A New York Times feature article on the NSA, almost 5,000 words in length, is like a haystack loaded with stray details. But Scott Shane saves the most interesting passage for readers who manage to get all the way to the end:
William E. Binney, a former senior N.S.A. official who has become an outspoken critic, says he has no problem with spying on foreign targets like Brazil’s president or the German chancellor, Angela Merkel. “That’s pretty much what every government does,” he said. “It’s the foundation of diplomacy.” But Mr. Binney said that without new leadership, new laws and top-to-bottom reform, the agency will represent a threat of “turnkey totalitarianism” — the capability to turn its awesome power, now directed mainly against other countries, on the American public.
“I think it’s already starting to happen,” he said. “That’s what we have to stop.”
Whatever reforms may come, Bobby R. Inman, who weathered his own turbulent period as N.S.A. director from 1977 to 1981, offers his hyper-secret former agency a radical suggestion for right now. “My advice would be to take everything you think Snowden has and get it out yourself,” he said. “It would certainly be a shock to the agency. But bad news doesn’t get better with age. The sooner they get it out and put it behind them, the faster they can begin to rebuild.”
Radical indeed and a suggestion far too bold for either President Obama or Gen. Alexander to be willing to consider. But even if this approach to damage control is not pursued, Inman is also alluding to another part of the Snowden story that has thus far largely been ignored.
Alongside growing calls for intelligence reform, a predictable yet wholly unintended effect of the leaks will be that when intelligence officials put in their next budget requests to Congress, the Black Budget will end up larger than ever.
For all the ‘damage’ Snowden has wrought there will now supposedly be a ‘necessity’ for all kinds of reconstruction. By the logic that Washington can never resist, the only remedy for failure is to spend more taxpayer money.