programs that, once revealed, can have a serious negative impact on a variety of diplomatic fronts?
And for what benefit? The Spiegel report makes it clear that the NSA saw little value in spying on Merkel. They just did it because... reasons.
Former NSA employee Thomas Drake does not see this as a contradiction. "After the attacks of September 11, 2001, Germany became intelligence target number one in Europe," he says. The US government did not trust Germany, because some of the Sept. 11 suicide pilots had lived in Hamburg. Evidence suggests that the NSA recorded Merkel once and then became intoxicated with success, says Drake. "It has always been the NSA's motto to conduct as much surveillance as possible," he adds.
The fact that President Obama hasn't yet fired Alexander in particular is fairly incredible, given this latest revelation.
A lot of my readers will presume that Obama must have been in the know. Frankly, I think otherwise. And no, this does not mean that I've suddenly become a huge Obama fan.
Given the anniversary, my mind keeps wandering back to the early 1960s. The CIA kept running covert operations against Cuba even after we had promised (as part of the missile crisis negotiations) to leave Castro alone. In fact, CIA wild man Bill Harvey was launching raids against Cuba during
the crisis -- a foolhardy risk that could have resulted in nuclear war.
Today, historians argue over one key question: Did JFK and RFK know what their spooks were getting up to?
Professor Joan Mellen -- an author I recommended in a preceding post -- thinks that RFK was both cognizant and gung-ho. But I stand with those who believe that the Kennedys were chastened by the missile crisis and sought to normalize relations with Castro.
Ultimately, if you are a Kennedy-hater (or one of those Chomsky-esque lefties whose greatest fear is that people might consider a Democrat even slightly admirable), you will presume that JFK both knew and approved. To such people, history is not about facts -- it's about animus, ideology, my-team-vs-your-team.
The parallels to our current situation should be obvious. Bottom line: Right now, I think Obama honestly didn't know about Merkel.
I also think that the "9/11" excuse for tapping into Merkel's cell phone is insanely
stupid. Are we supposed to think that Angela was hanging out in a coffee haus with Mohammed Atta?