Monday, October 28, 2013

Spies Spy? Oh, the Horror!

I dedicate this little essay to the countries at the UN, including Germany, France, Mexico, and Brazil, drafting a resolution to "stop NSA surveillance." Please gentle readers, forgive this rare PG-13 undiplomatic outburst aimed at these countries by the usually genteel Diplomad: Hey, guys, STFU! Hypocrisy does not even begin to describe what these yahoos are up to.

I have written before (here and here) about the ludicrousness of France, Brazil, and Mexico complaining about supposed US intel collection against their politicians and citizens. Grow up, dudes. All three of those countries have intel organizations which collect against foreign and domestic targets. Having worked in all three, I know that for a fact. The French, in particular, have highly developed intel organizations that operate inside and outside of France and collect all sorts of political, economic, and, above all, industrial and commercial data, including from the United States and Germany. I find surprising that the Germans, who normally act quite sensibly about these matters, have, in Moynihan's immortal phrase, "joined the jackals" at the UN. Among those jackals we find well-known big-time spy countries such as Cuba and Venezuela.

A little bit on the French and Germans. Since World War II, both have resented the "special relationship" that exists among the UK, Australia, Canada and the US on intel matters. They particularly resent the US-UK intel relationship. If you recall, Charles de Gaulle wanted to keep the British out of the Common Market precisely because of the US-UK relationship on national security issues. That resentment continues to this day because the relationship continues to this day. Our bottom line has been and is that the Brits are our allies and very, very good at intel work; they, in essence, are the founding fathers of modern intelligence work. Then we have the Germans. The Germans were disastrously bad at intel during World War II. The British ran circles around them for the whole war; the Abwehr and its successor, the RHSA, created after Hitler dissolved the Abwehr in 1944, were completely outclassed by the British both on Sygint and Humint and in the conduct of disinformation operations. That tradition of incompetence in the intel arena was carried on by the West German BND, which was riddled with Soviet and East German agents. So, it seems, the Germans, who build some great cars, are a bit touchy when the subject of intel comes up. During my career in the Foreign Service, more than once I had German diplomats complain about the relationship we had with the British. As noted above, however, the Germans were discreet about this, and certainly did not vent their frustration in "jackal" behavior at the UN.

My position is that spy organizations spy. The NSA has a mandate to collect intelligence. The problem we now face has come about because the NSA, particularly under this misadministration, is not only out of control on the domestic scene, but so sloppy, so poorly run that a weasel junior contractor such as the traitor Snowden can carry out a massive operation against them in cooperation with the world's stupidest newspaper, The Guardian, and, despite his disclaimers, probably with the Russians and the Chinese. One has to wonder if the NSA is employing ex-Abwehr or BND agents.

In addition, and perhaps more serious, as I have written at length, we have a misadministration so incompetent in the area of foreign affairs, so determined to make America weak and irrelevant, that nobody takes us seriously. Even allies such as Germany and France have no problem circling in to take a bite out of us while we are drowning and bleeding. They see no cost to venting their long-standing frustration. Believe me, this would not have happened were Bush president.

52 comments:

  1. Well blow me down with a feather - who'd have thought that an Intelligence Service was gathering intelligence, even if not very professionally.
    I'd be disappointed if the US had not been gathering information on us after all you need to know if your allies are really your allies and vice versa. It would be equally disappointing if our services did not have a big fat file on Obama et al and any likely replacement no matter what side of the political fence he or she comes from. We have spend a lot of time and blood on our commitment to the US and we need to know if it has been well spent. Time spent on reconnaissance is never wasted.
    Keep the faith.

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    1. Damn - that should have read " We have spent" not " We have spend"

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  2. In a compound somewhere a certain Karla laughs.

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    1. And Mr. Smiley grows a little sadder on Baywater Street, wondering now that perhaps none of this was worth his Anne.
      And who will really blame him?

