Saturday Round-Up: NSA, Iran Elections

What a difference a week makes. Much has been written in the last seven days about the disclosure of the National Security Agency’s program of gathering metadata, so here are a few of the more interesting stories.

Newspaper Warns Against Losing Focus On Real Cyber Threats

An editorial in The Financial Times warns against distracting attention from the “immense threat from China” poses to US companies.

“Yes, the US government must be accountable and transparent when it comes to the surveillance of its own citizens. But the scale of cyber espionage by China against western companies is on an altogether different scale. The concerns that western companies have on this issue must not be overshadowed by debates on US civil liberties,” the editorial states.

Inside The NSA’s Surveillance Program

Whether the media pays attention or not to the threat from China, the US government has not been distracted. In fact, the government has been engaged in counter-espionage measures for some time, according to Foreign Policy magazine.

“According to a number of confidential sources, a highly secretive unit of the National Security Agency (NSA), the U.S. government’s huge electronic eavesdropping organization, called the Office of Tailored Access Operations, or TAO, has successfully penetrated Chinese computer and telecommunications systems for almost 15 years, generating some of the best and most reliable intelligence information about what is going on inside the People’s Republic of China,” writes Matthew M. Aid.

Aid offers a fascinating glimpse inside the NSA complex in Fort Meade, Maryland and the offices that are segregated from the rest of the agency and “requires a special security clearance to gain access to the unit’s work spaces inside the NSA operations complex.” The Office of Tailored Access Operations (TAO), which was first created in 1997, has grown exponentially since President Obama took office. In fact, it has grown so large and “produces so much valuable intelligence information that it has become virtually impossible to hide it anymore,” Aid contends.

Is The NSA Story A Cautionary Tale For Reporters?

After taking a fine-toothed comb through the initial reporting on the NSA story, Ed Bott reaches the conclusion that both the Washington Post and the Guardian failed to perform due diligence in not hiring an independent expert to examine the documents turned over to them by former CIA employee Edward Snowden.

That absence of an independent tech check means both publications got the story wrong, as subsequent reporting by other journalists with experience in these topics has confirmed. These are not trivial details, nor is this a matter of semantics. We’re not quibbling over words. If you don’t understand the technical workings of these surveillance programs, you can’t understand whether they’re working as intended, you can’t identify where the government has overstepped its bounds, and you can’t intelligently debate the proper response. The fact that the government has maintained rigid secrecy compounds the problem,” argues Bott in a lengthy report on

Iranian Elections

In the early hours after Iranians went to the polls, it appears that reformist Sheikh Hasan Rouhani will emerge as the victor in the presidential contest with more than enough votes to prevent a runoff.

While the President does not control the direction of Iran’s military programs, including its nuclear policy, the position is not powerless, The Washington Post notes.

“The post oversees important sectors such as the economy, which needs even greater management as Iran tried to ride out increasingly tighter sanctions over Tehran’s nuclear program. The president also has the ear of Khamenei and can help shape strategic policies,” the paper says.

According to the Iranian government, as many as 27 million votes were cast in the election.

The Atlantic 
takes on the question of whether female leaders are more compassionate.

Carl Meacham of the Center for Strategic and International Studies takes on the question of whether immigration reform will benefit the Americas.

The Spectator takes a look at the “blurry line” between Islam and Islamism.




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