Dempsey: Snowden Harmed Relations with Allies

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says revealing that the United States is spying on its allies has undermined their trust.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says revealing that the United States is spying on its allies has undermined their trust.

AP (“Dempsey: Spy Has Harmed Relations“):

The Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman says NSA leaker Edward Snowden’s disclosures about U.S. surveillance programs have undermined U.S. relationships with other countries and affected what he calls “the importance of trust.”

Gen. Martin Dempsey told CNN’s State of the Union in an interview broadcast Sunday that the United States will “work our way back. But it has set us back temporarily.”

Now, I think Snowden should spend a very long time in prison for betraying the trust bestowed upon him in being permitted access to Top Secret material. But it’s the existence of the programs, not Snowden’s revelations of same, that has undermined trust.

Of course, given that those with the means to do so are doing the same thing to us would seem to mitigate the sense of outrage that we’re doing it to them.

FILED UNDER: Intelligence, Military Affairs, Quick Takes
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. PJ says:

    But it’s the existence of the programs, not Snowden’s revelations of same, that has undermined trust.

    I’d argue that what has undermined trust is that people now has to publicly acknowledge what they already knew, something they have to do because of Snowden’s revelations.

  2. Ben says:

    @PJ:

    Either everyone knew, which means there’s no harm, or if there is harm, then not everyone knew. You can’t have it both ways.

    If the governments knew but their populace didn’t, then the gov’t is going to have to deal with that fall-out. But exposing the fact of the spying isn’t the cause of the harm, it’s that there was spying going on that the gov’t was tacitly ok with while ostensibly pretending it didn’t know about.

  3. legion says:

    @Ben:

    Either everyone knew, which means there’s no harm, or if there is harm, then not everyone knew. You can’t have it both ways.

    It depends on what you mean by “everyone”. All those other _governments_ knew, or at least assumed, they were being spied on because they were spying on their own allies. The _citizenry_ of those countries OTOH likely had no idea of what their governments were doing in their names. _That’s_ the embarrassing part of Snowden’s revelations.

  4. JKB says:

    It is concerning that the Chairman of the JCS says such moronic things….in public. This isn’t his first. One hopes that he is far more competent in military matters than public pronouncements.

    And really the confirmation of the existence of the program does more to undermine the trust of the American people in their increasingly alien government than the trust of other countries.

    On the upside, Americans are now just like the Germans, Brits, French, Russians, et al. We enjoy no special status, Constitution be damned, that will keep our privacy private. It is a bit more worrying for Americans though since spying on citizens by their own government is more often misused for political rather than used for national security purposes.

  5. PJ says:

    @legion:

    It depends on what you mean by “everyone”. All those other _governments_ knew, or at least assumed, they were being spied on because they were spying on their own allies. The _citizenry_ of those countries OTOH likely had no idea of what their governments were doing in their names. _That’s_ the embarrassing part of Snowden’s revelations.

    Exactly.

  6. al-Ameda says:

    Snowden could have saved everybody all of this drama and aggravation if he had just referred everyone to 2006 edition of USA Today wherein it was reported that the NSA was involved in significant data mining of phone communications. As for the ‘spying’ on allies? Please …. I’m shocked that any one is shocked by this disclosure – it’s analogous to a disclosure that “the Pacific Ocean is not a lake.”

  7. legion says:

    @JKB:

    It is concerning that the Chairman of the JCS says such moronic things….in public.

    It is entirely expected that the CJCS would say such politically-CYA things in public. What’s disturbing is the members of Congress who have paraded forward having known about such things for years without ever understanding what exactly they were authorizing the NSA to do.