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  3. Everyone with the ability to spy does so. Or, they pay someone to do so. Getting caught at it is the cardinal sin. Then a proper bit of public indignation is needed. What may have unnerved some of our nation's few remaining friends is the depth of our capability and the misreading of our President. With Germany and particularly Frau Merkel, the fact that she is a product of the former East Germany and its massive domestic spying network may just bring this episode a bit too close to home.

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  4. Back when I was in my short and inglorious Foreign Service career, I recall many colleagues bemoaning how US humint capacities and capabilities were dismal.

    Further, I'd love to see someone hack into China's Gong An Ju and other intelligence/security services and spill the beans on what they have been saying and doing over the years. I'd almost bet the farm that they view the O with the utmost contempt.

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  5. The one point missing from the post, though, was the story in today's Wall Street Journal (Page 1, top, banner headline) "Obama Unaware as U.S. Spied On World Leaders: Officials."

    That by itself is rather ... err, unfortunate?

    Green Bear

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    1. It's of a piece with his being "unaware" of Fast & Furious, the IRS scandal, the Obamacare roll-out debacle, etc.

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    2. Roger Simon has some thoughts on Obama's claim of cluelessness. Excerpt: "This isn’t funny. It’s quite horrifying and depressing. What we are witnessing is the disintegration of our country under the governance of an absolutely incompetent president and administration."

      http://pjmedia.com/rogerlsimon/2013/10/27/impeach-for-cluelessness/?singlepage=true

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    3. IMO the supposed cluelessness, as well as the disintegration, is deliberate.

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    4. Indeed! But deliberate to what end? And that is clear enough ... this president wants to put 100,000 miles on Golf Cart 1. He can't pay attention to other things when he has his eye on the BIG ONE.

      Green Bear

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    5. The Dear Golfer is unaware of reality.

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  6. As you say 'spies spy' but shouldn't the pertinent question be 'just what information did they hope/expect to gather'? 'Intelligence gathering', don't make me laugh!

    As a diplomat did you discus secret material on your cellphone? Have high level discussions with your opposite numbers? Etc.

    We'll put aside, for a moment, the issue that this is the leader of a friendly allied power. A power in which your representatives are involved/informed in/of almost all high level discussions, let alone that you have embedded staff in many of their government departments.

    In discussions elsewhere others have used the rational that this is the way it has always been, citing the 'Zimmerman Telegraph' as an example of Britain monitoring American calls in 1916. The salient difference being that Britain was monitoring 'its enemies' calls and simply observed calls between them and ostensibly friendly persons. Notice the difference?

    No, there is only one reason for such spying – dirt, and personal dirt at that (that and voyeurism).

    This is not the reasonable precaution of monitoring a competitor in business and noting whilst doing so that/if one of your work colleagues socialises with them. This equates more to your breaking into her home, rifling through her underwear drawer (to see whether she likes silk French knickers) and reading her personal diary (to see if she said anything less than complimentary about your chat-up lines and body-odour) and then claiming, when caught, that you only did it to make sure she wasn't sleeping with the CEO of your competitor and selling the companies 'special recipe'.

    This illustrates incompetence, paranoia and narcissism. That and the typically, and almost exclusively, American trait of targeting everybody instead of the group causing the problem (TSA rummaging through white Christian Grandmas contipads so as to catch those dastardly non-white, Islamic, young, male bombers). Here's a novel idea, if you are worried who Putin is talking to – tap 'his' ferking phone!

    This isn't 'spying', this is either paparazzi 'journalist' or Mafia dirt gathering for personal enjoyment or for blackmail purposes. Personally I suspect this more precisely equates to those hacker geeks who break in to a server, not for any objective or for anything there, but because they can, to brag about how 'cool' they are, completely oblivious of the damage they are causing, and completely missing the fact that their next-door neighbour has just stolen their car.

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    1. Personally I suspect this more precisely equates to those hacker geeks who break in to a server, not for any objective or for anything there, but because they can, to brag about how 'cool' they are ...

