Rules? In a Knife Fight? No Rules!

I had to laugh at the headlines:

Anger Growing Among Allies on U.S. Spying

Germany and France demand talks with US over NSA spying revelations

Germany’s Spy Chiefs Head To U.S. For Spying Talks, Want New Rules For Surveillance

Now France and Germany want new rules for spying.

It seems to me that the very nature of serious espionage is that you will be breaking the rules.

The primary rule for espionage is that you do not get caught.

Update 20131027:

In, NSA Surveillance Threatens U.S. Efforts Abroad, TPM writes, “Spying among allies is not new.”

“The magnitude of the eavesdropping is what shocked us,” former French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said in a radio interview. “Let’s be honest, we eavesdrop too. Everyone is listening to everyone else. But we don’t have the same means as the United States, which makes us jealous.” …

The British ambassador to Lebanon, Tom Fletcher, tweeted this past week: “I work on assumption that 6+ countries tap my phone. Increasingly rare that diplomats say anything sensitive on calls.” ..

Madeleine Albright, secretary of state during the Clinton administration, recalled being at the United Nations and having the French ambassador ask her why she said something in a private conversation apparently intercepted by the French.”

Without enforceable rules, what can limit the spying? Perhaps fear of reprisal:

Diplomatic relations are built on trust. If America’s credibility is in question, the U.S. will find it harder to maintain alliances, influence world opinion and maybe even close trade deals. …


4 responses to “Rules? In a Knife Fight? No Rules!”

  1. cmaukonen says :

    Bond: “How did you know about that?”
    Agent XXX: “I stole the plans to this car two years ago!”


  2. Martin Schwoerer says :

    I think I need to beg to differ.

    There are explicit and implicit rules to diplomacy and they also apply to espionage. Russia and the US had the rule to exchange spies in case somebody’s cover got blown, and to refrain from death penalties or asassinations in such cases. Double agents did not enjoy such treatment… John le Carré has written a lot about the subject, and much is based on fact.

    There seem to have been limits to what friendly nations did to each other too, including not eavesdropping on high-ranking officials. The NSA seems to gone somewhat rogue — or Obama seems to think it is OK to treat friendly nations in the same way as one does enemies.


  3. saywhatumean2say says :

    It is, after all, a knife fight! dru


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