Once I stopped laughing, I couldn’t help but recall the height of the Cold War, where spying was pretty much an art form, practiced by professionals. There were actually Rules of Ethics that applied amongst the professional “spook” community, and it was not only understood, but accepted as a matter of prudence that everyone spies on everyone else. Nations do this constantly, and honestly, it would be sheer folly not to engage in such things. National interests demand it, and so this “revelation” was hardly an eye opener for me.
In my Third Book, I talk about things like trade craft, and methods of intelligence gathering, used by everyone on the planet. They range from the classic human intelligence (spys), to the more sophisticated intelligence gathering that comes from other sources such as Signal, Satellite, and now, Cyber Intelligence (Hackers). From the information gathered, people like ISIS produce hit lists (not subtle at all, but, hey, it is ISIS). Historically, and as just mentioned, all of our Enemies will develop target lists or information about our strong and weak points. We’re used to this concept, and so we automatically assume that spying is all about keeping an eye on your enemies.
Well, it doesn’t stop there, and it NEVER has stopped there. Our friends keep an eye on us to know how we’re going act or react to certain things. While not the thing of spy movies, it is a long established practice. I hate to say it, but this really is normal “spook” behavior, as is the use of the intelligence to influence things with our friends. Most of the time, the more usable intelligence is about our allies, and yes we use this information to influence negotiations and international deals all the time. Sometimes, the information from your friends can be of greater value than information from your enemies, for a myriad of reasons that do not include anything sinister.
So, when we talk about spying on friends, I’m NOT shocked at all. Instead, I would be more shocked if it didn’t happen amongst all nations. Sometimes these very things prevent misunderstandings, just like in the Cold War, the use of the back channel probably saved us from huge mistakes that could well have ended the world. (Thank you History Channel for getting some of the more recently declassified stuff out here for us to peruse.) In this most recent incident with Israel, if we’d not seen someone come and Address our Congress, thereby offending some rookie wanker at the State Department, then we never would have had the unsubstantiated story leak to the “press.” This is the crux of the latest “spy scandal.” Someone embarrassed someone else in our Government. Now we’re going all “Mean Girls” about it.
Having said all this, the real problem for our State Department is that they are going to be hard put to actually produce evidence of this “spying.” This is a P-5+1 negotiation, which means that the players are not only spying on each other, they are spying on the other side, and each of these groups verbally leaks like a sieve. In other words, as a veteran of watching such things, this begs the question. Why spy when you can just turn on an open source TV, and get all you need from the press leaks coming out of all the parties themselves. In case you haven’t noticed, the Iranian press has this story covered four ways from Sunday, and in another shocker, Israeli’s do check the Iranian News Wire. That isn’t spying, that is just common sense.
Face it, the concept of open source leaks of critical information, at the worst possible time, is hardly a new thing. Ask the guy who gave the press briefing at CENTCOM, who told the world about the timetable for an offensive on Mosul. Was this a leak to mislead or was it simply an act of stupidity? The answer to that question is critical to any analysis in which an intelligence agency has to engage. Is this real or a trick? Part of that game is to check the timing, see who has the most to gain from such a thing, and then the answer will usually appear right in front of you. So, back to the question of Israeli spying. Do they? Absolutely. Did they this time for the reasons stated? Probably not, since there is no need to do something that has been leaked all over the place.
Getting upset because someone used an open secret, that you yourself leaked to the world through countless press reports, is both very disingenuous and intellectually dishonest. So, I think even a casual observer can answer the real questions: Who do you think gained anything from this finger pointing exercise? Who is wanting to divert our attention from what they are doing? Who has the ax to grind? Gee, could it be the same people who constantly want us to engage in “hashtag” diplomacy, or “reset” buttons? Could it be that notorious group of self absorbed snake oil salesmen in the State Department? Oh, wait, the State Department? Do you mean that fine upstanding institution that has ignored our friends, and created problems where there were none for well over 200 years? While I don’t know for sure who gave us this ridiculous bone to gnaw on, but looking at State sure explains everything to me. Face it, Foggy Bottom has a long established record of being able to break an anvil with a rubber mallet, and in this case, they want to create hard feelings, and win the day against those evil doers that embarrassed them! Sadly, knowing how the game is played, I can’t help but feel as though I’m watching a poorly written episode of a teenager angst show on Disney. ~ Michael S. Pauley