      Actually Able, I think perhaps you're more "onto something" than any of "us" might actually have to the forefront of "our" as you say fecking minds.

      Snowden getting mentioned in all this recent actually makes the point - that a quite young contractor guy has the all important "access" to make off in "our own car" while "we're" rummaging around looking at all the world's silkies (and lost in the present conversation is, we've seen this before 'ala' Manning B. or C. & Assange) and should've been alert to the fact there was the very apparent likelihood another one of those "hacker geeks" who could most certainly ...

      Arkie

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  7. I did not discuss "secret" material on my phone or email but you'd surprised by how many people do.

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    1. Two points: Without actually giving out secret information, sometimes what is discussed is more important, especially in the context of who one is talking to. Or for that matter, sometimes what isn't discussed can be a significant indicator.

      The other point is historical. Yes, the Brits checked communications between Germany and the US during WW I. And it wasn't only on politicians and diplomats. But more to the point, they also gave stories to the press they stole from US Journalists and edited their messages to US Papers. There was a reason that there is that image of a Uboat in NY Harbor. It actually happened, and it ferried stories from US Correspondents, like HL Menken, so that they could avoid the brit rewrite.

      My Grandfather was one of those correspondents.

      Green Bear

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    2. "but you'd surprised by how many people do". No, I wouldn't be surprised at all.

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    3. Just to repeat (the obvious), what would you get from listening in on the private calls of a Premiere/President/Chancellor/Prime Minister that you could not get in more detail/depth long before from other sources?

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    4. You get info straight from the horse's mouth. That can prove very valuable in negotiations and determining the state of mind of the other side--even if the "other side"is a friend. The French do this, too, by the way.

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    5. Yes Diplomad Sir, but would you agree it might be better that only "accredited and vetted Agency people" indulge in this stuff? DIA perhaps?

      "Reports" give 5 million or so, "security clearanced" people having access to our capabilities. Agency and military personnel combined [active, US] might that number alone give us pause?

      Manning and Snowden were/are I think you'd agree, "relative children" and allowing that demographic (where Idealism is known to reign - being a known hazard) to be "presented the keys to the kingdom" in such a government system as ours - these children being "hacker geeks" rather more than less, ( the mil-people acculturating from the recent DADT bullshit to the full-blown version - and of course the "geeks-squad") ...

      Sure "the French do it." Sure "Britain does it." Hell, "Everybody does it" except, except ... nobody, other than us puts on job fairs in high schools asking that everybody attaining the second level of, Grand Theft Auto applies for (and gets) $50K+ jobs at our fully accessible levels.

      In an earlier version of US Intel, this whole construct would've been something like, Houston? We have a problem.

      But nowadays it's, "Whoever!" happens to occupy the Executive (which everybody on this blog anyway is certain to agree on - me not excluded) but there is the bigger problem nobody is acknowledging. Manning occurred at an earlier time.

      I saw on C-Span today General Alexander & Clapper proclaiming as if it really meant something, "We here in the US since we put all this system in place, have NOT experienced terrorism since!"

      True enough I suppose, Fort Hood being "workplace violence" and Boston "a law enforcement oversight."

      Yeah. Maybe it would be best we listen to David Cameron asking whether, if he should invite Angela Merkel to Scotland, Oh Angela, you'll simply love haggis!

      Arkie

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  8. Don't worry, Obama will ask the UN to create a new bureaucracy charged with dismantling US spy agencies. Maybe it'll be a branch of OPCW, since they're in the process of making a mockery of the US foreign policy anyways.
    - reader #1482

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  9. We should resist repeating Secretary of State Henry Stimson's oft quoted words, "Gentlemen don't read each others' mail," as he shut down the State Departments cryptologic division. Code breaking has been a highly productive and most often a highly accurate means of gathering intelligence. I have no problem with keeping tabs on heads of state, that is what we pay our intelligence folks for.

    But we must avoid using this technology against our own citizens who have committed no crime. And using it against domestic political enemies is shameless.

