Wednesday, December 9, 2015

be careful about spy missions

James Bamford, a historian of the intelligence community, urges caution in using spy missions to challenge Chinese claims to maritime areas.
As tensions continue to mount between the United States and China, it’s time to take a closer look at U.S. spying practices and determine which ones aren’t worth the risks involved. Certainly, zooming planes over islands in the South China Sea — with or without a media team present — to draw Beijing’s ire seems unwise. But it’s also important for the White House and intelligence agencies to formally assess, through some kind of coordinated review process, which routine missions are no longer necessary. With so many spy satellites now in orbit, able to photograph even small objects on Earth and eavesdrop on everything from cell phones to radar signals, the need for expensive air and sea operations may be overkill: spying for the sake of spying, sometimes with lethal consequences.
Given that the purpose of intelligence should be to prevent wars rather than start them, the current U.S. administration would do well to ask when espionage is necessary to national security — and when it simply means playing with fire.
I certainly favor freedom of navigation patrols, They are much more defensible in world opinion. Intelligence-gathering missions have to be kept separate, secret, and with more careful risk assessments.

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