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    1. But we must avoid using this technology against our own citizens who have committed no crime. And using it against domestic political enemies is shameless.

      That's actually the short and curlies isn't it?

      Where "suspects are everyone" no one in particular can any longer be kept in focus.

      Ark

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    2. In God we trust - Everyone else we monitor...

      - Naval Intelligence motto c. 1990


      Blue Tile Spook
      Reader 13

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    3. This is a good point that is not being made forcefully enough. There are two issues: spying on Americans and spying on foreigners. The former is reprehensible and illegal, the latter is prefectly legitimate and to be commended. I realize that a lot of people are not going to like that, but it's the way it is (or should) be. That said, we should generally focus our attention on enemies, not friends...

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    4. "we should generally focus our attention on enemies, not friends..."

      Trouble is, we are ALL enemies of this regime.

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    5. I think that is the salient issue. I've read elsewhere the statement, echoed here (implicitly if not explicitly), that 'the Constitution does not cover foreigners'. Being a dumb foreigner I always assumed:

      "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, ...."

      included the framers opinion, statement of principle, on 'all' men (I don't remember a qualifier as to where they are anyway). That enemies foreign or domestic require that certain rights are limited or removed is an obvious one implicitly enumerated in The Bill of Rights, I believe.

      In treating 'friendly' allies as enemies, assuming they have no rights because they 'might' not be as friendly as they've acted and been for decades both smacks of extreme paranoia. Still, at least everyone not an American now knows just where we stand. Just don't be judged, as an American, as a 'potential' enemy - Oh dear, you already have been. Agree with spying on friendly allies and you haven't a moral leg to stand on when you moan about being spied on yourself.

      Just sayin'

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    6. Able, although your quote is from the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution, I understand your point. As i said, a lot of people were not going to like my take on this, and that really meant people not in the U.S. I don't advocate treating "friendly allies" as enemies, though human history is full of allies spying on allies. After all, what do you think all those people in every embassy in the world do? They collect information on the country they are in and pass it back to their home governments to use as needed to further their own interests. Just because the "spy" is a diplomat asking questions and is protected by various diplomatic immunities does not change the fact of what is going on. It's common, prevasive, and largely tolerated. Of course, being a diplo-blog, there are probably plenty of other people here who know more about this than I do and likely have strong opinions!

      States spy on other states to protect their interests. States may alos spy on their own citizenry for security purposes, but to do so in a blanket sense smacks of authoritarianism. As I said previouly, I don't see a legal or moral issue with spying on allies, but I do think resources are better spent spying on enemies and rivals.

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    7. Welleran has it right. Espionage of one's friends and enemies has a long and established precedent. While collection activities regarding nominal and not so nominal allies can be awkward, it nevertheless occurs, particularly in countries we don't necessarily have the best relations with when it comes to intelligence sharing. For example, we handle things differently with the UK than with France--for obvious reaons!

      Much of what goes on is driven by requirements anyway, not picking off a list at random (though one wonders what the priorities are with this regime).

      Right now we are rudderless and adrift; it's no surprise that there are problems emerging in the IC and elsewhere--understandable when at the highest levels of government there is NO adult leadership, let alone anybody with a passing familiarity with the business.

      As I've said before, things were not all that great pre-Great Golfer. They are worse now and are likely to get even more so.

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  10. Re Angela Merkel--

    Her father, Horst Kasner, was a protestant pastor and theologian educated in Heidelberg and Hamburg who took pastorates in Brandenburg (in the East) during the 1950's. The official bio says that it was to meet the need for pastors in the heavily Protestant eastern zone of Germany; although I wonder if there wasn't an element of repent-of-Naziism Christian Socialist idealism at work, too. Interestingly enough, from the late 1960's on, Herr Pfarrer Kasner apparently opposed reunification.

    In any case, Angela Kasner Merkel was a Protestant dissident in the last years of the late, unlamented DDR and briefly held office in its government as it was working its way into absorption by the Bundesrepublik.

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    1. There were so many who worked for the GDR in one way or another it wouldn't suprise me if Kasner did co-operate in some way. Perhaps Herr Marcus Wolf would have known.

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    2. Mind, I wouldn't want many digging around for my teenaged photos but I'm certain none like this would show up:

      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2328536/Angela-Merkel-Communist-links-new-image-uniform-released.html

      Ark

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    3. I had met a number of late teens and twenty somethings way back then who knew "what was good for them" and participated in Party sponsored activities. Later I learned of a couple of them who refused and came up missing. Ugly world. Acceptance and conformity will ultimately be mandated and enforced America. Do you hear me America.

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  11. It would be naïve to think the US does not collect information (spy is such an ugly, if true, word) on every major power and group in the world.
    That said, it takes a special level of incompetence to allow a low level contractor access to sources and methods involving collection against a NATO ally.

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    1. Absolutely, and that's the real issue when it comes to foreign operations. I can just about guarantee you that the French listen to Merkel's calls but that won't leak.

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    2. I'd beg the indulgence of offering, rather than listening in on cellphone calls of a "friendly" head of state - at least in the case[s] of EU nations (I'd probably extend that to and especially, the UK & Israel) - I mean what're we likely to hear on Angela's cell, Angela? Greece here - think you can swing a few billions of Euros from the IMF? Well, I thought not. Still, it doesn't hurt to ask now does it?

      The point I'm trying to make is that, rather than heads of state - listen in on the phone calls of the various bureaucracies - if somehow we don't have HUMINT assets not already well embedded - 'cause that's where any relevant stuff will be.

      Remember 'our Nancy' saying, "We have to pass the bill in order to find out what's in it"? Excerpting:

      Bureaucracies in the Obama Administration have thus far published approximately 11,588,500 words of final Obamacare regulations, while there are only 381,517 words in the Obamacare law itself.

      http://cnsnews.com/news/article/penny-starr/11588500-words-obamacare-regs-30x-long-law

      Yes I figure the Frogs are listening to Jerry. But "knowing" Francois & Angela, if they're bothering to listen in, I bet all the spooks in that department are bored out of their wits.

      Ark

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  12. I am still amazed that Snowdon was shocked, shocked! at what the NSA were up to- did he think he was joining the Peace Corps?

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  13. Our HUMINT was weak enough before The Great Golfer; now we are a complete laughing stock under an administration that has managed to magnify our weaknesses to levels hitherto unimagined, while at the same time managing to FUBAR the things that did work rather well.

    History will not be kind to these idiots...assuming anybody is around to write it.

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  14. I for one Diplomad would appreciate your forecast on the "likelihoods' of Egypt".

    The "Obamistas" are "apparently/or not" talking about cutting aid --- what's your opinion?

    Given what's happening in the Greater ME, what are the implications of whether we cut aid to - or not - Egypt?

    I look forward to many editions of your following posts pointing out how you got it precisely (whereas I can't even guess) so I can inform my Grandkids, See how smart this guy was? The only reason I knew what was gonna happen was because I read Diplomad.

    I only guessed at the Kuwaitis taking the UNSC thing.

    Arkie

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  15. Esteemed Diplomad,

    As you know, I usually agree--but in this case cannot. "[C]ountries at the UN ... drafting a resolution to 'stop NSA surveillance,'" forsooth, of all trivia to be concerned about in our current situation. The countries' own diplomats would probably tell you that it's just the U.N. -- who cares? It's strictly for public consumption.

    Much the same is true about their other public complaints about it. Of course, they're both exploiting and feeding anti-Americanism, and the latter is reprehensible; but take all in all it's pretty small beer.

    "Hypocrisy does not even begin to describe what these yahoos are up to." Yes, it does.

    It's true that they're kicking us while we're down; "circling in to take a bite out of us while we are drowning and bleeding." But that's what they do. The ideal time to kick someone is when he's down: he's least likely to kick back.

    Our problem is not the jackals. It's that we have allowed ourselves to be brought down, giving them their opportunity. Which we did on purpose. And just in case we weren't sure the first time, we did it again four years later, Other countries may well laugh at us for that. They even hung the international booby prize on us, in Oslo on December 10, 2009.

    Though my blood boils, I confess that I cannot really blame other countries for laughing at us.

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    1. A6?

      Admittedly there may be some countries laughing at us. I suppose.

      But there's some NATO ... well the UK actually ... well ... "some" of the UK's operators're less than pleased with us. Well. Not "us" so much.

      Anyway - I "may bear some responsibility" (in a smallish way I should think) if only 'cause I mentioned Green Mountain - a UK security firm hired local Libyans back when I made my comment on this site November 23, 2012 at 1:58 AM. Be that as it may.

      But. One country who is definitely NOT laughing at us is the aforementioned UK. That's really the sole nation who's national interests most closely align with our own. Obama may've removed Winston's bust to wherever but, Britain KNOWS we know where it is - and it'll be soon returning to it's rightful and "oughtful" place.

      The Oz folk, for the most part know that too. I rode two of their ships a long time ago and it was actually Aussies I rode with in a helo landed on Mindanao that got me in trouble with a certain USMC guy "whose name & the date of that comment on this site slips my mind just now." Had something to do with some kind of insurgency I seem to recall. Maybe some feller name Marcos. I'm getting old though and don't rightly recall. That's "approximately" when I became familiar with Cairns.

      Japan I doubt is laughing at us. Neither the Philippines. Likely neither the ROK or Taiwan but the latter may be doubting. Myanmar? I doubt.

      The DPRK? Okay maybe. But I'd remind they fell for the Onion piece declaring Kim Jong-Il The Sexiest Man of 2012 so, so what?

      Russia maybe? Again so what?

      The USSR laughed so hard it collapsed into fits of Yeltsin.

      China maybe? Well I noticed last week PLAN did some few exercises between the mainland and Okinawa. I don't think China's guffaws were heartfelt.

      South America? Possibly. I don't know much of anything about Danny Ortega's sense of humor. But from what I've heard, he is likely giggling.

      I doubt anybody in the ME is laughing sincerely.

      Some in Northern Africa probably are.

      Oslo is very probably as you note laughing at us but what does it matter Oslo does - how soon you reckon Oslo is gonna do an amphib up on the Jersey Strand against us? Within our lifetimes?

      Heck I say. No matter we've an idiot President for some few more months. Let 'em laugh.

      I don't worry in the least from threats without.

      Arkie

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    2. Mr. Kie,

      Do we know each-other so well that we are on a two-character basis? I am generally called Dr. z; in this forum I am being more than sufficiently informal with a6z.

      Substantively, however, we agree: the foolishness at the UN and the other hypocritical denunciations are pretty silly stuff, not worth worrying about. We have bigger fish to fry.

      Of course, first we must get our house in order, which we cannot do at least until 2017--and there are no guarantees for that date. Any disasters that happen in the meantime ...

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  16. It's as if this administration gets it's intelligence gathering ideas from "Get Smart".

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  17. Perhaps if some intel types were expecting to be sent packing, they may make a final grab at Obama's college transcripts and give them to The World. Same for that video of Obama with the Palestinian leader that the LA Times has been sitting on.

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  18. I think some of these euroweenies are being a bit precious about this but don't forget Bob, the Germans will always resent the USA for beating them in WW2 and the French will always HATE the USA for giving them their country back afterwards. That's how they roll.

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  19. “America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests” - Henry Kissinger

    Sure, Angela Merkel and Dilma Rousseff putting on their shocked faces now, but in fact those countries have their own spying programs, and many of them, despite what they’re saying now, are deeply involved in cooperating with the United States intelligence-gathering operation.

    linked - GOODSTUFF'S BLOGGING MAGAZINE (118th Issue)

    http://goodstuffsworld.blogspot.com/2013/11/goodstuffs-blogging-magazine-118th-issue.html

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